I don’t think it’s humanly possible to live through the aftermath of your child’s suicide without feeling responsible. I don’t think these feelings of guilt and responsibility are limited to just me and Fred. They extend to the rest of our family and to friends, too. But we’re Mom & Dad. The feelings of responsibility we have run deep.
At one point I believed I contributed to Drey’s fearlessness – something he had in order to go through with this – because I took him on rollercoasters at too young of an age. And I’ve believed – and sometimes still do – that we shouldn’t have moved… and if his Dad and I hadn’t of divorced Drey would’ve been safe. And why didn’t I wake up when I got his text? Why didn’t I drive to his Dad’s that morning? And on and on. It’s torture. A torture that can’t be fixed with well-meaning words. A torture that sometimes is too intense to just distract yourself from. These thoughts aren’t as frequent as they used to be. But they’ve recently been triggered and here I am. Processing the impact of my decisions on his death at an even deeper level.
I write for me. For my processing. For my healing. And I write to share with anyone else suffering from a loss to suicide… we are all different and what helps one may not help the other but we are all connected because of our tragedies. We are all part of the stupid ass club that no one else understands. I’m grateful for the survivors that I’ve met – both online and through SOS groups.
What helps me put my guilt, my feeling that I contributed to my son’s decision to end his life? Absolutely nothing apart from God. Nothing. I have and still do attempt to “logic” my way through it. I replay conversations and remind myself of all the times Drey expressed his love for me. I try to reason that even though he didn’t live here anymore the fact that his mail still came here (and still flippin does. that sucks) that he still considered me “home.” I recall my feelings for him – easily expressed – were those of unconditional love and absolute delight. God how I loved him! These things bring me moments of relief – but it’s never sustainable for more than a few hours. The only relief I’ve been able to experience for longer periods of time has been from God…
1) Saying out loud the thoughts in my head to my closest friends. Getting them out in the open often deflates them of the power they had gained bouncing around inside my mind. When the thoughts are out there my friends remind me of God’s truth. Truths I know, and I try to rehearse. But I get exhausted from trying to talk to myself – and that’s okay. I don’t have to “go it” alone.
2) Revisiting my faith. I have revisited every single thing I thought I believed about God and his plan of redemption. Digging into the book of Hebrews in particular has brought me a ton of comfort. I’ve had several “holy shit – this IS real! I CAN count this as truth!” moments. It is NOT about me trying to clean myself up. It’s about His mercy.
3) Meditating on scriptures about suffering and sorrow. Psalm 126:6 is one of my favorites.
4) Reading biblically-based books about heaven. I made a big-ass deposit in heaven… so learning more about it has become a priority.
5) Being honest with God. He knows my thoughts before I’m even aware of them. There’s no point in trying to hide. And recently I heard someone say, “Try not to dwell on what there is no answer to.” So simple, yet so profound. And I’ve found it’s not enough to just “stop thinking about it.” I have to go the next step and replace the thoughts of guilt and responsibility with truth.
These are the things that have brought me more sustainable relief from the tormenting thoughts that creep in. I wish I’d never experience a negative self-condemning thought again but that’s just not realistic. I’m human, not God.
Guilt sucks. Guilt and the accusations associated with it are not from God.
First let me say, I am sorry for your loss. I can only imagine what it is like to have a child die. I have lost family members and friends to suicide, and the children of my friends. I’ve come to realize that when the pain a person experiences is so great that death is the only alternative, the only way to ease the pain, suicide does that for the victim but leaves the rest of us wondering “What did I do wrong?” Survivors’ guilt.
I changed my college major from English Lit to psychology and worked in an out-patient mental health center on the crisis team because of the suicide of a close friend, my sister’s fiancé. He was 20ish, she was 17 and I was 16 when he died. Obviously it was a pivotal point in my life.
I have taken my daughter for evaluations whenever she threatens suicide – after a year of escalating behavior she was hospitalized – a long story in and of itself.
Know you are not alone in your grief. While I am not in your situation, I have tears pouring out as I type for you, your son, your family and friends.
I will read the rest of your story – Namaste. Anne
Thank you for taking the time to share about your personal experience! Your daughter is lucky to have you as a Mom. And thank you for sharing my grief. I miss my boy very much.
Thank YOU for coming forward to share your story. And for your kind words regarding my daughter and me – though I stop being “Mom” and kick into crisis intervention mode.
The best way we can honor those that have died is by remembering them…and you are doing that. I know you miss him. (hug, really big hug to you!)