Posted by: Jody Glynn Patrick | 08/10/2014

Suicidal after your child’s death? Stand back from the exit. Here’s how.

Hemingway won a bet that he could write a six-word story that would make anyone who read it felt like crying. This is it.

Hemingway won a bet that he could write a six-word story that would make anyone who read it felt like crying. This is it.

Step back from the act of suicide. We can help. We get it. Losing a child is far worse than even having cancer. I know, as I’ve had both a son die, and I also was treated for late-stage, aggressive cancer. Facing cancer and the possible loss of my own life came nowhere near, in terms of fear and pain, to the experience of losing my child.

When you have cancer, all of the emphasis is on living. You desperately want to live. Life becomes even more precious as you stand at the edge of darkness. Your partner is more attentive, your children kinder, your friends more “present”. Everyone around you is focused on helping you live; your team is in place, and they have little trouble finding motivational quotes or little gifts of time to throw your way.

When you lose a child, a common experience is an immediate wish for death to escape the reality of what has happened. Your life becomes less precious in your grief because part of who you were died with that child. The future means living on without that person in the world, and the world is diminished. Your pleasure in living in it is extinguished. Casual friends drift away, close friends are stymied about what to do or say. Family is dealing with their own loss; yours is just another burden.

All of those feelings are natural. But the thought of ending your life or suffering (when you are a survivor) is too often taboo to express to those who circle you during your time of grief. People want to “fix” you, to help you “over it” and they don’t want you to talk about feeling like you’d like to die. It cuts you off from your own feelings, or the expression of them, and your response is to feel insulted by their offers of support, their background chatter about “time healing all wounds”, etc.

The truth, as bereaved parents know, is that time will not heal this wound. But know that time does allow scar tissue to form under and around the pain so that life does become bearable (and even at times pleasurable again). You move automatically through enough days, and one day, you laugh again without feeling guilty. You don’t “move on”, you bring the child with you into the future in your mind and heart, and you slowly are able to accept the unacceptable.

Whether your child was stillborn, died of accident or disease when a teenager, was murdered by their hand, a stranger’s action, or was a soldier who died in the defense of their country, or died of natural causes as a mature human being, living on after their death takes fortitude at a time when you have little of it to offer.

There are many blog posts on this site to help you learn to cope with the loss of a child. Not how to “accept it”, but how to cope. I invite you to review them on your harder days, and to invite other parents from this community – those who will read your comments — to share your burden with a quick note of encouragement during your harder days. Their response, from this community of people who truly understand grief, will help. Likewise, invite your friends to review and follow this site, too, as advice for how to help you cope can also be found.

Step back from the exit. It isn’t an answer. It only extends the ripple of grief even further. We can help.


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