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(trigger) helping survivors of suicide

8 posts in this topic

this post is about supporting my daughter rather than myself, so i hope it's still appropriate to ask questions.


my daughter is 21 and has had three significant relationships with boys in her life thus far (i say boys because to me they aren't quite men yet).


boy #2 hung himself just over a year ago.  she was devastated.  she still looks at his pictures, and has his name tatoooed on her forearm so that she'll never forget him.


boy #1 hung himself a few weeks ago.  he was the single most important person in her life, even though they've been broken up for about two years.  they still hung out a lot, and talked on the phone a lot.  she thought he was feeling better.


as you can imagine, she is reeling from this experience.  the funeral was heartbreaking - it was on what should have been his 21st birthday.  he and my daugher had matching stuffed sheep, and he was cremated with both of them.  i could barely hold my own self together that day - i cannot imagine what she must have been feeling.


i want to know what i can do for her.  it's one thing to lose your loved ones who are sick or aging, and another thing to lose someone to suicide (i think.... i cannot say this with certainty).  i've found groups for people in her shoes, but they're all at night and that's when she works (and cannot take the time off).


she has lots of friends who can comfort her, and for that i'm really glad.  but i'm not sure, as a mother, what i might do that will help - and what i might do that would make things worse.


if you've been through this before, and can talk about it, could you tell me some things that helped or didn't help at all?  in a smaller way, i guess i want this information for my own benefit too.  i didn't love him, but he was a big part of my life for a long time too.  i find myself crying for him, and imagining how he looked when he died.  i have a hard time talking about it without crying, and i know my daughter does not need to see that.  i also keep thinking about my own life and how many times i've come so close to doing what these boys did.  but i don't know how to resolve my feelings to that i won't cry, or bring my own issues into the conversation. 


she's functioning fine one day and then the next day she's a mess.  do i give her space?  do i hover?  how do i remain calm about it?


thanks if anyone can help.

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I don't know if it'll help at all, but when my friends suicided I tended to not tell my mother. That said, she tended to not know my friends so it worked out. She and I did know a 14 year old (I was 20) who was her friend's son so I sort of knew him who died, but that was nature's fault, not his. And she was so focused on caring for his mother that she sort of dealt with her own grief in a very subtle way. I only heard her mention it a few times, and it was primarily around the other adults of the situation.


I wonder, if your daughter is 21, if she's too old for the kids help line? They have really good internet resources, too. We tend to send our teens there when us adults can't deal with them any more. I'd say that if she stops functioning from grief that it's time for her to quit her job so she can go to the support places that are open when she's working. She'll be better able to work and do her job (or find a new one) when she's not so switchy in herself.


Maybe, for you, you need to find a way that you can listen to her and just not talk at all? Sort of like finding a mute button for your tongue. That way you won't drag your own reflections into what is primarily her space. Did you know his parents at all? Would supporting them be helpful for you at all?


I don't know what your standard relationship with your daughter is, so it's hard to say what the right course of action is. If you're usually "come to me when you want to talk" then keep going on that course of action. If you're "check in every day" then keep doing that. I guess... just stay consistent (ha! As much as possible, anyway) so that she knows not to expect any more weirdness from you than is usual.


As for staying calm, the same way you always do however that is? Be it baking (was it you who made muffins and cookies?) or crafting or or playing with the cat or going for a walk or whatever it is.

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I lost an ex to suicide almost a year and a half ago.


We had broken up because he was beginning to get abusive towards me, and honestly the suicide didn't surprise me, but it ...  there was still a lot of anger I had to process after the initial grief and wtf response.


I would say don't be surprised if you or your daughter get very, very angry later.  It's really hard to deal with when someone you care about chooses to end their life.  (understatement of the year)


For me, the anger would come and go, and be interspersed with sadness.  There was a lot of WHY, as opposed to other situations where I've had people close to me die and it was 'their time' or whatever.  With suicide, there's never really any answer that seemed to satisfy me as to why.  I knew he had problems, I knew very well what they were and that he had, as long as I'd known him, had suicidal ideation, but I just couldn't stop myself from wishing things had turned out differently.


I guess I was stuck in the "anger/bargaining" stages for a very long time, heh.  I don't think that's uncommon, either.


From my experience, I would imagine you can expect the grief to be more intense and longer lasting.  I'd call it a psychic wound that heals much slower than 'regular' grief.  Some days were fine, other days I felt intensely angry and upset with him, and some days I would think "good riddance, you loser, if you can't fucking deal with your problems I refuse to care."  Maybe that's anger but it felt more like the depression stage.  Lots of bouncing back and forth between feelings.


I think it would be validating for your daughter to hear that you're feeling or have felt similarly to whatever emotions she expresses, but imo try to keep it very low key and focus n her, if that makes sense.  If you need to process things and talk out how angry you are, etc (and I can't imagine you wouldn't, he was a part of your life too), I would not recommend doing it with your daughter.


Those are just my initial thoughts.  I'll try to keep an eye on the thread, since I've gone through a similar experience and am okay with talking about it now.

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thank you both so much.


i'm not sure that she would call a help line.  i think she's probably got enough friends around her to listen... i just wonder if they're able to validate her feelings without imposing their own as well (most of her friends also knew him).  she's coming over for lunch tomorrow, i think that's something i'll ask her.  what i'd like most is for her to have a tdoc, but she's already on a waiting list to get one to deal with her anxiety problems.  i was worried, too, about how well she could hang on to her job right now.  she says that going to work helps her be distracted from thinking about it all the time, so i guess that's good.  she works alone, so if she has to cry or whatever it's okay to do that and no one will see her. 


generally, i'm a "call me if you need me" kind of mom at this stage in her life (nobody wants to be hounded by their mother at her age, i don't think heh).  of course if i don't hear from her for a week that all goes out the window.  in this situation, it's hard for me to know where the middle ground is.  she would never tell me not to call, even if i was getting on her nerves... that's where i start second-guessing.


sys, i'm glad you can talk about it now, and i'm so sorry you went through that.  i haven't seen the anger yet, but maybe she just hasn't expressed it in front of me.  she spent so much time being angry with him for his parasuicidal behaviour when they were together, it was the biggest reason she broke up with him in the first place (he would threaten suicide every time she even talked about leaving).  so i'm imagining she feels a tremendous amount of both guilt and anger along with deep sadness.  but i'm projecting because i've never been in her shoes.


that's a good point about letting her see that i cry about it too.  i just have to be sure she knows she doesn't have to "fix" my grief by avoiding the conversation (she is sensitive to anything that might make me cry, kinda like she's protecting me, because of the BP thing).  i'll try to find the words to let her know i'm crying *with* her and *for* her, but it's not about me by a long shot.  and that it's okay for me to cry about things like this, it doesn't mean i'm destabilizing, it just means i'm human.  maybe that's a better tactic than trying not to cry at all.  maybe it will give her permission to be more free about her own feelings if she sees mine.  i hope so.


now that i know how angry you felt, i really want her to know it's okay to be angry at him, that it doesn't mean she's a bad person or loved him any less.  i'm afraid she'll judge herself for blaming him, when there's no need. 


again thank you both.  i feel so lost with this, i never expected my child would be burying her friends before i did.  both of those boys are unfortunately examples of why being treatment-compliant is SOOO fucking important.  and examples of why rave drugs are evil.

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I know this is going to sound weird, but can you text?  My younger sister (just turned 22) and my younger brother...  I swear to god, all they do is text.  I must've missed that Generation Text cut off.


Anyway, if you already do, great, and maybe start using that to check in.  But if you don't, it would be a great excuse to "I want to get up to date with the technology, [daughter], so I may be texting you kinda frequently for a few weeks because I know you won't laugh at my mistakes too much!"


The good thing about texts is...  you can generally gauge someone's mood from the text if you know them , it's easy to transition into a phone call if necessary, AND it's more like email in that she doesn't have to be talking to you at the exact same time you send her the message.


I would imagine that she feels a LOT of guilt right now along with the "normal" grief sadness.  I know that even though my ex and I had no contact for nearly a year before he died, I still felt like I should've done something, should've reached out to him-- so much guilt, and I wasn't even ever planning to speak to him again and before he killed himself, I had no regret for that decision!  But afterwards, oh god, the what if can consume someone.


Letting her see you be sad, even angry, crying, all of that...  that s a great way to go about it.  It's modelling the behavior you want, PLUS you're showing her you trust her enough to express your hard emotions in front of her, and that invites a reciprocation.

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heh, i say "call", but what i really mean is that we're texting.  i can't remember the last time we talked on the phone (we both hate it).  that's sad in a way, but it's the way of her world and i don't want to be the old woman saying "in MY day, we actually spoke to each other...".  and i must admit that i too like the fact that i don't have to answer a text immediately.  you're right that it's pretty easy to gauge things that way, and sometimes, she actually types things more honestly than she would say out loud.


i'm glad you talked about the anger.  she came over for lunch today and that's exactly where she was (today, maybe not tomorrow).  pissed off at him for doing this to her, and especially to his family.  i think i'm quoting her properly - "when i get up there [heaven], those stupid motherfuckers are getting SUCH an ass-kicking." (she was refering to both boys).  she's pissed about his drug use, knowing it contributed to his MI and still doing it despite her nagging.  she's pissed that he planned what he was about to do and didn't tell anyone or check himself in (he began cancelling important stuff a week before).


yet at the same time, she said she felt numb to the whole thing, because she had been through his threats and attempts so many times before.  almost like she had already prepared herself for his death.  "well he got two more years in after the last time he tried, not too bad i guess".  ouch.  i guess that's coming from anger, too.


so because she wasn't crying, i wasn't crying either yay (well not until she left).  i'm learning so much about grief, though.  and i'm learning a lot about what it would be like (to some degree) if i ever decided to let my own MI get the best of me.  i haven't been able to have a conversation with his mother yet - that will be extremely difficult.  it's not the right time yet anyway.


one of my frequent ruminations is about my daughter, or my husband, or my parents dying.  it kinda takes on an obessive life of its own in my head, and it's devastating to me every time.  since this happened, i have not had that persistent thought.  you'd think it would be worse, not better.  maybe this is a reality check for my anxiety.  i'm so focused on this particular death that i'm not thinking about "possibilities".


thanks for letting me vent this out and helping me understand.  no need to respond, i'm just letting you know that your experience really helped me.

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:Trigger:  :Trigger:  :Trigger:


This may be especially triggering even for this thread, but I did want to say that you reminded me of just how bad the anger was...


Now that I'm thinking about it, the anger was probably even worse than I wrote above, because I remember reading his obituary repeatedly trying to grasp that he was gone and there was a part where his dad said "I'm collecting anyone's memories of Bob, please write or email or call, I miss him so much every day" and one of the MAIN reasons that Bob refused to get help was because he thought his dad would hate him for being mentally ill.


Yeah.  So... my train of thought would always go:  /right, so you couldn't handle letting your old man down, so you kill yourself and that really makes your dad proud, you fucking asshole.  It's so much better than going to therapy if you're just dead, yeah? YOU FUCKING PRICK./  


Anyway, I think I ranted about that to EVERYONE who sat still long enough for me to talk to them, for weeks.   :cussing:

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I think it would be good if you could just text that you were feeling sad or mad or whatever that day, so she knows you're going through some grief yourself.  I say that coming from family where stoicism was highly prized, and it still messes me up today and I'm 53. 


I think it would have been helpful if I could have seen my mom grieve and/or be pissed off when my dad died of natural causes when I was 11.  I had never been to a funeral or experienced death, so I modeled my behaviour on the grown-ups, none of whom displayed any emotion at all.  I vividly remember being hugged by my uncle before the funeral, and I remember it because no one in our family ever displayed affection.  That left a mark on me, although I knew I was loved, if that makes any sense.   


I think it would help you and your daughter if she knows you're feeling bad about things, too.

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