When our son, Matt, died by suicide, we were faced with a cruel and harsh social stigma. Losing our first born child was indescribably heartbreaking. His pain from depression even worse, but to also endure judgments against him only made our grief all the more painful. All of this got in the way of our need and desire to celebrate the beautiful gift he was to all of us who loved him.
So, to say that suicide grief is complicated is an understatement.
I think one reason for the stigma is that suicide triggers a reaction to control our fear of unbearable pain. So, if we blame the victim, then we don’t have to take in the dilemma of being driven to choose to die rather than to live. If we see this choice as” their” fault, then we don’t have to ask the sharp questions of how and when might we have been more present to their struggle.
Thankfully, our family was surrounded by many loved ones who understood and who remembered Matt as the deeply loving man he was. Their love for him overshadowed all stigma and judgment so that blaming him never occurred to them. But, still it was so hard to understand how such a horrific thing could have happened to us and, especially, to him.
Below is the way I understood his choice then and, even after seven years, it still rings true now.
"Matt’s illness made living the way he wanted to seem impossible. His spirit struggled to find the joy that he knew was around him, but the illness got in the way. For him life just became too hard. . . . so he made a choice to leave this earthly place and go to the life that comes after this one. It makes sense to me to say that he chose to become “all spirit”. Our spirit is that part of us that loves and laughs and cares and hopes, so Matt chose to trust the promise of peace and go to the “place” where life is lived in spirit. I think he believed that he could love us better from that “place” than from here.
We do not have the capacity to understand this. Our human nature is simply limited in what it can understand about death and life after death. But I trust that Matt is near us . . . loving us in the way of the spirit, encouraging us to heal from our sadness and remember all the happy memories we have. He wants us to be strong when we can and to be tender and gentle all the time. He wants us to have a good time together and enjoy the beauty of the world around us. And he wants us to love our dogs . . . for sure, he wants us to love our dogs !
Matt isn’t gone. He is simply with us in a different way. And if you listen with your heart, you can hear him loving you. “