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Surviving suicide loss

On Sept. 3, 2009, my husband and I were living our everyday lives when we received a phone call that our son had taken his life. What happens to the mind and body is inexplicable. There are no words in the English language to describe it.

Because suicide is a taboo word, the surviving family is left behind with guilt, shame, embarrassment, loneliness, humiliation, anger, depression and most of all hopelessness.

We had to endure cruel gossip, rude comments and lost friendships. People have told me our son was a coward while others wanted to make sure we heard all the gossip that was being said about us. Truly all we needed were hugs and kind words of support.

My husband and I had to learn how to handle each other’s grief. What set him off left me in the dark. He could not understand all my tears and anger. I could not understand his quietness. I did not care if I ever laughed again

I struggled knowing I would never hear my son say “I love you, Mom.” There would be no more of his hugs, funny smiles, or new memories. Panic set in as I wondered if I would forget what his voice sounded like. Would I forget the sound of his laugh?

We were concerned about his family and our daughter. Would they ever be able to get past this tragedy? I experienced grief bursts that happened without warning. Nothing in particular would trigger them. While in local businesses, customers who knew us would turn around like they never saw us. I found myself leaving a store in tears.

God has helped me through the journey. I would not be where I am today without Him. Jeremiah 31:25 states “For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing”. God’s love can overpower any situation in our lives. He has been showering me with his love and grace since Dustin’s death. I feel like I am worthy enough again to receive God’s gifts and to continue the work He has in store for me. God has instilled in me a passion to help others through the grief process.

Finding a counselor who had experienced a suicide was next to impossible. I became involved in The Suicide Awareness Alliance of Washington County. I attended a facilitator’s training and started a support group called H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Endure). Being with others who have lost a loved one to suicide has been the biggest help. The H.O.P.E. Support Group meets twice a month at The River Family Christian Center in Waterford. It is designed to help family, friends, or co-workers who have lost someone to suicide.

Suicide can sometimes be prevented. Think about the last time you were concerned about a family member or friend. Many of us sense something isn’t right, but the fear of being intrusive or overstepping our bounds prevents us from acting. Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. It is difficult for us to understand what drives so many to take their own lives. Does the person exhibit any of the following warning signs?

¯ Talk about being a burden to others?

¯ Talk about hopelessness?

¯ Give away personal belongings?

¯ Lose interest in hobbies and activities?

¯ Withdraw from family and friends?

¯ Quit a once loved job?

¯ Increase use of drugs or alcohol?

¯ Act anxiously or become easily agitated?

¯ Behave recklessly?

¯ Seek revenge?

¯ Experience a change in sleeping habits?

¯ Have mood swings?

¯ Experience a relationship break up?

Ask questions, be willing to listen, allow expressions of feelings, don’t minimize their problems, and reassure them that help is available. Do not be afraid to tell them your concerns and do not be afraid to say the word “suicide” if that is among your concerns. Do not judge or lecture them. Your opinion is irrelevant. Get involved in their life by calling them daily and encouraging them. Do not be sworn to secrecy; don’t leave them alone and, above all else, get them help. Call the National Hotline 1(800) 273 TALK, text 4hope to 741741, or go to the local emergency room. The Suicide Awareness Alliance of Washington County meets the third Thursday of every month. For more information about H.O.P.E. or the Suicide Awareness Alliance call 740-374-6990.

A person who completes suicide dies, just as the victim of a terminal physical condition, because of a devastating illness. The brain is unable to function in a healthy way and considers death preferable to the anguish experienced in life. Be a part of raising awareness and dispelling stigma. You can make a difference. Remember the depressed person is ill and cannot think clearly about the morality of suicide and will not be able to think logically about the value of family and friends.

It has truly been a tough road but I thank God for my patient co-worker, for those who took me in their loving arms, for my supportive family, for the friends that would take me for a ride, and for the ones who constantly had enough faith in me to do this work.

LeeAnn Price is the facilitator of the HOPE support group, the coordinator of the Washington County LOSS (Local Outreach to Survivors of Suicide) Team, and a member of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board.

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