When Someone You Love Kills Themselves
I’m sorry. I know these words will be of empty comfort to you as you look for answers to a loved one’s suicide. But nonetheless, these words are all that I have.
I’ve trod a mile in the shoes you’re wearing. My childhood best took his own life when he was only 21. I spent many months with my grief, and still carry a small part of it around to this very day. Grief never forgets… it only mellows with time.
And I know you’ve come here to read this seeking answers. I’ll try, but I’m not sure the answers I’ll provide will be the same as the ones you want to hear.
Why Did They Kill Themselves?
This is the question we all ask ourselves after a suicide has happened. Why? What was so awful in their life where they felt like the only answer for them was to end their very existence?
While the details vary from person to person, the answer is pretty much the same — an overwhelming sense of loneliness, depression, and loss of hope. A sense that they are in this life all alone, that it’s all become far too much to handle, and that any hope for things getting better is long gone. They just can’t see their life ever improving. Ever.
In the words of the Internet’s most famous article on suicide, “it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with the pain.” For most people, this is referring to emotional pain. But it could also be referring to physical pain too. In any case, it’s an overwhelming pain that is with the person every single day of their life.
And while maybe you tried to reach out to the person, it just wasn’t enough. That’s not your fault, though. That’s the fault of depression.
Clinical depression, often undiagnosed, is the number one reason people kill themselves. A depressed person is a person who feels all alone in the world, without hope, and with failing self-esteem.
Depression is a scary beast and can come in all kinds of forms. Some people do a wonderful job covering up their real depressive feelings and putting on a social mask claiming to be fine. It’s even harder to reach such people, since they’ve put an extremely high value on pretending to be something they’re not.
Depression can be caused by some outward event in the person’s life, such as loss of a job or a serious relationship. But it can also come on for absolutely no reason whatsoever in some people. The important thing to realize is that it’s not their fault — nobody asked for or wants depression in their life. But some people have a hard time reaching out and asking for help and treatment for it.
Even while being treated, a person remains at high risk for suicide during those first eight weeks of treatment. Why? Because although they’re getting help, the thoughts are probably still with them every day.
Many antidepressants, too, work by helping a person feel more energetic, more focused, and less listless. So before taking an antidepressant, a suicidal person didn’t have enough energy to actually go through with the act. Now while on the antidepressant and before the medication’s anti-depressant properties fully kick in, a person may have the energy and focus to try and carry out suicide. Sadly, sometimes they are successful.
All Other Reasons
There are countless other reasons why a person has killed themselves. Maybe they were high when they did it, or didn’t think the method they were using in an attempt was as lethal as it was. Or maybe they were impulsive, and did it on a whim because of the way they were feeling in that moment.
They were probably still suffering from some form of depression. But the depressive feelings may not have been so bad for them… Maybe they didn’t intend to take their own life. Sometimes a person is just crying out for help — and this is their way of doing it.
Why It Still Doesn’t Help…
So the person lost their job. Or lost their girlfriend or boyfriend. Or lost a child. Or maybe they didn’t lose anything at all, and didn’t even seem all that depressed.
No matter what their reason, the reason will never be enough. It will never answer the question of why they felt like they had to do it. Like why they couldn’t reach out and get help before they did. Like why, even if they did get help, it still wasn’t enough.
Because at its heart, suicide is an irrational act. If you want to end pain, ending your life won’t end the pain — because you’re dead. Not only will you not feel the pain any longer, you won’t feel anything any longer.
Trying to make sense of irrational acts is a useless exercise. I understand humans crave perspective and understanding in such situations — to put order onto an orderless action. But its a craving that will never be fully satisfied.
So I’m very sorry for your loss. I truly am. Just know — it wasn’t your fault. It was their choice to make. And even though it was an irrational and senseless choice, you will only find peace in accepting that it’s now in the past.
Take time to be with your grief and remember your loved one for all the joy and happiness they brought into your life. That’s how they’d like to be remembered.
Feeling suicidal? Please, read this first.
Grohol, J. (2018). When Someone You Love Kills Themselves. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 5, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/when-someone-you-love-kills-themselves/