First, if you are suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, seek help. Go to a doctor or emergency room. Pick up the phone and call someone right now and tell them you are in trouble. You are loved and there are people who will do anything to help you.
Second, I do not speak for everyone who has lost someone to suicide. Every suicide is different, every survivor is different and everyone is in a different place in their processing and healing when dealing with the loss of a loved one. I speak from my own experience as the mother of a son who died by suicide. Specifically, I am Leticia the mother of Anthony who died by suicide on March 8th, 2018.
This morning I woke up to the news of another high profile suicide. This is two this week. Earlier this week news broke about the suicide of Kate Spade and then this morning the news was about the death by suicide of Anthony Bourdain. I am not linking to news stories of either suicide for a reason, because I hate the way the media covers these stories. This isn’t about traffic to me. It is a reality, it is my life, I live in this nightmare.
Here are just some random thoughts I have on suicide today.
Anger: People who have a loved one murdered get to be angry. But when it comes to suicide we are told that we can’t be angry. That we can’t call this selfish or be mad at our loved one. This is crap. It’s confusing enough, but I am angry at my son. Having his oldest child cry on her birthday because she misses him and is painting pictures of her family with her daddy in the ground makes me mad. His baby sister is heartbroken, my husband is traumatized and his brothers are lost without him. Yes, I am angry.
Purgatory: this is why purgatory makes sense to me. How culpable Anthony was for his death or any other sins for that matter, only God knows. I know one thing though, it is not ok if Anthony just strolled into Heaven and is having a great time while we all deal with the pain and trauma of his suicide. Purgatory makes sense not just theologically but also because of who Anthony is as a person. If he is whole and healthy now then he can see what his death has done to us and he would want to make things right, no matter what that meant he would have to go through.
Peace: Please, for the love of God stop saying that people who commit suicide are at peace and/or not suffering anymore. Those of us left behind want nothing more than to be at peace. Also, for me and my other kids, we think it’s bullshit if Anthony’s peace came by destroying ours. Also, that sends a dangerous message to people who are thinking of ending their own lives. It says “look, this is how you get peace!”. I had to ask some of the holiest nuns I know to please not say that anymore at Anthony’s funeral.
I am positive that if I believed Anthony was at peace right now just sitting on clouds, fishing and having a great time, I would be dead too. What I believe is that I do not know what he is doing or where he is and if he is on his way to heaven then he is in purgatory praying for his heartbroken family.
Prevention: I know a lot of people mean well but saying things like “reach out to people, you never know how you could save someone’s life” really is an insult to survivors of suicide loss. It says that we didn’t do everything we could to save our loved one or that someone else could have done something we didn’t. In a lot of cases, the people who loved that person were in contact with them up until their death. I spoke with my son twenty minutes before he hung himself. Maybe it isn’t meant as an accusation, I’m sure it isn’t, but that is how it can sound to those of us who are heartbroken. Please, just watch your words when talking prevention. Yes, we should all reach out to each other and be kind to each other and that could for sure make a difference in so many lives, but suicide is very very complicated. Talking about it is so important so I don’t want to discourage the conversation, I am just saying that some of us did reach out and we did everything we could to help our loved one and they still died.
Wording on suicide: to me, it does not matter if someone says “commit suicide” or “died by suicide” and I think that debate distracts from the actual problem. Unless the wording someone uses brings my son back, I don’t care. The more important thing is that we are talking about it.Responsibility: We are responsible for our own mental health. The only person we can help is ourselves and we have a responsibility to do that for our loved ones. Anthony does bear some responsibility for his suicide and his choices that led him to that point like using drugs, coping with alcohol, not accepting help when it was offered and not opening up to me. You can’t be forced to talk about what’s going on with you, so you have to choose to do whatever it takes to stay alive. If you don’t feel like being alive is important, then tell someone you love that you feel that way and let them help you see how much you mean to them. If you have any trauma in your past, go to therapy, even if you feel fine.
Messages: In our world, there are always messages being thrown at us. the message about euthanasia, freedom, autonomy, and lack of responsibility for our own mental health. Not to mention how we make jokes about suicidal ideation. “hahaha, I was scared I might crash my car but then I remembered I hate my life” and things like that. We really need to think about how each one of these issues contributes to more suicides.
For Catholics, I think we have to find the truth about suicide. Yes, we pray for those who die by suicide, we talk about the reality of grief of the family, we talk about how we don’t judge whether a person is in hell OR heaven (only God knows) and we also talk about suicide being a sin. Because it is. Theologically speaking, a sin is an act against love and suicide is that. How culpable a person is for that sin is something only God knows, just like only God knows the culpability of our sins. But we have to be careful that in talking mercifully about suicide, we don’t throw out reality.
Finally, if you know someone with depression or suicidal ideation, please just love them. Ask yourself what you would wish you had done today if they died tomorrow and do that. Love them where they are, how they are, with the story they have and tell them you love them. Even if they do not hear you. Tell them. Because I still tell my son as I stand at his grave how much I love him and how much he means to me even if he can’t hear me physically.
Learn what suicidal ideation is. It isn’t just someone saying they are considering ending their own life.
This issue is going to require us to all have an open and honest conversation about suicide and suicide loss. We don’t have to agree but we should all be open to listening to each other because besides the famous people dying, there are normal everyday humans being lost to suicide. If you are a family member of one of these people, I am so sorry for your loss.
O most holy Heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing,
I adore you, I love you and will a lively sorrow for my sins.
I offer you this poor heart of mine.
Make me humble, patient, pure, and wholly obedient to your will.
Grant, good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you.
Protect me in the midst of danger; comfort me in my afflictions;
give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs,
your blessings on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death.
Within your Heart I place my every care.
In every need let me come to you with humble trust saying,
Heart of Jesus, help me.