by Linda Woods
When I hear the phrase, committed suicide, I cringe at the words. It always sounds to me like someone has committed a crime. Not so many years ago in Canada it was a criminal offense to take your own life. In some states, it is still a crime. I have met parents who have been shattered by the death of their child by suicide, and then, to add insult to injury, their dead child was charged with a criminal offense after the death.
Our 13-year-old son Greg died by suicide on January 25, 1990, so I have had a lot of time to come to terms with (and educate myself about) the subject of suicide. When a person has depression or a mental illness, and it is not treated, they sometimes go on to die by suicide. They were in horrific indescribable pain, and suffered beyond our comprehension, and now we persecute them further, by suggesting that they are committing a crime. Suicide is not about dying; it is about ending the pain.
My grief journey has introduced me to many, many survivors of suicide — parents, siblings, grandparents, spouses, other relatives, and friends. The ripple effect is not like any other death, because of the “what if’s, if onlys, what did I miss, why didn’t I see that behavior as suicidal?”doubts, and on and on. When a survivor, through story telling and reminiscing, introduces me to the person who died, there are often many similarities -- a person who is ~ overly sensitive, intelligent, compassionate, and so on. These people often believe they are a burden to those around them, and that we'd be better off if they were gone.
What I also came to understand was, when we are physically tired from a hard day’s work, a short nap or a shower will refresh us -- but when we are mentally tired -- nothing helps to refresh us. For those who are depressed and suicidal, they are tired and exhausted all the time — there is no apparent relief in sight for the pain and exhaustion. They just barely make it through each day and night, and then one day -- they don’t have the strength to carry on.
So when I hear suicide described as a cowardly act, I shake my head. The person who is suffering has been so brave to live with their pain for as long as they have; we should find them courageous at some level for doing that. To think about the final act of taking one’s own life, I believe, is an act of desperation.
For me this is not about being politically correct, it is about honoring the family left behind and the person who died by describing it as, “died by suicide." They were in pain and they died, and we loved them, and we will always miss them.
Forever Greg’s mom,