My Experience with Losing Loved Ones to Suicide

Suicide is a topic most people are uncomfortable with. When someone takes their own life, for whatever reason, it brings up very exclusive emotions that aren’t present for other types of death. Accidents, illness, old age - even murder, usually bring people together to comfort each other and grieve. But suicide seems to put a hush over everything. I’m not saying people are less sympathetic, but for many of us - a lot of other emotions are present. We see it as a different type of loss, we may not know how to grieve. And, inevitable people will call the victim “selfish” and be angry at them.

I was asked to write something about suicide because, unfortunately, I have known four people who took their own lives. I have a lot of compassion for anyone who finds no reason left for living and/or finds life to painful to bear. I also believe, it can be stopped in most cases.

You can’t generalize and say all suicide is selfish . Anyone who has considered it for even a moment knows that hopeless feeling of complete despair. I’ve felt that way myself on several occasions but knew from life experience that things would get better. Suicide is a preventable cause of death in many cases. I’ll share about the four men I knew that killed themselves. (FYI: men are five times more likely to kill themselves than women).

Armond was my cousin. He was 20 years older than me and he and his brother’s were drafted to the Viet Nam war. When they came back the other two brother’s manged their way back into society and are living productive, happy lives. Armond came back addicted to heroin. I was too young to remember the exact details, but from what I’ve been told, he became the black sheep of our very large extended family. Knowing what I know about heroin addicts, he probably stole, lied and became known as “a loser”. When he couldn’t take any more, he used a shotgun and killed himself at our grandparents home. I think symbolically that’s where he felt the most loved. (age 23)

When I was 17 years old one of my best friends, Steve, joined the Marines. There was no war on at the time, his best friend joined so it sounded like a good idea to him. Several months after bootcamp he went AWOL. I was there when the MP’s came and took him away, he put up a huge fight and it was violent and very sad. From that time on something was just not “right” with Steve. Our group of friends all partied back then but Steve started hanging out with a much older guy and using lots of LSD. The next thing we knew he was telling us crazy things, for example that he was the fifth Beatle, or that he was talking to dead people. Looking back its obvious that he needed mental health care but no one seemed to recognize that. He told me a few days before his 21st first birthday that he would not live to be 21. His brother and I tried to stay with him 24/7 during that time to make sure he didn’t do anything to harm himself, but he managed to fool us both and shot himself the day before he would have turned 21. (age 21)

My cousin, Tommy, was in his thirties when he chose to end his life. He had been drinking a lot and very despondent over a recent divorce. He was my favorite cousin, so strong and handsome and fun to be around. It was shocking to hear that he had attempted suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. His father found him before he was dead and he was revived - but the brain damage was so severe he’s been living in an institution for the last 30 years. He can’t talk, walk or care for himself. He doesn’t recognize family, although his mother never gave up (she passed away a few years ago). I still consider it a “suicide” because the Tommy I knew and loved stopped existing on the day he almost died. (age 35)

Lastly, and most painfully, one of my very best friends killed himself on October 29, 2009. It still hurts to think about Doug. We met because we had common interests and from there became like brother and sister. We talked almost daily and usually for hours. He was very open about his depression and both of us went through some very challenging times during our 7 year friendship. But, when one was down, the other one was always able to get them through to the other side.

Looking back after the fact I could see that all the signs were there at least six months before he actually did it:

- he sold his beloved red Corvette
- he sold his condo and moved to an apt.
- he decided to make each of his children books of their lives including every photo he had of them
- he didn’t feel like talking as often

I blamed myself at first. I should have known! He’d mentioned suicide several times over the years, but somehow it didn’t seem possible that he would actually do it. Those last few months of his life was the time period of me finding out my son was a heroin addict and all my attention was on that. I still carry guilt today even though the note he left me said there was nothing I could have done to stop him. He took a bunch of Xanax then covered his head with a plastic bag (age 51).

 So, when someone chooses to end their life, I really believe that to them, its the only answer, its their solution to unbearable pain. They think we, the loved ones left behind, will be better off without them around once we get over the shock. I know that’s what Doug thought. His note said it was his time to go, that life had become too painful, too lonely, too difficult. He said that there was nothing anyone could have done to change his mind.

In each of these situations I believe an intervention could have saved them. A drug program, mental health care, in-patient treatment for depression. It makes me think of all the children and and teens that have killed themselves over bullying in recent years. Those deaths did not have to happen, but what parents imagines their child is so distraught over being bullied they would do the extreme act of suicide? I hope these days all parents are aware of how serious this issue is. My own son attempted suicide once. I will share about that at a later time.

To summarize my thoughts on this topic: Suicide is preventable, we each need to make it our responsibility to recognize when someone we love is showing signs of severe depression and despondency or erratic behavior. If someone threatens suicide, take it seriously. Get them help. You can have someone commited to a mental health hospital on a “5150” if they are a threat to themselves. Call 911 if they will not voluntarily go with you to the hospital. Sometimes the 72 hours required observation is enough to get the person over the impulse and into some treatment. After a suicide happens, please reconsider blaming the victim and calling them selfish. Some suicides ARE selfish, some are done in spite, or to escape punishment or debt, etc. But most seem to be sincerely depressed people taking the only road to peace they believe exists.


Bio
Barbara Legere writes about Heroin Addiction on her award winning Recovery Happens blog. Her son Keven has been struggling with his heroin addiction for over 3 years. Join Barbara on her blog or Twitter.

Pat Moore Foundation teams up with D’Amore Healthcare. D'Amore Healthcare specializes in treating mental health and behavioral illness along with the wide variety of addictions such as alcoholism, opiate addiction, cocaine addiction, crystal meth addiction, and prescription drug abuse.

Our caring, qualified staff is here for you. If you have any questions regarding help for yourself or a loved one please contact our us anytime 24 hours a day at 714.375.1110 or fill out the contact form.

Looking back its obvious that

Looking back its obvious that he needed mental health care but no one seemed to recognize that. He told me a few days before his 21st first birthday that he would not live to be 21.

I'm sorry

The problem with your cousin and your best friend was that they should get professional help. Because both Armond and Steven suffered from mental problems after joining the army. The drug problem should be easily solved if they had been hospitalized for a time in a drug rehab center. Maybe that would have saved their lives. I’m very sorry for your lost.

Update On My Cousin

Just wanted to update that a few days after I wrote this article my cousin, Tommy, passed away. He suffered a heart attack. His sister is grieving really hard at this loss, but I think his brother's grieved him 30 years ago when they lost who he really was.

Suicide

I was living with an abusive husband. The more I complained and tried to get away, the more he tried to convince everyone in my family that I was "crazy". I tried to get away twice, but he wouldn't come to the table to negotiate the divorce. He had control of our money and I ran out. I had no relatives close so I moved back in with him. I fell into a deep depression for two years and tried to commit suicide twice before my daughter convinced me to try another therapist. (the 4th one) This one understood and believed in me. I finally learned the mental tricks that were played on me and refused to play the games anymore. I FINALLY got away and got off all psyche meds! He threatened to kill me and even though I was afraid, I stayed strong. A dear friend helped me even though it put him in danger. 3 years later: I own my own house, have a new wonderful relationship, my daughter is finally straightened out (I put her through rehab) and I TRUST that I will be ok no matter what now! My ex remarried and moved to Rome!

I AGREE with this article!! Sometimes you never know the mental torment a person is in.

Suicide

My second cousin hanged herself early this spring. I live in the city that they air lifted her to and was at the hospital with my cousin shortly before they removed the life support. She didn't make it. She was only 15.

After a break up with a boyfriend a month ago, my daugther (18) told me that she was having thoughts of hurting herself, that she wanted to go to sleep and never wake up, and that she hadn't eaten in 3 days, I took her for an emergency evaluation. They kept her there for 3 days got her one some medication but more than anything the time there gave her a much needed "time out" in a safe environment. I am glad that she went. She has a new job now and is planning to start college in the Spring. She really seems to be in a much better place emotionally.

Barbara, this is a very well written article. Thank you for sharing.

suicide

I'm so sorry you've gone through this pain, of losing those you care about to such a terrible thing. This article is what people need to read, who aren't as aware of about sucide as you are.

I've had some contacts with suicide, but only through others I know and love, that were close to someone that committed suicide. My own niece, when only 13, attempted to kill herself and came extremely close to doing so, but thankfully, was saved (took a whole bottle of Tylenol & her parents were told she was unlikely to live). She's now a happily married mom of 6 at 40 yr.s old. My very close friend lost her brother in law to suicide,...and my other good friend lost her nephew (at only 17) to suicide.
More recently, just about 6 mo.s ago, my son intercepted a probable suicide in his best friend. The friend called to say good bye and my son called the friend's mom who ran upstairs and found him with a loaded gun. By this time, he'd called his friend back, who'd answered, and all my son heard was them talking, then yelling and the gun going off. Fortunately, it didn't hit/hurt either of them. His friend is an addict and (hopefully) about to now enter rehab., his 2nd.
All of these people were just in horrific pain, as you've said. But also, as you've said, things can change for the better, if they get the right help. My niece,also my God daughter, and someone whom I love very much is a wonderful example of that.
Thank you for this excellent article.

Checking Comments

Checking to see if comments work, I've been told by a few people that they are not working.

Comments

Barbara;

They work fine. Comments don't post automatically, as I sort through 'comments' nearly every day, except weekends. Often is we post a blog on Friday, and readers comment the post won't be published until today.

We are sent spam from time to time, so I read through to make sure the comments are not that type before I post.

Rob

Really well written article.

Really well written article. As a medical professional, we are always taught to take any suicide threats seriously.

I totally understand how

I totally understand how people can get to the position of killing themselves. I've never had the guts to go through with it but I am familiar with the feeling of wanting to be dead. For me it's a response to overwhelming feelings that just wear you down when you have to deal with them over and over for decades and decades but I know that I couldn't ever do it.

My heart goes out to men in Western cultures like yours and mine. How much we let them down when they grow up feeling that suicide is the only option. I think the main reason for this is that they don't feel like they can ask for help, they don't believe they will get it if they ask for it, and that they will be seen as "less than a man" for asking for help. What a fucked-up world we have, with stupid stupid gender biases.

Sigh. I know two people who have tried to kill themselves and failed. I know another who succeeded. It's interesting food for thought what you say about reconsidering anger and that they are selfish becuase those ARE the reactions I have. I'm not sure if I think they're warranted or unwarranted. I do think "selfish" is probably not the closest description for what I think, when I stop to ponder it. Maybe "misguided" is probably something closer to it or "futile" or something? No, I don't even think that's it either, I'll have to think on that one for a while :) Thanks for this post :)

Thank you, Sue!

Thank you, Sue!

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