As a bereaved mom of a daughter who died by suicide in 2005, I have long been a proponent of change in how we view difficult loss and grief in our culture and the importance of understanding trauma and PTSD associated with certain types of loss. Not only for grievers, but everybody supporting them through their grief process.
It’s not only child loss that can traumatize people, but keeping it to bereaved parents for a moment, I am certain there isn’t one mom or dad out there who hasn’t been traumatized by the loss of their child, no matter the cause of death. They may even have PTSD and not know it. Little to no information is available on the topic. Despite the lack of information on the risk of PTSD for bereaved parents, it is encouraging to see that a quick internet search pops up a number of articles and studies done on PTSD in parents coping with a critically ill child, which is progress. (As an aside, there is even research for traffic accident victims who have PTSD). I remain astounded at the apparent lack of information and interest to take up this cause for the grieving.
Suicide is a topic that while gaining more and more recognition in terms of the global concern over increasing numbers of people both young and old dying, the reasons for people choosing to die remains baffling. It is estimated that 800,000 to over one million people die by suicide somewhere in the world each year (depending on which stats you read). One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds. The global suicide rate is 16 per 100,000 population. There has been an increase of 60% of suicide deaths in the past 45 years.
Focusing for a moment only on children and youth, suicide is the second biggest killer of young people worldwide. It is the same for Canada, the USA and is one of the leading causes of death in the UK for people 10 to 34 years old, with the numbers rising. Overall, suicide rates are the highest in Europe, followed by South East Asia, the Western Pacific (includes Australia and New Zealand) and the Americas. Probably, though this could be a stretch – I’m going to assume that most people don’t think about suicide unless they’ve been touched by it.
While some may think of it as vain or superficial, in the context of long-suffering agony, it is essential that everyone finds room in their heart to love themselves through their grief. Fully and completely.
The definition of love is to feel a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, such as a parent, child or friend. Self-love is defined as the instinct we have to preserve our own well-being (at all costs). Why then, would it be considered wrong and worthy of so much self-punishment (as many grievers succumb to) when loving ourselves through horrendous loss is the right thing to do? A loss that in our wildest imagination, we could never have prevented.
As a mom of my daughter who died by suicide in 2005, this latter point has kept me punishing myself to various extremes over the years, mostly experienced as mental and emotional conflict when I imagine all the various things I could and should have done differently to prevent her death. I’ve never quite been able to accept that there wasn’t more I could have done to save my child. Despite my many attempts to banish the tormenting thoughts from my mind, they keep coming back.