The Dark Web: Why are we too afraid to talk to our kids about suicide?

A few days ago, I came across this article that shockingly (for me, anyway) told the story of a young Norwegian woman who tracks Instagram’s dark web for anyone at risk of attempting suicide. This young watcher (she is only twenty-two) scrolls through her Instagram feed looking for signs of imminent suicide attempts on the more than 450 accounts she’s been given permission to follow. She intervenes when she believes it necessary to do so based on the type of content posted. Despite not being formally trained in mental healthcare, she alerts the police and ambulance services requesting them (sometimes pleading with them) to further investigate those individuals she identifies as critically at risk of suicide. Some of these professionals don’t always take her claims seriously. Sometimes lives are lost.

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Surviving Suicide – Finding Life Again

I’ve just returned from a month-long mini round-the-world trip that took me and my husband to Asia, Indonesia and Europe. Now, while most people who love to travel would probably have been excited planning, counting down the days to departure and actually travelling, I found myself, as always, in a state of neutrality more than I did excitement. More than neutrality, it is the state that anyone who lives with PTSD struggles with, not having the ability to feel excited about much of anything (which as an aside, is different from being able to feel gratitude). As such, I honestly could not rouse myself to feel anything more than hopeful that all would go well on each leg of the trip (which it did) and as much excitement as I could feel reuniting with our son in various locations for some quality time together. If anyone can drum up excitement in me, it’s my son!

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PTSD: How it Impacts Relationships and What You Need to Manage Them

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.

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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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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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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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Assessing Your Personal Needs in Grief

After loss, life changes dramatically for everyone grieving the death. Whether it’s a parent or spouse, sibling or child you have lost, you will be feeling the impact of your loved one’s death in some way, as will every one of your family members. The more complicated or unexpected the death, the greater this impact will be. And it’s tough to support each other in grief, because everybody is going through something different at every stage. It can be a confusing time with everyone’s needs rapidly changing.

For some, grief will last a long time. For others, they will seemingly return to normal a lot sooner, which represents a struggle for anyone trying to understand a griever’s unique experience. It stands to reason that many relationships and sometimes even entire family units break down, especially after certain types of loss.

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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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