How does it feel after losing a loved one to suicide? How to bear the grief, guilt and unanswered questions as we rebuild our lives? I invite you to walk the mourner’s path with me and see where our paths may cross. Please comment on posts or email firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out my book, "I'll Write Your Name on Every Beach: A Mother's Quest for Comfort, Courage and Clarity After Suicide Loss" (2017). IF IN CRISIS, PLEASE CALL THE NAT'L SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE AT 800-273-8255.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
"You Did All You Could"
No, I did not do all I could to help my child and prevent
this catastrophe. I thought about this a lot in the early weeks. People tried to reassure me without even knowing what I did or
did not do. Of course, they were trying to make me feel better. The rabbi’s
eulogy urged us mourners, if we must think about the “what if”s," to go there as
little as possible. But especially in the first couple months, and still sometimes
now, I need to dwell there; I need to grieve the enormity of my sense of guilt
and opportunities missed. It is still too soon for me to set all that
A doctor suggested making a list of what I did and what I
didn’t do to try to help my son. Here is a short version for the last weeks of his life:
WHAT I DID:
-Helped him leave a stressful situation and come
-Gave him a list of psychiatrists; encouraged him
often to call
-Cooked for him; tried to interest him in cooking and doing simple things
-Gave him space, let him rest
-Tried to talk with him about his feelings
I made a similar list 6 weeks ago, it seemed paltry--way too little, way too
late. The only way I can live with this list is to know that I can keep adding
to it, going back in time to all the good things I did for and with my child.
I feel compelled to take account of and list all I failed to do, to admit my helplessness. My
confession to N and the world. As my husband says, “It was so hard to know how
to help him.”
WHAT I FAILED TO DO:
-Ask him if he was feeling suicidal
-Recognize warning signs like social isolation, talking like this was the end, etc.
-Recognize that he was incapable of making those
calls to psychiatrists
-Bring help to him if he wouldn’t get help
(professionals we know)
- Bring friends to him if he wouldn't call friends
-Read up on major depression to see how it can be
a terminal disease
-Hang out with him just to be together, whether
he wanted it or not
-Hug him every day, tell him I love him, tell him
it gets better
What did I fail to do, to model or instill, years ago that left N so unprepared for this crisis? I can't face that list yet.
My therapist says, “You did the best you could with what you knew at the time.” I can
accept that idea a little better than a blanket pass of “you did all you could.” Maybe what I can learn to eventually accept is my limitations. No parent does all we can; there are always constraints.
The limitations of what we know and understand about the person and about the
mind. The limitations of our personality, our relationship with the child and how we interact. The limitations of not wanting to rock the boat and provoke someone who was already fragile.
The limitations of our imagination—living in denial, assuming the child
would eventually follow the healing script we have for them, never imagining they would take their
life. The inherent limitations of what any person--even a loving parent--can do for another.