Dear Suicide Survivors:
You are not alone. I know it feels that way, but I can assure you that there is help. I know you feel that no one can relate to what you’re going through, that your world is hopeless, and that your life will never be worth living. I understand. I felt the exact same way. I’m not going to tell you that things will be okay. I’m not going to pretend what happened didn’t. And I’m not going to let you feel shame over this circumstance. I am going to help you find hope in the midst of what appears to be a hopeless situation. Together we will make it to tomorrow.
My husband Tommy committed suicide on December 16, 2002. Regardless of the fact that he abandoned me after eight years of marriage and left me alone to raise our 8 week old daughter and 7 year old son, I have decided that I will never be ashamed of my husband. I will also never allow others to make me feel shame over what he did. I did not cause this tragedy, nor did you.
We are not responsible for our loved one’s actions. We are, however, the ones still standing and sticking around to pick up the pieces. We are the ones trying to right this wrong and make the best decisions from here on out for what’s left of our family.
Unfortunately, we are the ones paying the price for this mistake. I for one have chosen to make the absolute best of this situation regardless of where the fault lies. This doesn’t leave me with a sense of shame but of pride. I love myself and I am proud of the woman I have allowed myself to become. I could have taken the road of bitterness, anger, and misery, but I didn’t. Because of this decision, I am learning how to live with this tragedy more and more every single day. It is my prayer that you too will choose to do the same. You are not alone, I am here to help.
They Didn’t Love Us
I am not convinced that a person who commits suicide has proven by their actions a lack of love for his/her family or friends. Yes, suicide is a very selfish decision, but it’s made by someone who isn’t thinking clearly. How tortured must a person contemplating this act feel to believe so strongly that death is the only way out of their pain?
That’s a very lost, desperate, and confused soul. All of us make mistakes when we are in pain and feeling hopeless. Unfortunately, suicide is permanent while other mistakes can be made right. Regardless of the pain Tommy allowed me to experience, I will never hold his lack of judgment against my husband or believe he did this for a lack of love for anyone other than himself.
What Do I Tell Our Children?
From what I’ve experienced, healing has been brought about through honesty, trust, and by confronting the issues at hand. I’m not saying that everyone should follow in my footsteps, but I told my children the truth. I know that sounds surprising and harsh, but it was the best decision I ever made. I told my son when he was 8 and waited until my daughter was the same age (very recently) to tell her.
I read somewhere that children who were lied to about a parent’s suicide had a more difficult time healing in the long run. Once they found out the truth (usually when they were older – and the truth will inevitably surface) they had to not only relive the pain of their loss, but also deal with their anger at the family members who lied to them. That’s when I realized that as much as I needed to know the truth in order to find closure, they did as well.
My best friend’s father committed suicide when she was very young. Her mom told her that his gun went off by mistake and his death was a tragic accident. It wasn’t until about a year ago that she found out the truth about her father. She agreed with me 100% that things would have been better for her had her mom respected her enough to tell the truth from the beginning.
How Can Children Be Expected to Understand?
First off, let me start by reminding you that none of us can be expected to understand. However, I did try and break this down to my children in pieces. I gave them bits of information, let them process it, and as they began to ask more questions I answered honestly. One thing I’ve learned is that children are very smart, they know when we are holding back, and if they can’t trust us to openly communicate and help them, they will feel even more desperate and abandoned. They need someone to trust right now!!!
I started off by telling my children that their father was very sick. No, he wasn’t physically ill, but his mind was sick. I told them he made lots of mistakes and didn’t know how to deal with those mistakes. Instead of coming to me for help (I would have offered support regardless of what mistakes had been made) he chose instead to die – he was scared and ran from his problems because he was afraid of dealing with them.
I made sure my children understood that it wasn’t their fault and there was absolutely nothing they could have done to prevent or change what happened. I asked them to please let this be a lesson to them – they can trust me to help them through anything! Never run from problems but deal with them before they become too big. “It’s not mistakes that make us who we are, but how we make those mistakes right that does.” (Jada Pinkett Smith)
I was sad that it was too late for their father, but it would never be too late for them. I want them to never be ashamed of their mistakes, but proud of the way they learn and make them better. I make sure my children know they can talk to me about any problem or bad decision. And while I may not approve and there may be consequences, I will always be there to love them and help make things right.
My son is now 15 and my daughter is almost 9. We still cry over Tommy, but it does not hinder our lives. My children are not ashamed to tell the truth to those who ask about their father and want to know what happened to him. Their lack of shame has led other people to treat them with much respect and admiration.
My number one priority is making sure my children feel safe in a world full of pain. They know that I will forever love their father, that I would do anything to change what happened, but unfortunately I can’t.
What I can do is honor his memory and do my best to allow goodness to come out of this tragedy. This is my way of honoring Tommy and making sure my children know that, while their Dad made the wrong decision, I still love him unconditionally and hope that they too can find a way to do the same – while learning from his mistakes.
My Deepest Condolences
I am so sorry for your loss. I wish there were magic words and advice available to take away the pain. Unfortunately, I don’t think the pain ever goes away. We heal, we grow, and we learn to cope, but we never “get over” the loss of a beautiful person gone too soon. My prayer is that I can somehow give you a bit of hope today while keeping you from losing your way as you try to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
May God bless and keep you safe today.
All my love,