From My Heart to Yours, LLC – Warning – Content is about suicide.
Suicide is often one of the most devastating events a family can experience and the aftermath is overwhelming. I can speak from personal experience the first time seeing my daughter hooked up on a ventilator, being restrained, and attempting to free herself from her restraints.
At the time I didn’t know that she had attempted to take her life first in 2016 and looking at her car that she had been pulled from I couldn’t believe that she survived. The sheer force with which the car impacted an immovable object as that of the mountainside, as an engineer I couldn’t imagine. As a Dad (her Dad) it was even worse. She survived but carried an open wound that was not repairing itself and she attempted to hurt herself again in 2017.
This time the police were called and I thought to myself, “Thank goodness now she can get the help that she needs”, it is near to impossible to do anything for an adult child. She lived in CA and the requirements for observation and evaluation are very specific time period of 72 hours. At the end of the 72-hour period if they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, they are held involuntarily for 14 days with the potential of a court hearing for placing them into a facility for further care. Unfortunately, my daughter was not watched very carefully and was injured somehow and had to have surgery to repair her neck with pins. She had bouts of anorexic behavior for many years and my guess is that this contributed to the extent of the injury.
The combination of the pain she felt from the surgery and the open wound that was still present in her abdomen after two-plus years drove her to a deeper state of depression. On May 28, 2018, she went up to the rooftop of the apartment building that she lived at with her Mom and stepped offending her life. This is not a condemnation of what she did, assigning judgment nor is it assigning blame to anyone. The aftermath of what I experienced was survivors’ guilt, the shame of not being able to protect her, and fear of what others might think of me.
Handling Suicide – Some Takeaways
After a great deal of work with therapists and my life coaches here are some takeaways that I have a better handle on to pass on to those of you that have experienced the loss of a loved one or friend due to suicide:
It’s not your fault.
The decision for someone to take their life is theirs. We don’t know what their reasons were for their decision. Please don’t assign guilt or blame to yourself it only creates a sense of despair that compounds the grief of losing your loved one.
Time does not heal all wounds.
Time is only time and only through sharing with others that you fully trust and provide you with a safe environment of what you are experiencing can you begin to heal.
It’s okay to be sad and cry.
It is a natural means to eliminate and release stress and just as it is to share memories with your kids. Allowing them the ability to openly share their feelings and what they are experiencing can they begin to heal.
What do you do when someone unthinkingly says something cutting or hurtful?
Minimize your interaction with them and let them know that their comment or comments while well-meaning was not helpful.
Let me help those well-meaning and well-intended friends, family or colleagues here –
- tell them that you love and care for them,
- bring them a meal,
- hug them,
- cry with or just sit them,
- don’t avoid them,
- don’t tell them at least you still have …,
- don’t tell them they are in a better place. and
- don’t tell them to move on because it’s been long enough or using it as an excuse for not doing whatever.
The day I got back from my daughter’s funeral, my boss hugged me and asked me what he could do for me or my family. He told me to take whatever time that I needed and that work could wait.
When someone is hurting, don’t avoid the tough subjects
We each have the capacity to heal a wounded spirit just by sitting with one another and being a comfort. Don’t forget or avoid hard subjects or your friends simply because you don’t know what to say. Checking in with them periodically just to say hello and that you are thinking of them is amazing. They will open up with those that they know, trust, and see them.
Whatever you are feeling it’s ok to feel it. Give yourself self-care, sleep, see a therapist or join a support group, limit or eliminate the use of alcohol or drugs, don’t separate yourselves from one another, and most importantly don’t blame one another as it does nothing but cause division and hurt. Spend time with one another and share memories about your loved one. It gets better over time and today I celebrate the life of my daughter. In my memories, I see her smile and feel the warmth of her love each day. It will be gradual over time, but the more you share, love, laugh and remember all of the good your heartache will gradually decrease.
From my heart to yours.