Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
Nothing much compares to the pain of losing a child. When you become a parent, it can feel as if your heart walks out your body and attaches itself to the person you’ve created. To then lose that child is a gut-wrenching, soul-splitting and life-crushing experience.
When a child dies by suicide, there’s usually additional stigma and shame added to that grief. Sometimes parents have to deal with stigmatizing comments made by other people, or intrusive questions about their child’s death. Some have been indirectly blamed for not seeing the signs, or may feel a sting of abandonment when their loved ones stop reaching out and offering support.
We wanted to share the experiences of parents who have lost a child to suicide, so we asked parents in our Mighty community who have lost a child to suicide to share one thing they wish others understood.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “Coming from an extremely religious community, I would like people to understand mental illness is an illness… and sometimes it kills. And when it does, [I believe] our loved ones are in heaven with God, not sent to hell as a punishment… My baby girl is in Heaven with my loving Lord and Savior.” — Gail J.
2. “Don’t think I don’t see you trying to avoid me because you feel uncomfortable knowing I have a child who died from suicide. I live with [the] pain of losing a 31-year-old daughter who was brilliant, beautiful and had a mind that tortured her to the point where she chose to end the pain. I miss Katie every day.” — Gregg A.
3. “I wish people understood suicide is not a big sign or a flash of light to show the world. It’s the fake smiles, ‘I’m OK’s,’ the hiding out from the world.” — Tam M.
4. “He is still my child. I need to know he is remembered, that he was important. My child didn’t choose the easy way out, the decision to leave this life was the hardest he ever had to make.” — Liza C.
5. “Know our pain is life long. We don’t move on. It becomes a part of us until we die. And with all their good intentions, they will never (hopefully) understand the depth of losing a child by suicide.” — Linda M.
6. “We lost our son to suicide three months ago, aged 30. We torture ourselves with ifs, whats, whys and wherefores, but in a video he left us, [he said] he couldn’t live his life like he was anymore, regardless of how much we tried to help him. We are truly broken, but hang on to each other to get through, one day at a time.” — Clare N.
7. “I wish they understood this is not something we ever get over. We carry this with us ’til we see our children again. We need people to understand this and accept this is part of us now.” — Kellie B.
8. “My son was 23 when suicide took him. He was handsome, smart and funny… and felt he didn’t fit anywhere. It took about five years to put my pieces back together, but I am not the same and neither is his sister, 17 years, and we manage by holding on to each other. We aren’t afraid to mention him and wish others weren’t. He is still in our hearts and our lives. We celebrate his birthday, and commiserate on the anniversary of his death. His friends still post birthday wishes on his Facebook page. It will always hurt like it was yesterday, but we’ve learned to carry the pain so no one else can see us flinch.” — Lesley R.
9. “As a parent who lost a child to suicide, I wish others understood that sometimes the things you say do hurt. Don’t talk about how if things don’t go your way you could ‘just die’ (just one example) or minimize suicide in general.” — Kristie M.
10. “I wish they understood there isn’t always a why. People always want me to answer this question. It doesn’t work that way — mental illness is complicated.” — Angie M.
11. “We can’t ‘get over it,’ and shaming a parent for their child’s suicide is bullying.” — Adel E.
12. “Don’t pity me or feel sorry for me. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed about my girl. She was a beautiful soul, inside and out, who was gentle and kind and pure. I’m so proud of who she was and miss her every day. I honor her by looking forward and living the best life I can because she lives in me and her siblings. So it’s OK to say hello, to ask how I am, and it’s also OK if you don’t know how to respond. I know it’s not a ‘pass on by chit chat,’ but do say hello. A smile given here and there does wonders!” — Fa’auly F.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
Thinkstock image by AntonioGuillem