One of the main reasons this blog was created was to offer a different perspective on grief. Prior to my dad’s death by suicide, I had only experienced death by natural cause. While any loss is painful, the loss of my father introduced me to a deeper pain than I had ever known. In the months following my dad’s death I remember feeling so alone. How could anyone TRULY understand the intense emotions I was experiencing within. It simply isn’t possible unless you yourself have been touched by suicide. I have written a number of posts on the subject, and feel as if I have only scratched the surface. Grief after suicide just isn’t the same.
Another difference between grief after suicide versus grief after a natural death has to do with the internal dialogue that we tell ourselves. We personalize the death, often making the loss about us. Why wasn’t I good enough to live for? What could I have done differently? This “stage” often does not occur after someone dies from a terminal illness or of old age. We know that we did everything we could. We know that our loved one didn’t choose to die of cancer, or heart disease, or any other terrible disease. The same is not true with death by suicide. We often think that our loved ones made the decision to leave us and the world. That is the part that makes grieving so difficult. That is the part that is only understood by those who have experienced death by suicide. It can feel nearly impossible to see past that belief.
I write about this difficulty because I not only want others to feel understood, but because I want society to understand how the stigma of suicide impacts those that have experienced death by suicide. We have created a world that believes that suicide is a choice. Did my father choose to die? No. He choose to end his pain. His final act was not about me, nor was it about anyone else in his life. It was about him, and the pain that he lived in every single day. Removing myself from his death has been more healing than anything else I have done. Acknowledging that more phone calls, more visits, and more “I love yous'” would not have changed the outcome has been freeing.
Despite what others’ say, despite what the belief in society is, suicide is not a choice. It is the result of an illness. The result of years of pain, years of turmoil, years of trying to find another way. My father died by suicide, but the anxiety and depression are what took his life. It isn’t about his last act; it is about the years of pain, the years of torture, the years of feeling misunderstood. The belief that “fixing” my dad, was no more possible than curing cancer has allowed me to forgive myself, and ultimately allowed me to forgive him.