Dealing with a suicide\death

Warning up front – this post is probably going to be overlong and kind of rambling.

So, a family member of my wife’s that we’re both fairly close to died today after complications resulting from his (apparently successful) attempt to hang himself. That’s the one line summary; the full story is below, bordered by asterisks. If you want to skip that to my “question of the day”, skip to the next set of asterisks following.


About a year and a half ago, his son was killed in an accidental shooting. He was hanging out with a bunch of people at his house, and one of them apparently had an (unregistered) loaded weapon with him. They were all rough housing, just having a good time. His son was one of those people that liked to play-wrestle; I don’t know, just a physical kind of guy. He pinned the guy, it was all in good humor, but the gun went off, and killed him immediately. This was his oldest son.

Suffice to say, no one in the family took it well, especially his father. It’s been very rough for the family, and the father, as a firefighter, and as someone who already had emotional difficulties, simply wasn’t doing too well. He continued to dwell on the death of his son. Support was given as much as possible by both friends and family, but it wasn’t helping.

Well, this past Monday, he took a rope and went out to his greenhouse, and hung himself. His wife and one of his other sons was home. They saw he wasn’t in the house and went looking for him, just because, well, everyone was hanging out, they just wanted to see what he was doing. The son walks into the greenhouse and sees his father hanging, clearly hanged, in fact. He calls his mom in, and with a friend of his who was also over, they cut him down. His wife, who is a nurse, successfully resuscitates him, and they cart him off to the hospital.

Because of asphyxiation, he was already pretty much brain dead. They left him in ICU for this past week just to see if anything happened, but the signs pretty much pointed to the fact that he was gone, completely gone, and the decision was made early today to unplug him and let him go, which he did.


Now my question of the day – I look around at everyone in the family as we’re gathering around, mourning, comforting his family (as much as possible), comforting each other, etc. Every single person seems to be reacting completely differently. And in the middle of it all, we’ve got a shrink in the family who tries to tell everyone “the right way to deal with death”.

And so I wonder - despite what shrinks and counselors tell us, is there really a “right way” to deal with anything like this? Or with death in general? Can they point to clear cut cases of people dealing with things “the right way”? Are there success stories for people who can say “I dealt with death properly and made millions on the stock market!”? Is it anything but a bunch of clap trap that means nothing?

I understand that there’s a grieving process that people go through, and that there are clear indicators for each stage. But really, can someone be expected to monitor their own progression through grief and try, somehow, to usher it along?

I guess I just don’t understand the whole underpinning of people telling us that there’s a method for grieving. I read about it online, and it seems like current thoughts are moving away from the “stages” form of grief understanding to something more complicated, so that, at least, is good. I guess I just don’t understand someone else telling me how my brain, let alone someone else’s, is supposed to process something as emotionally complicated as this.

Anyhow – that’s it. Rambly and overlong, as forewarned. Also not exactly reply-friendly, but hey. It’s easier to type something up and post it to relative strangers than it is to talk about it, and that right there is probably saying something.

My mother committed suicide in early June. If you find any easy answers for dealing with grief, please pass 'em along as I could really use them. It’s been a long summer for me. I am the only immediate family my mother had, so it fell on me alone to inform everyone, plan the service, deal with the estate, etc. I eventually held two memorial services, one in Arizona and one in her hometown in Minnesota. For the first six weeks I was overwhelmed and consumed with dealing with everything. I didn’t have time to think, and I’m not sure I really wanted to think about anything too much.

After six weeks or so, everything hit me like a ton of bricks. I was rushed to the ER twice with heart palpitations/chest pains (eventually diagnosed as anxiety attacks). I even gave up caffeine because physically I felt awful all the time and felt even worse (lightheaded and dizzy after drinking coffee) and it’s only been in the last week or two where I’ve actually felt physically normal again. I had no idea how much of a physical toll stress can take on a person.

At this point I can function almost normally at work and in social situations, but I still think about my mother and the events of her death all the time. I don’t really have overwhelming feelings of guilt or what if scenarios, but I just dwell on it. It’s to the point now where I get annoyed at myself for thinking about it too much and try to distract myself with trivialities.

Between my girlfriend, her family, my friends and my mother’s friends, I’ve been blessed with a lot of people who are trying to help me through it. Most of them are urging me to go to a support group, but at this point I don’t want to. I just have no desire to go up and share my and my mother’s life story with a bunch of strangers (yes, I am aware of the irony of posting this on a relatively anonymous message board). I’ve always dealt with things on my own terms and I want to deal with this in my own way and my own time.

Anyway, I’m not sure if I have a point with all this or if this helps answer your question in any way, shape or form. I guess for myself I’ve been dealing with it by getting up every morning, going to work and doing all of the things I used to do, without letting all of the many reminders of what happened affect me too much. I told one friend that I’m not trying to move on, but that I need to move forward at least.

My suggestion would be to look into the “five stages of grief.” Obviously not everyone experiences grief in the same way, or in the same order. And of course people experience it in different ways, we’re humans and pretty much all different. But looking at the stages can help you interpret what is happening to you (or people you care about) and knowing about it can help to deal with it.

I don’t think there’s a single right way to deal with grief, but there are an awful lot of wrong ways.

My deepest sympathies to both Andrew and nijimeijer.

As far as dealing with grief, I think that everyone deals with it in their own way and there is no best way. The important thing (I think) is to make sure there are people you can talk to if you want, either friends or professionals.

Over the past 2 years I’ve lost about 8 friends due to various reasons. Murder, plane crashes, disease, suicide. There’s an inescapable emotional front to deal with at first, and it sucks. It’s going to take a few weeks for your neurotransmitter levels to stabilize so you can talk about it decently. Then you’re going to notice little things that remind you of the departed and it might take a few moments to calm down. After a few months this subsides, and while you still make the conection, you can dismiss the impact and get on with your life. The important thing is that you live on and do it well, so that you can remember the lost by doing so ensure that their impact on the world continues.

The last friend of mine to die was a DJ I traded lots of music with. He comitted suicide a few weeks ago and I am currently listening to one of his mixes. This was before I even read this thread, and I think it illustrates what I mean. I’m not paralyzed with grief, but am remembering him and his work, enjoying what’s left.

My condolences to both of you on your losses.

My wife and I went through lots of miscarriages when we were younger (I mean like 9 or so in 5 years). After a while we went to talk to a therapist and my wife said “I’m really depressed about all this.” The therapist said “What’s wrong with that? You’ve had a lot of really crappy stuff happen to you, you’ve got a right to be depressed.”

And that’s the crux of it: you both have had really horrible things happen to you, and if you’re upset/depressed/angry about it, it’s certainly justified. And you can’t flip a magic switch to get over it. It takes time, and thought, and talking it out and whatever else works for you.

I’ll agree with John above. Don’t feel like you have to deal with this in a certain way - everyone handles death and the aftereffects differently. But be sure to find someone you can talk to; don’t bottle it up. I strongly recommend a professional - yeah, you can and should talk to your friends about it, and if they’re really your friends they’ll want to help. But you can’t ask your friends to be your therapists, that’s not fair to them. So share your thoughts and feelings with your close friends, but also find a pro to talk to. Don’t try to work through this alone.

No. Do what works for you.

Junk science. She manipulated her data pretty heavily to make it point to the 5-stage model which is what she wanted. It’s a model that has become popularized just because “everyone knows” it’s true.

/shrug I didn’t say it was “right,” but they’re more or less the kinds of things that one goes through, at least in my own experience. If it helps someone get over the grief, when junk science ahoy! Same goes for taking comfort in religion – if it works, don’t knock it.

I think that criticizing other’s suggestions is probably bad form here, I am merely trying to help, and offer up what’s worked for me. It’s got enough usefulness in it that psychiatrists and grief counselors still use it.

Condolences to all who have suffered losses. I would say it takes time in addition to whatever stages one goes through, but it is obvious, as your case illustrates nijimeijer , that some who lose children never succeed in moving on as it is too unfair and seemingly unnatural. When my wife’s father passed away suddenly at age 60 approx. 3 years back, it was hard, but somehow through crying and talking about the good memories and going on with our lives in the best way we knew how, we have all made it.

I cannot point to a magic formula or process that got us all through except to say we all dealt with both in our individual ways and as groups of friends and family. Having people around for those first few weeks is a huge help. I sure wish there was more help for me to offer, but the part of the brain that deals with grief and depression is one that I think science and people in general will always have a hard time nailing down.

As somebody said above, there’s not a perfect “right” way, but there are certainly a lot of bad ways: climbing into a bottle is definitely a bad way. Hurting yourself is definitely a bad way. Hurting others is definitely a bad way–and that includes shutting them out of your life and your thought (which hurts both you and them).

As somebody said above, there’s not a perfect “right” way, but there are certainly a lot of bad ways: climbing into a bottle is definitely a bad way. Hurting yourself is definitely a bad way. Hurting others is definitely a bad way–and that includes shutting them out of your life and your thought (which hurts both you and them).

I’ve lost several people close to me over the past couple of years (just reaching that point in time in my life, I guess), and I’ve had a very difficult time, I think because my own mortality is finally facing me right in the face in a way it never had when I was younger. It didn’t help that I’ve been undergoing tests the doctor ordered rather urgently because she was concerned about some indicators in my blood of possible multiple myeloma. Fortunately they aren’t finding anything, but the combination of events has really been stressing me, to the point of not sleeping, lack of focus, nightmares when I do sleep, etc.

I guess the short version is, I haven’t found a good way to deal with it yet either. But at the very least please avoid the bad ways.

My best friend hung himself in 2004, day before thanksgiving. He left behind 2 tiny kids and a wife. It sucked. I felt guilty since we hadnt talked in awhile.

My stepmother is a shrink and tried to give me some shitty advice about how to deal with it.

Thanksgiving isnt a good holiday for me anymore, and I feel like my friend was a shithead (his daughter’s birthday is the day after thanksgiving), but thats the extent of “dealing with it” aside from talking with his wife and kids and sending them money from time to time.

I mean, I miss him, I’m sad that he is gone, but I can still laugh at suicide jokes, though I dont care much for seeing people hanged in movies these days.

Climbing into a bottle for a few days with his wife helped up both though, so I wouldnt say it is ‘bad’. Just climb back out, and dont be a fucking moron. We finished all Garth’s Jameson in the house…

EDIt- I have had people die on me fairly regularly since junior high school htough, so I might be used to it. Grandparents were one thing, but other kids being hit by trains and crap in highschool kid of steel you towards it I think.

I definitely have to agree with the no right way but definitely wrong ways approach. I had a very good friend who lost a very young son. Throughout the memorial service and the funeral, the paternal grandmother of the deceased seemed to be making everything about her and her specific loss. First, it was obviously about the young son, not the grandmother, and the theatrics really put everyone off. Her actions were actually hurting people further during an extremely rough time.

Obviously hitting the bottle or shooting heroin won’t do either. Neither will escapism that leaves behind someone who truly needs you at that moment (at least in most circumstances). Beyond that, I would say just let it happen, don’t overthink it, understand that it will be brutal at times and don’t give up on getting through it. I think a lot of people try to control how they respond, try to correct feelings that aren’t actually causing any harm because they feel they shouldn’t be responding that way and I think that can be rough.

Allow yourself to vent your emotion: bawl your eyes out, scream at the sky, punch a hole in the wall… whatever it takes.

Psychotropic drugs.

Just a small, narrow piece of advice: don’t bury your feelings, because they’ll still be there later. I don’t know that there is a right way to deal with things like this, but my experience is that it’s best to actually deal with them. Contrary to the popular notion, time doesn’t heal jack shit.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8088836495937079590&q=robot+chicken+giraffe&total=60&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0

There is no right way, and shrinks and counselors are a bunch of shysters. Psychiatry goes through fads that inevitably end. At one time electroshock therapy was all the rage, and people thought Freud was right on the money, not to mention the whole repressed memory fiasco.

When I was in search and rescue we used to have critical incident stress debriefings whenever we found a body, because that was supposed to help. Then somebody actually did a study and reported that the debriefings were harmful, and you’re better off just dealing with it in whatever way is right for you. Like talking about it with your friends and family, rather than a group of relative strangers.

I think part of the problem is that we’ve been so successful in fighting death that it’s no longer a normal part of our lives. Death is something that happens to old people; we all expect to live to be 100. The days when every family had a son or father or husband who was lost at sea are over. Even war isn’t that big of a killer (for our side), when you consider that 4000 US soldiers have died in Iraq, whereas in WWI 11% of France’s entire population were killed or wounded.

When someone does die “before their time” it shakes our reality a little bit, because that sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen. I think modern medicine has made us expect a quick fix, and where grieving is concerned there is none. The edges may dull and you may learn to live with it, but it never really goes away.

There is no right way, and shrinks and counselors are a bunch of shysters.

There are quacks in psychology just as there are quacks, fake remedies and pseudoscience in regular medicine.

Those bad apples do not make the entire science bunk. Proper sessions at the hands of a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist can be very effective in dealing with grief.