When you lose someone you love to suicide, the questions never end.
Since I lost my son Adam to suicide on July 19, 2015, I have been asking myself the same questions over and over again. Was there anything more I could have done? If I hadn’t gone away on business that weekend, would it have made a difference? Did he think of us as he prepared? Did he consider how much he would hurt those left standing? Was he scared?
You see, grief is strange. It isn’t something that comes, does its thing and then leaves. No, it comes and goes, ebbs and flows. I used to think that when someone died, the grieving process was just about missing that person until you got used to them being gone, then the grieving was over. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It is about constantly having to reconcile the fact that someone you loved was here one moment and gone the next. You are confronted with mortality and you must face your beliefs and feelings about life and death.
This is an ongoing process and one that I don’t think will ever be completely over.
Living with grief is hard, because we just don’t talk about death much, never mind suicide. We don’t talk about how hard it is to know your loved one was so tormented that death and separation from everyone they knew seemed to be their only option.
In the midst it all, it can be hard to know where to turn.
As an avid reader, I headed to the library and was pleased to see a few titles. I had heard about one author in particular who wrote on grief, Alan Wolfelt. I checked out his book Understanding Your Suicide Grief and finally felt as though someone understood some of what I was going through. Dr. Wolfelt is well-known in the field of loss and grief and he was able to outline the "touchstones" in the process.
I also spent a lot of time watching sitcoms like Friends because my lack of concentration made watching full length movies difficult and light TV shows didn’t elicit a great deal of emotion. When you are in a place of such intense mourning, any extra emotion can seem overwhelming.
Something was still missing though, and I sought out other people who might understand more about what I was going through, from a more lived experience. I looked into Facebook groups and pages, but found they dragged me further down, rather than finding hope.
It was then that I decided to compile all the Facebook posts I had made on my personal profile into a book called Bearing Witness: One Mother’s Online Journey After Suicide in the hopes that it might help someone else who was struggling.
I had made the first post the day after my son died by announcing he had taken his life. As the days went on, posting on Facebook became my way of journaling. I was able to express my sadness, my fear and even my hopes. Over a year later, I gathered them together and had them published.
It is my sincere hope that people who have experienced the loss of their loved one to suicide will be able to find encouragement and maybe feel just a little bit less alone.
I also hope those who are supporting a colleague, friend or family member who has lost someone to suicide will find a way to cope and gain a better understanding of what that person is experiencing.
While nothing can ever make it okay that my son died, having someone decide not to take their life would certainly make some of my tears worthwhile.
Suicide Prevention: How You Can Make a Difference
According to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, 11 people end their lives and another 210 attempt suicide every day in Canada. In Alberta, three out of every four suicide deaths are male, with middle-aged men being at the highest risk.
World Suicide Prevention Day is Sunday, September 10. This year’s theme is “Take a minute, change a life.” It only takes a moment to check in with someone, offer support or simply listen, and it can make all the difference.
On Monday, September 11, join the Edmonton Public Library for an opportunity to participate in a presentation from the Suicide Prevention Resource Centre: Tough Enough To Talk About It. Staff will discuss mental health and suicide, covering topics such as how to recognize the signs of distress and depression along with tips for self-care. The conversation circle runs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at EPL’s Enterprise Square branch in downtown Edmonton.