In my manuscript entitled, “Our Loved Ones are Just Behind the Door,” I share the many losses and subsequent lessons I have learned in my life. One in particular, the suicide of my husband when I was 34 years old, left me in shock, fear and bewilderment. We had only been married for six months and I had no idea of his past history of attempts. I just kept asking myself what signs did I miss along the way? What could I have done to prevent it from happening? As always, hindsight is 20-20. Now I understand so much more about the topic since living repeatedly through the grief process and my further study of spiritualism. Nine days ago the issue of suicide surfaced yet again. Getting ready for a family dinner the call came in. An extended family member had committed suicide. We were all dumbstruck. This gentle, loving man was the last person in the world that we would have expected to take his life. He had been a devoted husband who was the primary caretaker for his wife who succumb to cancer after a valiant 10 year struggle. Later he remarried a gal from his high school who said she had waited 22 years to find a guy like him. They were eventually able to retire, sell their house and find the perfect location in another state. He had a recent physical and was told he was in great shape – no need for any medication (quite a feat for a man looking the age of 70+ in the eye). The time to reap the benefits of a life well lived was upon him. Yet, it was not to be. The question of why will remain unanswered – probably forever in our life as it does with any suicide. This is especially true when there are no indicators of concern such as depression or other visible behavioral changes.
Reviewing the statistics I was surprised to read the following:
-Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
-The suicide rate rises with age – especially from 65+ years -The suicide rate in men 65+ is seven times that of females 65+
Research has shown the risk for suicide is associated with changes in brain chemicals – specifically a deficiency in serotonin neurotransmission. Lower levels of serotonin have also been found in people with depression and impulsive disorders. I believe that there are reasons for everything that happen in life. Some are understandable and some remain a mystery to us. Let us hope that something can be discovered in the near future to reduce this staggering statistic.
To anyone living through the tragedy of a suicide please know there are resources available to you. Consider joining a support group. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education are two excellent resources. There are many books available also. Specifically, “Suicide Survivors: A Guide For Those Left Behind” by Wrobleski and “Dying to Be Free: A Healing Guide For Families After A Suicide,” by Cobain. Do you know of anyone who would be helped with this information? If so, please pay it forward.
For our family member who has passed on and is now just behind the door, I will remember the unselfish life he lived, the truly good human being he was and not let his exit define him. I will not say goodbye to him but rather, “Ill see you later” – because I will.