Friday, July 13, 2012
Reaching Out to a Family Who Has Experienced a Suicide
February 22, 2005
Dear N and A,
We’ve never met, but I felt compelled to write.
I read of your son’s death in the paper. At the time, I had no knowledge of you. The connection I did feel, however, was that of a parent. My son, who is not quite 21 has struggled with mental illness pretty much since pre-birth and beyond.
I don’t know what it is like to suffer such a loss, but I can relate to what it is like to suffer with that potential hanging in the air every day. My son has been out of the home since age 17, and has mostly lived on couches and on drugs/alcohol, violence, unsafe living conditions, broken relationships, paranoia, fear, depression, anxiety and misery. I know what it is like to wait for the phone to ring, wondering if this would be “the call”. I know what it is like to mentally plan a funeral and then feel guilty for doing so. My son still lives but I have wondered frequently, since he was small, how long it will last. I may know something of the secret pain you have endured over the years.
Sometimes, when I am feeling more global and more spiritual, I am able to ponder that perhaps people with such great burdens as our sons have carried, have signed on ahead of time for a spiritual journey/contract that teaches the world much through their suffering. Sometimes, even though it appears that they are the weak ones, I have wondered if souls like theirs are really the stronger ones.
I can’t begin to offer words that will lessen your pain. To pretend that I know, having not walked those final steps, would be insensitive. Sometimes I wonder, selfishly perhaps, if my son’s pain, and my constant worry, might one day be put to rest, one way or another. That probably sounds horrible. I live in that place of ambivalence. Wanting desperately for things to be different. Wanting a miracle where years and years of services and bottles and bottles of medications have failed. Wanting his suffering to be over. Wanting his comfort and peace more than almost anything else I can think of.
This really wasn’t meant to be a letter about me, though. I am sending you a book that I have found to be helpful in my grieving of the many daily losses, the end of many hopes and dreams. It is probably a Catholic perspective and while I’m not Catholic, I was able to relate to the sufferings of Mary and the comforting words this book brought to me. It made me feel connected to a universe of mothers, the timelessness of their suffering and the depth of their love. It has helped me to grieve many times. I pray you find some comfort in its pages.
For whatever it is worth, I have had many experiences that lead me to believe in the continuity of life and the fluidity of the human spirit. I truly pray your son has found peace, that you will find peace, and that your relationship will continue in ways that weren’t possible before. I believe his spirit is near you and that further communication is possible and can be ongoing. Look for the little signs that make you wonder, “Is that you?”
Know that my heart is with yours and I send along my highest intentions for healing and comfort. You have been on my mind. Have no regrets. I have no doubt that you did all you knew to do, everything short of living for him. May you be blessed.
With the utmost of respect,