Suicide – Are we failing each other as a society?

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.

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The Parent Project – Is it Right to Produce a Grandchild from a Deceased Child?

I came across this article in a Canadian newspaper recently where a New York supreme court judge gave permission for the parents of a deceased son without his prior consent to use his sperm to produce a male heir. Cultural differences aside (they are from a culture where male heirs are important), they stated they were desperate for a part of their son to live on, which is universal to all grieving parents.

As a bereaved parent myself, the story left me wondering whether this case could set a precedent giving every parent the right to produce a grandchild from their deceased child without consent, all because we want a part of them to live on. This raises all sorts of questions about the ethics and ramifications of this extended arm of assisted-baby making techniques; not only for bioethicists, but our culture at large. It also left me wondering whether I would have done it if I could when my child died in 2005. The answer?

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Lost in Translation: Why We Don’t Talk About Death

I lost an extended family member recently. Attending the funeral brought back lots of memories. None good. Burying my daughter, father and mother in relatively rapid succession (every two and a half years) and being directly responsible for making the arrangements for my daughter and mom was difficult. Horrifying for my daughter actually, who died by suicide. Stressful and somber for my mom who died naturally, but also unexpectedly.

Funeral homes seem to be the only place it feels acceptable for us to talk about death outside of initial condolences. At this recent funeral, I was reminded how freely we can talk about where one may have gone in death. How comforting it is remembering the deceased loved one’s life with both sorrow and levity. How natural it is to contemplate (if only briefly) what life now means for loved ones left behind and the strength it takes to physically let go of our deceased.

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Trauma in Grief – The Video Series!

As I have often said throughout various writings and at different times over the years, trauma in grief is not talked about. This needs to change. Not only for the benefit of grievers, but for those wanting to support the bereaved along their healing path, whether in a personal or professional capacity.

For years after my daughter’s suicide in 2005, I felt all alone in a struggle I didn’t understand. Though I saw doctors for chronic ill-health, beyond diagnosing stress as the obvious root of the problems, they didn’t know what to say to me knowing I had lost my daughter (understandable) or how to help me in my grief. I know now that almost 90% of what I struggled with was directly related to symptoms of PTSD that I was diagnosed with in 2014, and proved to be a game-changer in my ongoing healing.

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Life After Death

The other day I came across this interview with Jeff Olsen speaking about his out of body experiences twenty years ago (and maybe near death though he didn’t specify), and his painful recovery after a car accident in which his wife and infant son both died. He was behind the wheel, therefore at fault (his words). He suffered numerous physical injuries including a leg amputation, and the same or more emotional ones trying to cope with his losses. His firstborn son, then aged 7, survived with barely a scratch. Miracle? Yes. Motivation for Jeff to stay in his body? Definitely yes. Again, his words.

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Finding Peace After Loss

As a bereaved parent, I’m still on my quest, but getting considerably closer to finding that place of total inner peace I’ve been wanting for so long. The kind of peace that I want, money can’t buy. No one can give it to me. The peace that I want, I know can only come through my ability to accept all things in my life as they have happened. And in all things, I can do this. All but one: accepting the loss of my daughter.

While it’s been an incredible journey of self-discovery to this point and there is no denying it’s doubtful I would have learned all that I have without the death of my child (I do believe in contracts between souls), this doesn’t mean that I like what has happened in any way. Nor has her death been easy to accept. Not her part in it or all the struggle I’ve been left with. From a purely spiritual perspective, it’s the easiest thing in the world to see how we agreed the contract between us to learn our respective lessons and fulfil our life obligations. From the physical (excuse my language) it’s been more like: “WTF? What just happened? What was I thinking????” (my ongoing inner voice battle.)

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Science Proves “Broken Heart” Syndrome

Science has proven that we can (and do) die from a broken heart. The medical term is Takotsubo cardiomyopathy – a condition that affects the heart muscle, giving the left ventricle a distinctive shape. It causes the heart to balloon and weaken and contract abnormally. The symptoms appear rapidly and are similar to those of a heart attack (shortness of breath, chest pain, arrhythmia). They are brought on by shock, stress or an emotional event, such as loss and bereavement. While broken heart syndrome can be temporary, with the heart muscle able to recover over days, weeks or months, for some who have the condition, there can be complications and even death. Broken heart syndrome affects around 2,500 people in the UK each year (I’ll add here of those that seek medical attention and receive the diagnosis – many grievers don’t go for medical help or attribute physical illness to grief). Numbers elsewhere in the world are unclear in accordance with the somewhat limited information available on the internet.

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Loving Ourselves Through Grief

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.

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