Carrying Ache and Love in Suicide Loss
My life both imploded and exploded the day Dylan died. Inside I lay dead and dying; outside my inside self, I couldn’t eat, sleep, work, move. The pain of his suicide felt sharp, gripping, piercing, painful. My stomach felt like a lead block. Heavy. Weighted. Sick. As if an arrow had punctured clean through my heart, staying stuck inside me, rib-cage to backbone. My lungs didn’t want to breathe.
“Carrying Ache and Love” does not do justice to the piercing pain I felt during acute grief. My love for my son was infinite and deep, but his suicide immersed me in the utter chaos of traumatic death. I lived only a pain that consumed me and everything in my life. I didn’t feel I would make it through my first year of grieving. I had lost my only child to suicide.
I could only exhale my interior pain—screaming in my head, in my nightmares, out loud in my home, weeping, keening. Tears ran down my cheeks even when sleeping. Frantic, I searched wildly. For my son. For my sanity. For a grip on my life, such as it was.
Much as a compromised immune system is vulnerable to opportunistic infection, so too a diseased brain is made assailable by the eventualities of life. The quickness and flexibility of a well mind, a belief or hope that things will eventually sort themselves out—these are the resources lost to a person when the brain is ill.Kay Redfield Jamison, M.D., Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide
Hope Was Elusive in Acute Grief
I felt paralyzed with grief. I had no words. I couldn’t write. Grief consumed me. Heartache consumed me. I became physically ill. Hope was elusive and toughing it out meant watching who I was go away, forever, and ever and always. I could feel myself slipping away.
I felt hopeless and helpless, and I knew that if I were to make it out alive of my now-life’s forever nightmare, I had to find help, solace, and support. I knew I had to know how others, especially other parents, especially other parents of an only child, made it through the first year.
Someone said early on that I would forget my first year of grieving, that, like childbirth, the pain eases, softens, blends into and then just moves into the distant background. That someone who told me that had never lost a child.
Seeking an Understanding of Suicide
Feeling So Alone
Because I felt so alone (I didn’t know anyone who had lost a child to suicide), I knew I had to seek help. Initially, during the week of planning my son’s funeral and burial, someone came to my house to talk to me about support groups in my area. She cautioned me not to join a grief group (the irony of which didn’t escape me then or now), as some of those bereaved members of support grief groups might not be empathetic or even sympathetic to a suicide loss.
I had no experience with suicide loss. The stigma around a death that seems chosen (it is not, any more than cancer or heart disease are chosen), represents a profound misunderstanding of suicide.
Losing a child to suicide also stymies those who do want to offer their condolences and support to the bereaved parent. It can be difficult to know what to say to bereaved parents in the wake of such a devastating loss.
Seeking Help in Support Groups
Need Help Now? Check Out These Resources:
Finding Other Parents Who Had Lost a Child to Suicide
Parents of Suicides Online Grief Support
In my early months of acute grief, I sought out support groups locally that dealt specifically with suicide loss. I found an online community of bereaved parents who have lost a child to suicide.
Still my words eluded me, though by late July, I had begun searching for any and everything about the suicide of a child, parent of a suicide, why suicide, losing an only child to suicide.
At the beginning of my grief, I read voraciously as many books as I could find about suicide and suicide loss of a child. I still pursue learning about current suicide research. I learned I was not alone as a parent who had lost a child to suicide.
I wrote at all hours of the night to my online support group of parents who have lost a child to suicide. Other parents in the group (parents of suicides) replied, sharing their experience and acknowledging my grief.
Learning About Suicide Research
What I’ve Learned These Past 10 Years:
- Understanding Suicide: the amount of suicide research is increasing and ongoing
- Collecting Suicide Research: the quality, quantity, and caliber of suicide research is vast
- Implementing suicide awareness and Prevention: is being introduced and implemented in school systems amongst teachers, students, and administrative staff
- Studying Why: suicide epidemiologists are studying why suicides amongst children ages 10-14 are increasing
- Breaking the stigma of suicide: the news media and public are Being educated more about death by suicide
- Ongoing Efforts to Change How We talk about suicide: Semantics are everything–Efforts are ongoing to change “commit suicide” to “died by suicide.”
Ongoing Suicide Research
Published in March 2023, Biological Factors Underpinning Suicidal Behaviour: An Update includes numerous studies on suicide by collective researchers who seek a better understanding of suicide to address the growing suicide rate internationally, particularly amongst young people.
Suicide, a major global health concern and a leading cause of death among young people particularly, is caused by a cascade of interactions, reactions and alterations that when combined may pave the way towards SB [Suicidal Behavior].
The complexity in decoding SB is due to the interconnected basis, the branched probabilities and the major limitations against it, rendering research through this phenomenon a very convoluted journey to disentangle the real combination of causes leading to suicidality.Abou Chahla MN, Khalil MI, Comai S, Brundin L, Erhardt S, Guillemin GJ. Biological Factors Underpinning Suicidal Behaviour: An Update. Brain Sciences. 2023; 13(3):505. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13030505
Understanding Suicidal Behavior
While the researchers initially summarize their findings by stating that “In summary, there is no single aspect behind suicidal behavior,” the researchers conclude their extensive research studies by providing hope for future studies that will target specific biological:
The understanding of SB [suicidal behavior] represents the foundation to cure/prevent it.
Given that the different underpinnings of suicide described here including neuro-inflammation, engaged inflammatory pathways, alterations in specific brain regions, altered regulation of epigenetic mechanisms, malnutrition, social experiences, childhood traumas, social awareness, psychological factors, and relative mental vulnerability, it is very likely that the field will have to develop toward precision medicine and targeted therapy rather than a one-drug-fits-all model.Abou Chahla MN, Khalil MI, Comai S, Brundin L, Erhardt S, Guillemin GJ. Biological Factors Underpinning Suicidal Behaviour: An Update. Brain Sciences. 2023; 13(3):505. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13030505
Tapping Into What We Know About Suicide
Carrying Ache and Love in Suicide Loss
Time does not heal all wounds, but throughout the passage of time these past 10 years, my grief has evolved and changed shape. Who I was before Dylan took his life and who I am now are not the same, but at least there is a version of me to carry on.
Dylan’s memorial date (“anniversary” never seems befitting of such a solemn remembrance) as well as his birthday are still difficult days to move through. And holidays will never be the same. My world came to a screeching halt 10 years ago, but I have found a way to move forward in grief.
I have grown accustomed to carrying ache and love. Now, after all this time, Ache and Love walk together in my heart. Holding hands, one is never without the other, but ache and love have carried me—and carry me still.
Read Related Posts
- Still From Sky I’m Falling: A Poem of Healing Guilt in Grief (After Suicide Loss)Still From Sky I’m Falling: A Poem of Healing Guilt in Grief (After Suicide Loss) ABOUT THIS POST: Still From Sky I’m Falling: A Poem of Healing Guilt in Grief (After Suicide Loss) by Beth Brown is a poem about healing grief, finding self-forgiveness, and releasing guilt after losing a child to suicide. ABOUT THE… Read more: Still From Sky I’m Falling: A Poem of Healing Guilt in Grief (After Suicide Loss)
- A Poem of Guilt in Grief After Suicide Loss: That All of Love Could Sweep Time BackA Poem of Guilt in Grief: That All of Love Could Sweep Time Back ABOUT THIS POST: That All of Love Could Sweep Time Back is a poem about feeling guilt and self-blame after losing a child to suicide. I lost my 20-year-old-son, my only child, to suicide June 25, 2012. I knew I couldn’t… Read more: A Poem of Guilt in Grief After Suicide Loss: That All of Love Could Sweep Time Back
- Index: My Forever SonIndex: My Forever Son This index provides a well-structured and user-friendly way to navigate through the content in the My Forever Son blog. Think of it as a helpful guide, carefully organizing the content into headings, subheadings, keywords, and brief descriptions. With this index, you can quickly and efficiently find exactly what you’re looking for.… Read more: Index: My Forever Son
- Help, Hope, Healing After Suicide Loss: Support, Books, ResourcesHelp, Hope, Healing After Suicide Loss: Support, Books, Resources ABOUT THIS POST: The content provides a comprehensive list of resources, support groups, and books for those who have lost a loved one to suicide, especially a child to suicide. The author of this post lost her only child, her 20-year-old son, to suicide 11 years… Read more: Help, Hope, Healing After Suicide Loss: Support, Books, Resources
- 11 Years After Suicide Loss: I Still Want to Believe11 Years After Suicide Loss: I Still Want to Believe Finding Hope in the Wake of Grief 11 Years After Suicide Loss: I Still Want to Believe is a poem that reflects on my grief and longing for my son who died by suicide 11 years ago. Dylan was a sophomore in college, 20-years-young, and… Read more: 11 Years After Suicide Loss: I Still Want to Believe