Two friends suffered the loss of their adult children by suicide; one in December, right before Christmas, and the other at the beginning of January. Both families are still distraught as they try to make sense of this, when no one can comprehend the amount of despair these young adults were feeling to have resorted to such extremes. The family is left feeling such extreme grief that is unlike any other grief. It feels as if someone has ripped your heart completely out of your chest and then slammed it down on the concrete as five thousand semi trucks continue to run over it. Yes, that is the extreme pain families feel after a loss such as this. Sadly, I experienced this when we lost my sister to suicide in 2001.
At a time like this, there isn’t much comfort you can offer the families, other than the knowledge that you are there for them. Please, continue to rally around them long after the funeral is over. In the weeks, months, and years to come, that is when they truly need you the most. They feel numb at times, then a wave of grief knocks them over and they feel like they are drowning all over again in the sea of a million questions that scream at them “WHY DIDN’T I KNOW THEY WERE THIS LOW? “HOW COULD THEY HAVE DONE THIS?” ” GOD, WHY DID HIS HAPPEN?” “WHY DIDN’T THEY COME TO ME?” “I LET THEM DOWN … I SHOULD HAVE KNOW … I SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE FOR THEM!” Guilt consumes them, and it feels like someone has a hand on their throat choking the life out of them, too.
In the midst of ALL of this, please … remember them!
Remember the loved ones that they are grieving such a tragic loss over. Remember the good times, and share those memories with the family. Don’t be afraid to speak their loved one’s name for fear that it will cause them more pain. One of the most painful things at this moment in time is thinking that people will forget all about the one that has passed. Keep their memory alive! It actually helps the family to know that you have fond memories of their loved one. Share your stories! Talk about “this one time when they made you laugh until your face and sides hurt” or “they were such a prankster when they did this or that …” These memories are music to the parent’s ears. One of their biggest fears is that people will forget the one that their heart is shattered over losing. Reassure them that you will not forget …. and share with the family as a way to help them during this horrific time in their lives.
No one should EVER have to experience this special life altering loss of a loved one, and yet there are so many that take their lives each year. People talk about the “signs” and yet often the person was able to hide their depression or feelings of despair from those closest to them. There is no way we could have known that my sister would have taken her own life. Just like the gentleman that lost his son in December said, “You never could have convinced me that my son would have been capable of or would have taken his own life. Unfortunately, I was wrong.”
The mother grieving the loss of her only child, her precious adult daughter, shares pictures daily. Occasionally, she will share her heart and pour out exactly how she is feeling in a post. Often times, though, she sits alone crying with gut wrenching sobs escaping her lips.
Initially, survivors of suicide feel the need to protect their loved one’s name by trying to fix every wrong rumor that is going around town about them. They rush to their loved one’s defense of such tall tales. They don’t want anyone to tarnish their loved one’s memory with such fabricated stories. Even the truth doesn’t need to be told. It’s like a secret contained in a jack-in-the box. It’s a secret that the family wanted to contain, yet someone has twisted and turned the handle multiple times until the secret jumped out of the box and, much to the family’s horror, was revealed for all to know.
Please don’t focus on how the person passed. Instead, focus on the precious life they lived when they were here. Focus on the love they shared and the many lives the person touched while here on this earth.
In the case of both parents, their children are still touching lives today, long after they have passed. Because it enables those that still have their children to open up a dialog with them about such topics as depression so this doesn’t happen to another child, teen, young adult, or ANY ONE!
The ones that have passed. Share the beautiful stories of their lives and how they made you laugh or how they touched your heart! Don’t be afraid to say their name!! It is music to the family’s ears!
Remember the parents and all family members that are grieving. It affects everyone. It is like a stone tossed into a river, and the ripples affect everything in it’s path. Be there to listen … to offer a hug … just to sit silently with them holding their hand. Just be there and reassure the family that even though they don’t know how they will take their next breath, you will be there with them helping them along the way as best you can.
Remember the ones currently in your life and do everything possible to let them know you’re there, whatever the need. Listen to them, no matter if they rant about the same thing for the 10th time that day. They obviously have something that is bothering them for them to feel the need to bring it up. Let them talk and get it all out. Listen. Offer a shoulder to cry on, if needed. Or just be a sounding board for that person. Keeping it inside does more harm than good, so be the person that listens and, more importantly, validates them!
There is much yet left to be done to help others in this world. Be the person that doesn’t shy away but instead is present to be a friend especially when a person is in need. Don’t let a single other person on the face of this earth EVER feel alone again, if you can help it.
Please keep these families in your prayers. I promise you, they need them!