Very few people know how to connect with or talk to someone who has lost someone very close to them to suicide. In the last ten years, I"ve lost two loved ones to suicide.
My father died on October 2nd approximately ten years ago. I could look up the year but it"s painful enough to deal with the date each year; it won"t help me to also have five and ten-year anniversaries on my mind. He suffocated himself to death with a helium tank. To this day I feel a sting when I see party balloons.
My first husband, David, whom I loved very much, died June 6th 2017. David talked about suicide often. He frequently talked about outrageous schemes he"d concocted to "fix his life." All of his plans were scary and dangerous. There was never a specific plan and there was never enough information to report to the authorities. I was with him for sixteen years and I left seven years ago when his mental illness became life-threatening to us both. He refused treatment and didn"t benefit from the help I tried to offer for years. We were close right up until his death. I spent each day in fear that he would hurt himself or someone else. I checked in on him every day. I tried to save him. He ultimately died anyway.
The purpose of sharing these two losses I"ve endured is to illustrate that no two experiences with suicide are the same but as survivors we often experience many of the same things: most of us lived in fear for a long time before the suicide occurred. We saw signs that scared us but often we never had any real options to help our loved one. We tried. We lived in fear. We knew we couldn"t call 911 or a suicide line every single day and say, "I think he tried", or "s/he might try to kill him/herself but he denies it and I"m afraid he may try again", or "s/he is saying they might do something." Some people who lose a loved one to suicide didn"t know there was a threat of suicide but they saw their loved ones struggling and they didn"t know what to do; they couldn"t reach the person on any real emotional level. They knew the person they loved was hurting but none of their attempts to help made a difference. Very occasionally, someone will kill themselves and totally blindside everyone in their lives but that is highly unusual.
Prior to the loss of their loved one to suicide, most survivors do everything they can to cope with their daily fear and they try to be there for their loved one in any way they think may save them. We try to give them options. We may give them suicide hotline numbers; we scramble around trying to find some way to save them. When our loved one dies, we very often blame ourselves. Many of us struggle with guilt, overwhelming pain, self-hatred, shame, confusion, anger (at ourselves, others, the person who died and the world in general), brain fog, depression, anxiety, deep grief and on and on.
My father"s death was much harder for me than was my first husband"s death. I believe that is because in the years between the two deaths I gained an understanding that it hadn"t been my fault. I worked through the flawed logic that plagues most people who lose someone close to them to suicide. When my first husband died, I didn"t have to start at the beginning on the path to healingnot completely anyway.
Even in my case, where I was able to work through the second suicide more easily, there was a significant amount of pain associated with his death. In fact, I"m still dealing with it.
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