Up front comment: This post is not for those who are easily swayed to emotion or struggle with discussions about death, dying, and suicide. But it is for those who are able to rationally and soberly consider the psychology and personal response to situations each person may experience.
For those that are still reading, there is a brief background on this matter. On February 6, 2013, a poignant post was made to ScarletNation.com by a visiting poster who has been visiting the site from Arkansas in early 2012. This poster has always been upfront and friendly in his comments on the board.
His original post was as follows:
OT-I need some words of encouragement please.
My friends, I have a very heavy heart tonight. Last week, a friend of mine committed suicide(a gunshot to the head) when his wife filed for divorce. His funeral was last Friday. He was 49 and left 2 teenage sons. We used to work together but didn’t really hang together, if that makes any sense. We would talk whenever we saw each other but I hadn’t seen him in 6 months. I didn’t know about the divorce as the papers were only filed the week he did it.
Today, or at least I think it was today, my niece’s husband, did the exact same thing. She filed for divorce from him last week as well. He was 44. No abuse in either situation. Just that they grew apart. My nephew-in-law and my niece had no children, but i am heartbroken. He moved out of their house Sunday and has been missing ever since. A nice man but reached his limit I guess.
Countless others have come to this board for advice, and now I am doing the same. What can I say to my niece? What words of comfort can I give both women? I am seriously asking. I will be ok. My heart is heavy but I have dealt with heavy issus in the past, just not this type of heavy. We are a close-knit family. I talk with this niece weekly. She was blindsided as were all of us. Advice?
Subsequently, several posters on the site commented. One comment was:
Sorry to hear about your loss and your families misfortune. I’m sure I’m not saying anything that others may have already told you but I’ll offer the following advice. She must be feeling that this was HER fault. You need to assure her that her soon-to-be-ex made the decision to end his life. As sad as a situation this might be that it is NOT her fault.
I’ve been through his situation with my first marriage. In fact I found out soon afterward that there was other things going on (if you know what I mean). I decided that I wasn’t going to let my ex define who I was and what my life was worth. I decided I would deal with it and move on. Obviously your nephew was dealing with other demons and decided either his life was worth nothing without her or he was somehow punishing her. Either way he decided his life wasn’t worth anything unless he was with her.
Relationships add meaning to lives but should never define them. Ultimately you need to be happy with yourself. If you are not and you decide that you don’t want help, there is nothing that anyone can do to change that.
Another poster stated:
Tell her you love her and are there for her. Be there for her, listen to her, help her make arrangements and ease her burden the best you can. She is going to question herself and blame herself, you need to repeatedly tell her she isn’t responsible for her husband’s desperate act. My brother committed suicide 3 years ago. It is so difficult to come to terms with, so much questioning, guilt, blame, shame and grief at the same time. My sister-in-law was just about destroyed by it, she was a wreak the first year but was also in shock and numb. She said the second year was almost worse because the numbness had worn off. Three years later she is doing much better. It takes time to recover, the taboo associated with suicide adds to the burden of coping with it. I just want to add, that in my experience as a survivor you don’t really get over it, you just learn to live with it. I’m am sorry to hear you and your family and friends are going through this.
A third poster noted:
Sorry for all that trauma in your lives. Grief reactions are experessed differently with people. I reccomend some grief counseling if anyone has prolonged severe reactions. Make sure you find a licensed professional in your area.
Also, for those that prefer not to engage in individual, or group sessions here are a few books I reccomend; “Living through Mourning.” by Harriet Sarnoff Schiff. “The Courage To Grieve.” Judy Tatelbaum. “Grieving: How to go on living when someone you love dies.” Theresa Rando.
A fourth poster – who is Catholic – commented:
I’m sorry hear about the tragedies…… you have my heartfelt condolences. I would ask the ladies to consider the spiritual aspect of all this and to reach out to God for his love and forgiveness. If they are disposed have them go before the Blessed Sacrament to find solace. May Our Blessed Mother intercede for them to find God’s peace….and that their husbands rest in peace. I’ll keep you all in my prayers……times are tough…I’ve heard there has been so many suicides and it is being under reported. My brother in law narrowly survived when his business was falling apart and he began abusing alcohol….but by God’s grace he’s back to normal and better than ever. Prayer is a powerful weapon to bring back hope….and He is always anxious to forgive and give to all His kiss of love and peace.
Surrender your pain to God and He will enrich you with his Love www.thewarningsecondcoming.com
The Early Christians Believed in the Real Presence www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/father/a5.html
The Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary coincides with the Glorious Eucharistic Reign of Christ in an era of holiness & grace, justice, peace and love on earth.
This will be the fulfillment of the Our Father prayer – “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” – in The Kingdom of The Divine Will. www.kingdomdivinewill.blogspot.com
One of the female posters recognized a part of the situation and commented:
I am sorry for your losses.
Words are good and certainly the advice given here on that account is worth taking. I would also say be there for her…not just now, but going forward…after everyone else leaves and moves on is usually when things hit grieving people harder…when they feel that they are all alone. Make sure to keep reaching out to her to be sure she is OK. If you feel comfortable, or even if you don’t, suggest counseling to help her through this. While she may have wanted a divorce she was probably not expecting this..and it will be difficult to go through without some professional help. If you have any connection at all to your co-worker’s family both the wife and the children should get counseling. Teenagers are not as strong as they like to pretend they are and something like this can be devastating to the rest of their lives. In both cases there will be unimaginable guilt…and they both need to know that it is NOT their fault.
Suicide is difficult for the person committing it but it is much more difficult for the survivors. It is good that both of these people have someone who cares about them.
Another poster mentioned:
So very, very sorry to hear about all of this. Life can take some unexpected and difficult turns, there’s no doubt, and especially so when you’re dealing with the kinds of events that, unfortunately, you’ve had happen to those you know and love.
-As for your niece, as others have said, one of the very best things you can do is simply be there for her whenever she might need to talk, (be that in person or on the phone). Just knowing there’s someone out there who loves her who’s going to listen and really care; who’ll allow her whatever time she needs to express her pain and sadness will be a blessing to her. (Believe me, I know that from personal experience.) -And the rest, the healing process, will simply take time. (As it will with your friend’s wife, as well.)
God bless you all, and I pray the Good Lord gives peace and comfort to you and to everyone close to you who’s hurting.
The original poster (OP) took time to reply with the following:
Y’all are absolutely the BEST! I am sitting here with tears running down my cheeks. In all of my 57 years of life, I have never dealt with a suicide and now I have 2 in 2 weeks with people that are parts of my life.
I want to THANK each and every one of you. I guess that there really isn’t much to say. None of us that are left knew that either one of them would do this. Todd, age 49, was as charismatic as anyone you had ever met and had never met a stranger. He had a $million dollar smile and personality to match. There must have been a 1,000 people at his funeral at his evangelical church.
Gus was much more reserved and quiet. His mother committed suicide years ago as well.
Tonight, football isn’t real important to me. Let me leave for a few days and gather my wits about me. Congrats to Rutgers on a great(to some anyway) recruiting class. I’ll talk with y’all next week.
May God bless each and every one of y’all. I do appreciate you.
Probably one of the simplest, yet most profound comments was this:
You will never get over it. But you will get through it.
Without question, one of the most detailed responses was this one:
I’ve been close to some suicides and have been part of groups set up to address them. I take a harder line on some suicides. The suicides of a 13 yr old kid, a vet with PTSD or a middle age husband losing a wife are not quite the same. The core issue for divorcing husbands is often identity. If guys take their identity from their wives, then losing them is more traumatic because they’ve lost their ground of being for sense of self. For some people its losing their money and career, businesses etc. In 1929 crash some people lost everything and jumped out the windows.
Now when it comes to men and women the undercurrents can be tricky. Men in general have a built in psychic need for women and women in turn have a need for that need. Its a bit like a bartender and alcoholic relationship. That’s why you can go into many homes and dad is just another one of the kids walking on eggshells hoping to keep the women happy so she doesn’t withdraw support and favors etc. Early in relationship men are inclined to put the woman up on a pedestal as a kind of saintly figure and the woman liked that exalted status (being the center of the guys world). As time goes on though she starts to see the devotion/love is really need and she starts top get frustrated having to be the center of the universe and she starts to resent the guy (who will often either try to overcome his growing inferior position using violence or he becomes more obsequious).
Chances are good that before these fellows killed themselves physically they had already died a lot inside themselves sacrificing their substance in an effort to preserve an external source of approval and security. This of course would have backfired since the women would resent them more – and so the cycle of demise would go on and on until the tragic conclusion.
Technically this would be the mens fault. Men as a rule blame the women for their issues but the real problem is that they made the woman the center of their existence in the first place. They should have been more concerned with being source of love (non-emotional love – not the romantic slop) than the person in exaggerated need of it. So these guys pretty much got done in by their own weakness – which is highly likely they never understood. Not to be rude but very often these days wives just finish off what what began at home with mom. Fathers are often either violent or aloof and guys take their security from moms love – and then go on to make their wives into their moms.
As for the women survivors its not their primary fault the guys killed themselves but no doubt they were part of the problem because they got something unhealthy from the need these guys had. Most women cant help being drawn to that sort of things. That’s how two insecure egos get tangled up in each other. Its like two peasants who each think the other is rich and then after a few years of marriage they see they are both poor. By that time the guy has woken up and realized he is in a war he didnt know he was in and sweet supportive wife is like Godzilla. For men the main flaw is lust. For women its the addiction to judging the husband for his failures (which she will try to set him up for even if its often unconscious)
For me the larger context is metaphysical. People need spiritual roots inside themselves. If there is no inner source of identity people will default to an outer one. Men and women worship athletes, celebs, musicians etc and each other. That will always backfire in the end. A man who needs a woman for identity will ruin her and finally himself. SO I would tell the women its not their fault the guys did what they did but to be really free from it and move on they should consider the part they played in the situation because they aren’t 100% blameless. I don’t mention that as a judgment the woman should live with but as an acknowledgement needed to move on after a little remorse (and not be too morbid about it because thats out of balance as well). We all plunder each other compulsively until we learn the little undercurrents we ignore are quite dangerous. Love is not need and it pays to know the difference
From a sociological point of view, there was this comment:
There’s a bit of an epidemic of middle age men taking their lives in the US. Even removing the military related suicides, the country is in the midst of a crisis where a growing percentage of males are getting to the ulimate point of despair. A lot of these actions can be traced to the plunging income levels of males. Unfortunately, men place a high degree of their self worth on their earnings. The pressure that is placed on relationships due to finances is further exasperated when partners look elsewhere for emotional and financial relief.
Like you, two men I know have taken their lives the past couple of years. One a life long friend and fellow Rutgers alumni. The other a cousin. Both where around my age. One had severe financial issues the other unresolved guilt due to past transgressions. There’s not much you can say or do for family members that are impacted by suicide. Just try to be there for emotional support.
It’s tough for men to open up to others so please let your guy friends know you care. When a life is on the line it’s important to break through the male facade and connect beyond a superficial level.
A poster from New Zealand commented:
You’ve built up an incredible amount of good will on this board. We are all sorry to hear of your losses. Generally speaking, there is good advice to be found here; but as is always the case, test it to see what rings true for you. People commit suicide for a host of different reasons, including mental illness and chemical imbalances; it can be hard to tell what the underlying causes are in any given case.
Do not overlook the fact that you are hurting, too. These people were close to you as are the people they leave behind. A trip or two to a counselor to talk over your feelings and get some advice on how to help these folks might be worthwhile. I’m a research psychologist; this is pretty far from my area of expertise, but getting professional help in a tough situation is always worthwhile.
My heart goes out to all of them, but I’m focused on the two boys. Don’t know if you are close to them, but taking them to a ball game somewhere down the line might be a nice gesture. It is always good for any teenage boy to see what a quality man looks like, how he speaks, acts, and carries himself; and you certainly seem to fit that bill.
When things like this happen, especially in multiples, it tends to break down what we think are the norms and rules of our lives, and that can be unsettling. Good to talk about it; on this board’s a good place, but with your friends as well. It will help center you again.
God speed, and please keep us posted on this. Thanks for sharing.
The Catholic poster chimed in again with the following, referencing the detailed responder:
I’m glad the OP found the advice he was looking for……..thank you God!
That’s an astute analysis….something we all can learn from including myself to identify and avoid some of these pathological tendencies that you mention!
I want to add just a little to what you said about the metaphysical realm. Is it surprising to see the depth of how far the human psyche can fall? Really it’s not when we consider that we weren’t built to operate solo….that if we accept the notion of a Higher Intellect and Creator who is perfect and completely all love we would not operate in a void of darkness. But that is what has occurred when the human will has usurped the natural order of creation. She was designed to be like the fertile earth where the Divine seeds of love, kindness, humility, peace and justice are sown and bear fruit. So where she wrested dominion away from her Creator she has lost her rightful inheritance and has become damaged, dirtied and collapsed. Theologically we can say it’s the fall of man and today we are experiencing its residual effects.
The love of God cannot wait to complete the restoration of the human will back to it’s pristine and exalted original condition…that is a full conformity and unity with her Creator and enjoying the Divine gifts which is her inheritance. I would be remiss if I failed to make it explicitly clear of God’s pending intervention of closing the gap in order to bring humanity into the Paradise which was created for her.
Still another poster added these thoughts:
I know how heavy that is. My nephew who was more like a brother did the same after his wife wanted a divorce too. There were some circumstances as to why she did and that was on my nephew’s account as I understand from his brother. He had a successful business in Sarasota….his assets worth over a million, but he was a bit of a micro-manager at all things and that was part of the problem. His children are largely successful, 2 boys are lawyers, one is a personal trainer, the girl is getting her life together. All are grads of U of Florida. There is more but I will leave it there.
The only thing I can leave you is something you already know…let go and let God. We will never have those questions answered in this life. I miss him like I miss my brother who passed away a year ago….but he had a full life in Him.
Another poster took this tact:
There are some poignant and helpful things here about the situation, and I’ll add my experience. This one expression has given me the freedom to just be myself in hard situations, without feeling the pressure of saying or doing “just the right thing” in any given moment:
Helping people is like dancing–you don’t have to be good, you just have to be on the floor.
That has helped me make a difference in people’s lives more than I can remember, because it got me over the concern of making the phone call to someone I knew was devastated. In your present situations, your friends’ healing will be a gradual process–it cannot be accomplished in one phone call or ten. As for how to speak to the children and wives and friends, I’ve learned in life that a simple hello goes a long way because there is something profound about hearing someone’s voice that carries the moment more than we think it does. Sufferers realize that you are in a hard situation, but that you risked fumbling your way through to calling or visiting and trying to find words–they see your effort, your heart, your humanity–which they instinctively intuit, and which shines more brightly in hard situations than the right words. People in extraordinary pain and confusion (and confusion is painful in its own right) are numb and won’t be able to process most of what you say, anyway, but knowing that you are there, and that you call or visit fairly regularly, will let them know that they matter enough to have someone go through the hard parts of life with them. Right now, they aren’t feeling that they matter because their father/husband/friend checked out.
You just need to get on the floor and dance according to your own style, and that will be more than you know. A hug, a smile, a tear, a potato chip, whatever. Be you and be there, and don’t give up on them regardless of how inept you may feel. There is nothing inept about calling and saying hi, how are you, I love you, I’ll call tomorrow/next week, you are wonderful.
The OP responded:
A BIG “THANK YOU” to all of y’all. I just got back home from spending 2 days fishing and relaxing with my lifelong friends. The same guys(around 10) that I have known since grade school/high school days. We do a weekend together twice a year and this is our 41st year. That’s correct, twice a year for 41 straight years. I am age 57 now.
It was a much needed time to reconnect with my roots and get back to nature, relax, and realize just what is important, and what is not important. I am ok now and have rejoined the world.
BTW, we caught 24 crappie and 3 nice bass. I smoked 3 racks of baby back ribs and we ate like kings!
There will be other comments and I will include them on this post as they are warranted.