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  • Writer's pictureJody Glynn Patrick

The aftermath of a child’s suicide

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

From a reader: responding to another mother who lost a child to suicide:

I feel your pain ever day. I had my daughter for 42 wonderful years. She was my best friend but she had a problem with alcohol and didn’t always make sound decisions. She hung herself on 4/27/15 in our home. We speculate and pray that it was an accident and not on purpose. I worried about her all the time she was away from me but I never worried about her when she was in our home. She was safe there or so I thought.

I have to put a fake face on every day for my son because he is a wonderful person and doesn’t deserve to lose his mother. He found his sister and it was so hard on him. He was afraid that he wouldn’t be enough to keep me alive and to tell you the truth, it is the only thing that stops me from joining my daughter. I talked to her on the day she died and thank God my last words to her was I love you and she said I love you too.

I wasn’t aware of how much she was drinking or how depressed she was and I sob so hard I can hardly breathe because I failed her. I do a lot of silent crying so no one can hear me and worry about me. Why didn’t I know the pain is unbearable and every time I think of her I gasp to breathe. I too wonder what I could have done to change the outcome and brushed off her complaints about always being the one in the house who messed up something.

I tried so hard to be a good mother because I didn’t have one. So now what am I but a failure as a mother? She was my best friend. How could I not know the depths of her pain? I think everyone is tired of hearing me cry about her but the truth is I will never get over her. I just will keep living for my son. So every day I drag my body to work go home and out on a false face. No one understands she did exist. They go on with their life and mine is shattered and I have to keep it to myself. The gut wrenching pain is unbearable.

I only lost one child so your pain is triple mine and to see that you survive your loss is a inspiration to me. I’m so sorry for you, but you’re not alone in your pain.

A child’s suicide is the ultimate slap, and its sting would be mind-numbing if it weren’t so sharp and insistent. It throbs like a burn whose scar tissue is made from guilt and bewilderment. <ouths whisper condolences but parents still suspect that family, friends and strangers wonder how it was that they weren’t able to predict or stop their child from killing themselves. And why not? That is their own internal dialogue. It is the burning question.

The child who chooses suicide, regardless of the “child’s” age, is choosing a way out. There is something about their pain, or their outlook, which makes this a choice worth taking in the second they decide to actually do it. If drugs or alcohol are involved, we know that the choice may not be one they would make sober. If they were sober, we know it isn’t a choice they would have made had they not been depressed, or had they been able to see beyond the immediate situation. But they were depressed, or they were short-sighted, or they were silent sufferers who left behind the smallest of hints of the depth of their despair. Or they were curious about death. We can never really know why they jumped off the edge.

What we do know is that we are left with funeral arrangements and a different life ourselves. We are left with the clean-up, the suffering they jumped out of and pushed us into. We are left with a profound sense of loss and futility. Yesterday we were parents — even sometimes of a difficult, troublesome child. Today we are not parents of that child any longer on this earth, and yet we remain parents in our hearts and minds and soul. And we suffer.

In that suffering, many parents will consider taking our own lives to “join” their loved one, as Roseanne expressed. And so one devastating decision, one wrong choice, one shortsighted solution, may claim another life and ripple and ripple ever outward. Even as a parent understands completely the chaos a suicide creates in the lives of others, they consider it now for themselves.

This is what makes grief counseling so important and so necessary for parents of suicidal or murdered children. When a child is murdered, the living parent may consider actually murdering themselves when the pain of the “after” is too great. We consider mirroring the act that took our child for two reasons — 1) the hope of reunification, as expressed by Roseanne, and 2) the wanting to pull our hand out of the fire burning it.

It is hard to stop the madness when we cannot stop the pain. And no one can stop your pain, Roseanne, but know that a good grief counselor can help make it tolerable. They can provide a place where you can take off your false face and talk about your daughter and about what this loss has done to your family and your life. And know that you can continue to talk about it here, as well, with us. We do understand and want to embrace you as you work through these hard feelings in this new life.

Too all of you who participate with comments, know that you are helping mothers like Roseanne even when you voice your despair. The fact that you go on, and that you can write a year, ten years, or 20 years later, shines a light for her. She knows that because you share the pain of a dead child (how we hate the word “lost” as if we misplaced them), you understand. We all get it. And as we share that assurance, we also find hearts out there big enough to help us with our grief, too.

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