My husband took his life and our 12-year-old blames me.
Answer by Guest Columnist Desiree Woodland - a suicide awareness advocate. See more about Desiree below.
My husband and I separated about 3 months ago. He was struggling with alcoholism and depression and I couldn't take care of him and our family anymore. I asked him to move out. It seemed like things were getting better, I was hopeful we would be able to work it all out. Two weeks ago a police chaplain came to my work to tell me he had been found in the river, dead by suicide. We have two children, a 12 year old and a 17 year old. Last night the 12-year-old told me if I hadn't made Dad move out he'd still be alive. I know she didn't mean to hurt me, but part of me wonders if she's right. How do we survive the suicide of someone we love? – Aching Inside
The suicide of someone we love is traumatic, shocking and usually fraught with guilt. We wonder what we didn’t see, what we should have done, or didn’t do. We rehearse the details of our final interactions trying to tease out what we think we missed. The weight of responsibility is heavy. Somehow, we have a need to be responsible rather than laying it upon their shoulders.
Suicide is complex and never just one thing. It’s like a cup full of water and the last drop spills over. What caused the water to spill? We want to blame the last one or two drops, but an empty cup would not spill. It’s a buildup of many things that contributed to their death. Most likely the person was also struggling with depression that clouded their thinking. The act that ended their life was not a freely chosen one.
One way to help with the feelings of guilt is to attend a peer support group meeting to hear other’s stories and slowly learn that although we feel the feelings and struggle with them , most survivors come to understand that the only person responsible for the suicide was the person themselves. There is no blaming. Blame is different than responsibility. It’s not your fault , it’s not their fault , it’s not anyone’s fault, no matter how many times one thinks there is.
Desiree Woodland and her husband Gary, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They have two children, Michelle and Ryan. After Ryan’s suicide she wrote a book called, I Still Believe. After 19 years, she retired from teaching to promote the use of a curriculum in NM schools called Breaking the Silence NM which teaches students mental illness and suicide awareness. She is on the board of Survivors of Suicide ABQ and co-facilitates the survivor group, as well as is part of an outreach program for newly bereaved survivors of suicide loss called Healing Conversations. She holds a Master’s Level Certificate in Grief and Loss.
Survivors of Suicide www.sosabq.org
Breaking the Silence NM www.breakingthesilencenm.org
I Still Believe available on Amazon