Coping with suicide of a family member

Reply Mon 19 Feb, 2007 09:09 pm
cyphercat -- I will "pm" you later. Take care of that headache. It's your body's way of telling you that you need a time out.

A few comments here, though.

I remember how we felt when my father died. Just like Mr. C's family, we were concerned about reputation, too. (Especially my mom.) My father was a great guy. We didn't want people who hardly knew him to think less of him or us because of this one act. That just wouldn't have been fair. It was a long, complicated, personal story. And we didn't think we owed anyone an explanation. The truth was, we were barely ready to discuss it with each other, much less anyone else. That comes with time. (A lot of time, for some of us.) So we were vague and noncommittal when questioned at the funeral. Only a trusted few knew what happened. It was a little easier for us that way. And yes, we deserved at least that.

I didn't live in the same town as my parents and family, so when I returned home I didn't have anyone to talk to about it. And I desperately needed to talk. I turned to our family doctor, who knows us very well. He recommended a support group for family members of suicide victims sponsored by our local chapter of the Mental Health Association. I went for a few weeks until I no longer felt I needed it. It helped me a lot. I could say things there, express anger, whatever, that I couldn't share with family without making the situation harder. So, if A2K can fill that role for you, you're already ahead of the game.
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Reply Tue 20 Feb, 2007 10:06 am

We're here for you. Remember that. You need to vent as a part of processing how the world has changed since Billy's father killed himself. The part of the suicide I find saddest is that father and son will never be able to establish a relationship as adults.

If your mother-in-law finds comfort in glossing over a suicide for now, fine. Remember, she's probably feeling that she failed her husband. Never mind that he was impossible to please--she couldn't do the impossible and she failed.

I'm guessing that your f-i-l intended his suicide as a hostile act; that he planned to make his family (including you) good and sorry for the way you treated him.

You are perfectly entitled to pass on the f-i-l inflicted helping of guilt. Billy is also entitled to pass. Just because the man is dead doesn't make his demands either realistic or respectable.

I would consider letting your college/university know that f-i-l's death was by his choice rather than a random accident. That way if grieving interferes with course work, the college authorities will be able to understand.

Meanwhle, we're here for you.

Hold your dominion.
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Reply Tue 20 Feb, 2007 10:08 am
Noddy24 wrote:
Just because the man is dead doesn't make his demands either realistic or respectable.

<Nodding emphatically>

Very well said. Not an unusual state of affairs, but VERY well said.
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Reply Tue 20 Feb, 2007 10:25 am
Cyphercat, I'm so sorry to hear about this. I wish I had something I could do or say to help. However, I have written a lot of very personal things here, and I can tell you, it does help sometimes.
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Reply Tue 20 Feb, 2007 10:53 am
Oh, just saw this thread.

I'm so sorry.
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Reply Tue 20 Feb, 2007 12:18 pm

I understand the feelings about the shock and disbelief over and over and over. I agree with the wonderful advice and support you've received here and wanted to add my support. Time is a great healer, thank goodness... in time this won't seem so shocking and you may then start to make deal with the aftermath.

Suicide can be seen as either an act of courage or cowardice... I've never figured out which. All that matters is those who are left and helping them deal with their pain and confusion. I'm sure you'll be a great source of strength for your husband to draw on once you get past your disbelief and shock.

Try not to judge his father, and encourage hubby not to, too. It matters not WHY his dad took his life; it only matters that he did. His father's life is his own story, of which the rest of you know very little. Even if he could explain it to you, you may not really get it or agree with it. He must have been at the end of his rope, though, to have gone this extra step. I feel much compassion for people who are this point. It is a sad thing when suicide happens, and even sadder when it comes as a surprise.

Good luck, cyphercat.
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Bella Dea
Reply Tue 20 Feb, 2007 01:41 pm
When I lost someone to suicide, I started out being sad. Which turned to guilt. And then I got really, really angry. Angry because what he'd done hadn't just affected him; it had affected his family and his friends.

Personally, I don't have any stigma about suicide. A person is dead. Doesn't matter to me if they died in an accident or by their own hand. However, I know how people can be and no one seems to know how to act. Please, if you can, relay this to your husband. I am sure he is struggling right now with a lot of emotions he wonders if he should have.

Should you be mad? Is it ok to be mad at someone who's died? Is it ok if I don't can't forgive them? Or forget what they've left behind?

It made me feel really selfish and hateful at first when I had those feelings. But I did. And after seeing a therapist about it, it dawned on me: it is perfectly acceptable to feel those things because those things are true. You've been betrayed by soemone you love when they commit suicide.

Don't take that wrong. The person who died is not a bad person nor do they deserve to be called names or hated or talked badly about. But it's like anything else in life. If someone betrays you and hurts you, you have a right to be angry.

You can (and probably will) spend hours wondering why and how he could and trying to come up with some sort of answer that makes sense. Even if he explained his reasoning (which some do and unfortunatly, some don't) there is still that nagging "how could he feel there was no other way?" And you'll probably wonder what you could have done. Chances are, nothing. I know you've heard that and it will take some time to believe it but there wasn't anything you could have done. Had he not done it now, it would have been later.

Your best bet, in my opinion, is to just allow yourself to feel what you feel. Don't let anyone tell you you are feeling "wrong". Or grieving "wrong". If it would hurt someone's feelings to know how you really feel, just don't tell them. We're all here to listen to you no matter what.

If you're pissed, you have a right to be. Suicide is a very selfish act. And even if the person doing it doesn't intend to hurt others (in fact, they often feel they are doing what's best for everyone) the fact remains that they do hurt others. Suicide takes you out of the game and leaves everyone else to play through a hand watching your empty seat wondering what the hell they did to make you go, or what they could have done to make you stay.

It's been almost 15 years since I lost Brian. It's gotten easier. I don't think about it as much. But every now and then it still makes me angry because I was left with no answers and a brief memory of him. He was only 14.

Chin up and remember we're all here for you.
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Reply Wed 21 Feb, 2007 05:47 am
When a dear family friend committed suicide, we actually reached out to her more in death than we had in recent years in life. Instead of thinking less of her, we tried to understand her better. I never heard anybody speak out, who thought the less of her. I know some people may not see it our way, but I think people generally are more forgiving than not.
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Reply Wed 21 Feb, 2007 06:35 am
(((cyphercat))) I'm so sorry. Your universe has been torn, a bit.

I'm a big believer in talk therapy ... and it's much healthier than liquor or drugs. So talk away, because there's lots of people here to listen. If that doesn't seem enough, there are SOS (survivors of suicide) forums on the net to look into, and grief counsellors.

Your MIL is very vulnerable right now. Anything you and your husband feel is magnified x10 for her. Indulge her, protect her, listen to her.

Things I've learned: Grief is a rollercoaster without any laughs, throwing you around, taking you for a ride that you can't stop, but always circling the same point. And if anger is perfectly typical in a natural death, how much more so in a suicide?

One little thought -- I didn't follow your tribulations with him last summer, so I'm talking blind. But if he was malevolent, perhaps he did this to kill the demons within. Suicide can also be an act of love.
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Reply Thu 22 Feb, 2007 12:03 am
Well, again thank you to everyone for offering support. It also means a lot to hear people's own experiences in dealing with losing loved ones to suicide, it's really nice of you guys to be willing to share those things and it helps to know people who've gotten through it.

I am sorry to be posting so rarely, I hope it doesn't seem like I'm not appreciating all of the input from all of you, because I am; I'm getting a lot of comfort from every single comment. I'm just having a bit of a struggle to catch up with school, so not much time to be doing anything else. Oh, speaking of school, Noddy mentioned telling the school about it so that hopefully they'd be helpful about it... I did go ahead and tell all of my teachers the whole truth, and that's been another small shock-- I can't believe how unhelpful my teachers have been. One actually complained that I hadn't written her a note before we left town! *sigh* So since no one has been very nice about helping me catch up, I'm swamped...

You know what's a strange thing about this, on the subject of telling people and what other people think of him and all of that-- the town we're from is so small that a TON of people know all about it already, and I mean all about it. Other people, people they barely even know, knew the actual details of how he did it and everything, even before my mother-in-law knew. We found out that the sheriff's officers and the search and rescue guys were telling people everything about it. Some woman who handles the coroner's photos was telling people things about how he looked. It's just bizarre to think about people knowing all of that stuff too...(Which is another reason why I'm not too worried about talking about it here, I can't say much that everyone doesn't know already Confused )

Okay, so as far as being angry with him and all of that... there is another part to it that I am really having a hard time forgiving him for. I wasn't going to talk about it, but I just can't let go of the anger over this part and I keep feeling so mad because it seems like they're just glossing over this. He tried to take their dog with him. And as far as I'm concerned he succeeded, because the stress was too much for the poor dog's heart and he died at the vet's. I just can't get past that part. He didn't even try to do it in a kind way, he tried to do it in a gross, hard way. I don't know how to process that or forgive that. Even besides that I just hate that he did that to the dog, the fact that he took away his wife and sons' pet too, like he wasn't hurting them enough by killing himself....I don't know, I just picture him doing that and it makes me sick.

How do I handle it that they all need to pretend now that he was a nicer person than he was?
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Reply Thu 22 Feb, 2007 12:08 am
And it freaks me out that such a messed up person raised my husband. I keep thinking, what kind of dad could he possibly have been? I never thought he was a very nice parent in a lot of ways, but was he worse than I even knew? And what kind of damage has he done? It worries me.
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Reply Thu 22 Feb, 2007 12:16 am
cyphercat wrote:
How do I handle it that they all need to pretend now that he was a nicer person than he was?

Silently. You can know in your heart that he was an A-hole, but there's no profit to be had in sharing that information. Some things are best left unsaid... and "the deceased was an A-hole" is usually one of them. Get that part out only where you know it won't come back to haunt you. You know, disconnected far away friends, internet chat rooms, etc.
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George Jetson
Reply Thu 22 Feb, 2007 12:16 am
How did he die? Gun?
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Reply Thu 22 Feb, 2007 07:10 am

Of course, you are under no obligation to give details of your father-in-law's demise to the casually curious.

My first father-in-law died suddenly of a heart attack in his early sixties. He and his son, the First Mr. Noddy, were not close.

Over the next few years I watched with a kind of horror as the First Mr. Noddy started manufacturing memories of a father/son bonding that never existed.

My mother-in-law did the same thing.

Mind, my father-in-law was a very nice man. The qualities his survivors invented were qualities that they needed to comfort themselves. Comforting themselves was more important to them than living with reality.

I was in my early twenties then and spent a great deal of time in Tumultuous Ethical Quandary. I decided that everyone is entitled to choose their own interior mental furniture--providing this doesn't present a clear and present danger to themselves or to other people.

Your father-in-law was a man with a warped psyche. His son, your husband, is looking with horror at his Death By Chosen Violence Paternal Role model and picking and choosing the parts he'll retain as parts of his interior mental furniture.

Parents are role models and a role model can be either a good example to be followed or a bad example to be eschewed.

Hang in there. Hold your dominion.
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Bella Dea
Reply Thu 22 Feb, 2007 07:46 am
You are in no means obligated to love or even like your FIL in life (imo). And now that he's gone, there is no obligation to love or like him either. However, that being said, because of who he is to your husband you have to keep it to yourself (or tell us here). You can be supportive of your husband without saying bad things about your FIL. Nod and hold his hand and let him talk about his father. If he asks you questions about him, be as vague as possible or try and just use positive examples.

I understand your concern over his raising your husband and I think that we are definitely somewhat a product of our environments. But you married your husband for a reason and he must be a good man to have gotten your love. You are a sensible woman.

Was his father abusive? Or just a crappy father?

As for taking the dog, maybe he felt that was the only thing in the world that still gave him unconditional love and he wanted to take that with him. I am by no means trying to rationalize what he did because it can't be done. A suicidal person is not rational. But I am trying to remind you that he was a very sick man and had his head been "right", he probably wouldn't have done what he did (to himself or the dog). And perhaps he suffered his whole life and that is what made him such a crappy dad in the first place.

Either way, you are entitled to your thoughts and feelings and no one will think less of you here for expressing them. Like I said before, regardless of who he was in life, he is someone totally different in death. People always are. We always seem to forget the bad things someone has done. Which isn't always a bad thing but in this case, I think your anger is justified on many levels. Just don't let it get the best of you.
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Reply Thu 22 Feb, 2007 08:09 am
cypher -- sorry to hear that you're in the middle of the small town gossip. It adds another burden to the heap. I agree with those who have advised supporting your husband as best you can and not expressing your bad thoughts about your FIL to your husband and his family. Dump here, it's what we're here for, but you might have to leave the room sometimes to keep from letting loose around his family.

My father was a miserable SOB, but I was the only one allowed to say it. It's all new and each of them is going to go through the coping process in the only way they can. The first stage of grief is denial, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Right now they are at the denial stage and you are at the anger stage. Let them be in denial -- they'll get to anger on their own time.
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Reply Thu 22 Feb, 2007 11:20 am
Oooh, I can really see how the dog detail would add a whole level of horribleness to this.


I do get what you mean about worrying about your husband, I remember that part of the discussion after the "MY SON" episode. For what it's worth, the uncle of mine who committed suicide -- and who had dealt with mental illness for quite a while before he succumbed -- had four daughters who are all wonderful, caring, sweet, fabulous people.

You know your husband (have you gotten married in the interim by the way, or is "husband" still shorthand?), I think you can trust your instincts there.

Are your husband and M-I-L getting any kind of counseling/ therapy?
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Reply Thu 22 Feb, 2007 04:03 pm
cyphercat, I can understand your concern regarding how your father-in-law's psychological makeup might have affected your husband. My friend's father committed suicide. She's a well-balanced, loving, and caring person. One of the few really sane people I know.
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Reply Thu 22 Feb, 2007 05:17 pm
Sometimes it's amazing the sweet-smelling-rose that grows out of a pile of ****.

I say this of your husband (who must be fabulous because YOU married him!)

and I say this of what you are going through now, because it is all sucking you down and threatening to drown you in it's brown muck

but you will float to the top eventually like the shiny objects (I love those!) that you are

I wish you both much support and hope and best wishes
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Reply Thu 22 Feb, 2007 05:38 pm
I don't know what I think, Cypher, about being straightforward with your opinions, and, if so, to whom. You can assume my instinct is toward straightforwardness or varieties of silence. With your husband, certainly careful. But don't dissemble.

Thing is, we are often, perforce, counsellors of each other.
I think that is good in a marriage, but not across the board. I don't know about this one...
so no immediate advice. Sympathy though, re the whole circumstance, and then, immediately, re your stupid teachers.
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