Guest Author - Rev. Jaclin Meade Scott
Debates still rage as to the mental state, at the time of the act, of the person who completes suicide.
Religious leaders ponder the state of the person’s soul.
Ethicists and politicians deliberate the legal and social ramifications and the person’s rights.
Here is what you know – someone close to you has completed suicide. You can’t figure out why, and it blows your mind. You are extremely angry with the person for doing it. You are extremely sad that they did it. You feel stupid for not seeing it coming. You carry a mountain of guilt for not stopping it, for not making the person feel better. You have no idea how you will get through the next 24 hours.
Here is what you need to know – you couldn’t have stopped it. The person wasn’t choosing to die and make you sad, they really wanted to end the pain, and knew death was a possible outcome of their actions. No, this doesn’t make sense. The only answer to “Why?” is “I don’t know/understand.” And you probably never will in this lifetime.
Here is how you cope – decide you will survive. This is critically important. Once you’ve made that decision, all actions will lead toward it. Also important is finding a person (or group) who is a suicide survivor, the only one(s) that truly understands what you’re going through. Talk, talk, talk. Then talk some more. Ignore the psychological debates, because only the deceased could tell us his state of mind. Ignore the religious stances, because only our faithful and loving God determines the eternal disposition of a soul. Ignore the legalism, it’s not your issue right now.
Here is how you deal with the person that has completed suicide – yell at them, cry for them, be thankful you knew them, continue to love them, talk about them to others, imagine what they are saying to you, remember the joy you shared with them, write them letters, decide to live a happy life to honor them, list the benefits of having known them and refer often to your list. Eventually, forgive them. Sooner than that, forgive yourself.
Here is what you say to others – s/he completed suicide. Don’t dress it up or down. Don’t use judgmental words. Just state the fact. The answer to “Why?” is “I don’t know”.
Here is what to say to children – she was very unhappy, and when she tried to fix it, she died. It’s not your fault. I am sad, too, but I won’t die from that. You won’t be alone. It’s not your fault. Ask any questions you want to, I will answer them. We can talk about her whenever you want to. It’s not your fault. You didn’t make her unhappy. I don’t understand it, either. But let’s talk about it whenever we want to.
Here is what’s normal – you feel like you’re going crazy. You’re not. This is going to take a while to get over. You’ll feel anger, guilt, and loneliness. Do the tasks (actual, physical activities) of the grief process to heal. Not doing them prolongs the process, and can have adverse effects on your wellbeing.
Here are danger signals – you think suicide might be the only way out of your own pain. You can’t get past the anger and guilt six months after the death. The solution is professional help. NOW. Suicide hotline, clergy person, support groups, psychologist. Tell one good friend you’re in trouble, and ask them to get you to a safe place, even an emergency room.
Even though a part of you died with that person, there is still much you can offer the world. Decide to survive. There is hope. There is life.