One of the first and most common sentiments survivors of suicide loss will share is that they don’t know how a loved one could have taken their own life, or why they did. On the surface, there appeared to be no signs or symptoms. And, the idea of suicide was never mentioned. Many times, the person who took their life was by all accounts the life of the party – a happy go lucky individual who had everything.
When I am sharing my story, I always say my dad’s death came as a complete shock and utter surprise. He fit the persona I just described to a T. He had the loudest laugh in the room and saw to it that everyone around him was happy and living their best life. Why would he possibly end it all?
I will question every single day WHY my dad or anyone else would choose suicide. It’s extreme, it’s taboo, it’s scary and it’s so…final. We’ve been taught that life is such a miracle and a gift that it’s unsettling and unnatural for anyone to choose death.
But, here’s the thing, hindsight and deep reflection can sometimes uncover a “why behind the why,” so to speak. Essentially, answers to “how could you?” or “why did you?” even if we’d rather not accept them.
- My dad’s death was a surprise. I never knew he was SO troubled inside that he would resort to such an extreme measure. Who would EVER think that about another person? However, I was aware that for a period of time he was facing some significant stressors that were out of his perceived control. I thought he was in a slump. So, I suppose you could say I have a “why.” That doesn’t mean it was rational, right or even the specific reason. But, I have a loose why.
- Chris Cornell’s death was a surprise. Why would a handsome, rich and beloved musician kill himself?! His family’s response aside, he battled addiction and depression for the better part of his life. He wrote songs like “Pretty Noose” and even “Like Suicide.” We’ll never know with 100% certainly what happened the night he died, but in the most basic of ways, we have direction on a why.
- It’s a similar story for Chris’ friend and wildly successful rock musician peer, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, who sang songs entitled “Numb” and “In the End.”
This general understanding may be enough for some, but for many others, it’s not. A reader commented on our Facebook page that the basic understanding of her loved one’s suicide led into a “But why now?” Another commented that she was driven to conduct a psychological autopsy to dive deeper into the specific sequence of events that led into the ultimate why.
Whether our knowledge of why is very basic like above or as detailed as the specific reason left behind in a note, the result is cyclical and usually the same:
- Arriving at a why still doesn’t make acceptable sense
- Uncovering a reason doesn’t justify the choice
- Solving the mystery doesn’t bring them back
- We still wonder WHY anyone would ever end the miracle of life
- We still feel horrible
I see how this happens. From as early as we learn to speak, we ask why. I experience this with my toddler who needs an explanation for everything that is. It’s rooted in our very core to question.
In relation to suicide, WHY is a distraction and a way I have grasped at erasing what happened, or making it better. I do and have spent a disproportionate amount of time on this facet of the loss that I know by now will not yield the equally weighted return I had been hoping for: bringing my dad back.
Simply put – suicide never has or never will make sense. And that’s a notion that thankfully doesn’t need a why. It just doesn’t make sense.