Suicide is Not Shameful

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Suicide. It’s a word I am not afraid to use and I hope you are not afraid to use it either, especially around me. The word suicide is associated with shame and I hope to change that. I think anytime we hide something, it leads us to worsen that condition. Inability to swallow pills, pornography, depression, sin of any kind when hidden only grows like mold on a forgotten piece of bread. If we acknowledge the monster under the bed then we can start to address the real issue.

Why should I be ashamed that my husband lost his life to suicide any more than my friend who lost her husband to cancer? They are both diseases and both of us lost good men to an imperfect world. I tell everyone that comes into contact with me that Jason committed suicide. I have done that since the first time I was asked by a stranger and I have decided that I will continue to do that. After all, why should I be ashamed that my husband lost his life to suicide any more than my friend who lost her husband to cancer? They are both diseases and both of us lost good men to an imperfect world. Both of us are left to raise our kids on our own. Both of us have kids that are scared to be left alone and both of us feel overwhelmed at the enormity of our lives now. My husband lost a hard fought battle with depression, a lifelong battle. I am sure that the battle in his mind was as painful as chemo treatment and as physically draining. It took Jason away as surely as any other physical disease weakens a body; depression weakened his mind and body.

The reason I  tell people that Jason took his own life is that I want to stop the shame associated with suicide and its predecessor, depression. I don’t want my kids to feel like they must hide the way their dad died. I want them to be proud of their dad. I want them to realize that Jason fought this battle for a long time and really did give his best to defeat it. His best was an imperfect best, but it was all he could do. I want them to be proud of how their dad did try to come to activities, and how he worked hard to support us. I want the memories of our camping trips and hikes to be remembered as laced with laughter and love because they were and also the memory that Jason came despite how difficult it was to do so.

I will tell everyone that Jason committed suicide because my battle with depression is not over yet.

I am still at war. I see the same anxiety and sadness Jason carried in my children on occasion, and we are not EVER going to hide how we feel. We are going to be open and tell others when we are struggling. I have learned that people for the most part want to help. If we tell them how we feel, they can help in ways we cannot imagine or even think to ask for.

Why do we fight these battles alone?

It just doesn’t make sense and I don’t think it is how God desired us to face challenges. God gave us families as our first line of defense and then he gave us friends and neighbors. We are not called to battle alone. We are called to battle together. That is a beautiful thing.

The reason I will always tell people that Jason took his own life is to stop the shame associated with suicide and its predecessor, depression.

I read a beautiful article about suicide and how it is not selfish. This quote from the article is exactly how I feel about Jason’s choice. “Suicide is a decision made out of desperation, hopelessness, isolation and loneliness. The black hole that is clinical depression is all-consuming. Feeling like a burden to loved ones, feeling like there is no way out, feeling trapped and feeling isolated are all common among people who suffer from depression.” Jason chose suicide because he felt like it was the best thing for our family. I think that he actually thought about us up until he pulled the trigger because it was his love for us, combined with the deterioration of his mind due to depression, that led him to think this was the best choice for us. For him, there was no other option.

I talk about suicide because it is misunderstood.

I tell people that Jason committed suicide because it explains why my kids behave the way they do. Why is my baby not sleeping? She feels abandoned and afraid because her dad killed himself and she now worries that others will die. Should I hide that from my doctors or others that could help? No. That would make it difficult to get the help she needs. Do I not tell the counselor about how my 11 year old is terrified to wait for me because the day his dad disappeared we had to wait for so many hours before we found him, and now he is sure that if I am a minute late that I won’t come home? No. If I did that how would the counselor address the issue? Jason’s suicide also explains some things about me.

Jason had a very complete suicide plan. He told me his plan. I was aware of it and worked hard to make sure it didn’t happen. This was a burden that was heavy to bear.  What did that do to me? Knowing this plan made it impossible for me to be gone any length of time. If I left, was I leaving the door open for him to kill himself? If he did kill himself that way, would it be my fault? How could I live with that kind of guilt? I didn’t leave for long periods of time and I rarely left without a child being home. Jason would never have killed himself if a child was home. This is now why I have let myself be free.  For so long I was unable to go and do and now I can. I am free to explore the world again and experience it without worry, and for me that is a beautiful thing.

Just the other day, I had someone say that of course I would want Jason back. I hesitated. Just the other day, I had someone say that of course I would want Jason back. I hesitated.That sounds terrible. Honestly, if Jason came back and was still depressed, I wouldn’t want that life back. I wouldn’t want to live with that constant fear and worry. I wouldn’t want to live with the Jason that couldn’t be around people, get out of bed or help at home. I wouldn’t. That is too much for anyone to have to bear. I would absolutely embrace the Jason I fell in love with, the one that loved the outdoors and people and life. I would take him back in a second but Jason’s mind and body wasn’t made for this world. It was just too much for his sensitive and loving soul to bear. I’ve come to peace with that. I tell people that my husband committed suicide because it explains why I do some of the things I do.

I am not ashamed that my husband committed suicide. Suicide is a disease like any other and the more we talk about it the less shame will be associated with it and the more work we can do to heal the broken hearted.

 

My entrance into grief came crashing into existence the day I found out my son’s heart was no longer beating and I would have to deliver his tiny body.  On October 21, 2014 I was plunged into another pool of grief when my husband, who had lived with depression for years, chose to take his own life. This leaves me at 38 to raise four amazing children ages 14, 11, 9 and 3 on my own.  We cope with anxiety and depression in various forms.  How do I go on? I know God loves me and that he has a plan for me. I know that while it is not okay today, it will be in the end.  I also believe firmly in living in today.  After all, today is the day I’m living so I might as well enjoy its glorious chaos.  

  Check out Melinda Mack’s blog at Doing

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