Editor: Last week was National Suicide Prevention Week, hence this post:
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.
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.
Every Thursday we publish “AfterTalk Inspirational.” We invite readers to submit their own poem, essay, or suggestions for inspirational quotes for publication. If you are a therapist, you are welcome to extend this invitation to your clients as well. Please send your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org