Suicide of a Son: A Mother’s Question

Dear Dr. Neimeyer,

I lost my son to suicide, and I am struggling with the urge to join him. I try to stay here for my beautiful granddaughter that he left for me to enjoy. There are days that it is almost like living that day over again and that is when I struggle the hardest. There is loss, and then there is this terrible feeling of loss that goes beyond words. I think about how I was able to prevent a total stranger from committing suicide some years ago, but could not help or stop my son. Where is the justice in that? It will be 2 years soon, and I hurt so badly thinking of him and what he brought to my life. How could I not see how much pain he was going thru?

Thanks for listening. I have faced adversity in my life, but never anything like this.

Jacqueline

 

Dear Jacqueline,

Just as you imply, there is no justice in suicide, any more than in cancer or a random automobile accident, and too often, our ability to avert each of these deaths is tragically limited. However, weighing the immense pain you bear following his suicide, I hope you will do all in your power to keep from visiting similar pain on others you love, continuing a chain reaction of explosive impacts that only deepen the devastation. Sadly, many survivors of suicide loss contemplate dying themselves as a way of relieving their anguish, and too many act on that impulse. Please take the actions necessary to avoid being one of them.

Begin by constructing a safety plan. If you are contemplating a particular means of ending your life, take steps to mitigate the risk: give the gun to a relative, flush the pills down the toilet. Then make an appointment with a skilled therapist, and ideally a psychiatrist as well. You will likely benefit from a trauma-informed grief therapy as well as medication, both being delivered by someone who is aware of your level of distress and risk.

Become informed about the specialized services for and issues faced by those who have lost loved ones to suicide. In one respect, at least, your reaching out with this question is well timed, as we are now entering Mental Health Month, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has just responded by extending its range of resources to assist people in understanding and responding to this tragically common psychological problem. Click here to navigate to www.afsp.org for full information about suicide, surviving suicide loss, and support groups that can give you a safe place to share your feelings about the loss and to learn from others who are contending with grievous losses of their own.

Most assuredly, your son did not intend to take your life when he ended his. Allow yourself to receive his gift of life, and seek healthy ways to move through this dark and difficult transition to a life that retains or regains meaning even in the shadow of this profound loss. In doing so, you may ultimately find that you have much to give, not only to your granddaughter, but also to others struggling with suicide and its aftermath.

Dr. Neimeyer

4 comments on “Suicide of a Son: A Mother’s Question

  1. I, too, wanted to join my son after his suicide. I found that the second year was the hardest, and it got easier after that. My husband and my dog needed me to take care of them – I think it was the only thing that kept me here on the Earth. Now it’s become a less powerful wish – more like a wistful yearning to see him when I die. You can get through this – your granddaughter needs you, even if you are too sad to do much. She is also sad, and you can share those feelings with her, and also share details about your son so she knows who her daddy was. Sending peace to your family.

  2. My son died at age 26 in Oct 2014, from an accidental heroin overdose. Even though the circumstances are different, this speaks to me. I also feel a lot of these things, and wanting the pain to stop is a strong urge. My other grown children (Ian was our youngest) and our grandchildren count on us, so we keep pushing forward. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Some days, I barely have the energy to get dressed for the day, even after almost 4 years. I realize that this longing for my son will be with me for the rest of my life.

    This line really impacts me: ” your son did not intend to take your life when he ended his.” My son may (or may not) have realized he would die from the drugs he used that day, but knowing him, he would never have wanted our lives to end or be lost. In his memory and to honor the beautiful soul that he is, we continue on. Sometimes it’s harder than other times, but we do it for each other.

  3. Interesting, this is the first time I felt shocked you your answer, Dr. Neimeyer, and reread to see what she had said to be so strongly spoken to. ‘Oh, he is exhorting her not to die by suicide, that makes sense,’ I realized, but I’d like to just encourage you maybe not to focus exclusively on the possibility of her death by suicide as on her pain that she expressed. The parts of her letter as published that I resonated with were of her different kind of pain since her son committed suicide. I am supporting a mom in a similar situation. After working through whether she has a plan and what I should do if I think she is close to doing it, I have learned to listen for other things and not jump on her wishes not to be here.I do wonder if I am underreacting, and pray for her not to take her life, but I feel like the risk I am taking to go deep into her pain is a holy one, not to worry so much about controlling her outcome as being a safe place for her expression of thoughts and in that way get to freedom from the pain that is causing her to wish not to be here.

  4. Not Enough!!!!!

    This is the words that keep ringing in my head.

    I lost my son on the 1st of May 2018 to suicide. This was a young man who lost both his babies 4 years ago. One was a miscarriage and the other little C-Jay lived two and a half months after losing his fight against a rare cancer.
    The last four years of my sons life was roller coater ride.
    All he ever wanted was to be a dad and start his own family This tragedy left him alone, empty, sad and wanting to end his life.

    He tried everything to either get rid of himself or provoke others to get rid of him. He went on drugs and tried to overdose at times to get rid of the pain. I saw a young man who always laughed, made jokes and had a welcoming smile you could not ignore….. becoming a face of sadness. You could see the pain in his eyes daily and he started going backwards since that faithful day his son passed on. I remember sitting in my sunroom reading my bible looking out of the window I saw my son hanging, his father and brother ran to his rescue and managed to take him down. Again coming from work we found him overdosed and got him to hospital just in time. He use to cut himself (self inflicted pain) just to get rid of this loneliness he felt daily. We tried everything from rehabs to councelling church leaders prayed with him and for him daily. None of this was enough!!!!! we could not give him the one thing he so wanted (his son).

    The day he died.

    His dad and I went to see him but I got no answer at the door. I insisted his father open the door for me cause I wanted to see what was going on inside. When we opened the door I saw the bench laying to its side and as I turned to my right, I looked right into my sons face hanging on his dogs belt from the ceiling bulk. I lost it. I tried to lift him up to take him down but his body was already ice cold and he was a grey blue colour and very heavy. I could not save my son……… he was gone. Its been almost two months now and everyday for me starts with thoughts of him and my day ends with thoughts of him. My life changed forever and a part of me died with him on that faithful day. Life was never going to be the same ever. I feel the emptiness and loneliness he spoke about so often and realised what he felt everyday of he life for the last 4 years. I mourn him and wish I could just hug him and tell him how much I love him but this I know is not possible.

    I pray that God will give us the strength as parents to live each day closer to the Lord and to meditate on his word for guidance and peace that surpasses all understanding. I will say as Job did (though he slay me yet will I still trust him). I also have to believe that all things work out for the good of those who love the Lord. I know God promised to never leave us not forsake us and in that I am confident that God was present when my son took his last breath and rest in the knowledge that he is with his son where he always wanted to be. This does not make the pain go away but it allows me to live each day with hope and expectation that one day we will meet again in Heavenly Places.

    May I God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob be with us all as we mourn our loss and may he leave his confuter with us to hold us close to Gods side. May the angels encamp around us to protect us against the plans of the enemy.

    God Bless You Always

    Bernice

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