LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF SUICIDE

When you know you’re living with someone who needs to be in control, and that they have a plan to manage their own dying if needed, it leaves you feeling very helpless and fearful. My sister passed away this week, and she had for years planned on taking her own life if she felt she were becoming a burden on anyone else.

Suicide is not an event that occurs only to the person ending his or her own life. Those of us left behind must go on as best we can, and the scars left by knowing your loved one chose that final path can be so devastating. My sister died two days after learning she had cancer, but she did not take matters into her own hands. She died of natural causes. For that I will always be grateful.

While my sister did not resort to taking that final step, we do have a family history of suicide. Having a family member who has committed suicide gives permission to the rest of the family to choose that same path. You would think it would be the opposite: that it would be so devastating to the survivors that it would never happen again in the same family, but apparently that’s not so. Having a family member who committed suicide is one of the red flags that professionals look for in determining who really might choose to end their own life.

The statistics we hear currently are that 22 veterans commit suicide every day in the United States. Actually that’s only a number and it probably doesn’t reflect what is really happening. The study that came up with that number did not look at suicide across all states; it left out the states of Texas and California, I believe, and those are two states with very high levels of suicide.

Each time I hear someone talking about those statistics, no matter what the number is, I cringe. I always end up thinking of the loved ones left behind to cope in the aftermath.

There is always guilt. Why didn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t s/he confide in me and ask for help? Why couldn’t I have provided more emotional support? Why did I get into that last fight with him/her? The list of questions goes on and on. And there are never any answers.

There is other fallout: the fear that other family members will choose the same route, the spiritual aspects, the financial factors such as no longer having the income that the person was bringing in, or even the life insurance as most policies exclude persons that take their own lives.

If you are contemplating suicide, please talk to a professional first. The sun does come out to shine once again, there will be good times that come along, and things will change! Life is not stagnant. Please think about those you’re leaving behind and get professional help. What do you have to lose? And what a gift to those you’d otherwise leave behind!

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