Dear Son,

My heart is aching for you.

I can feel your exhaustion as you struggle to make sense of your friend’s death.   I imagine your grief and confusion.

For those of us who hold vigorously to life, it’s impossible to understand.  Why couldn’t he see his life clearly?  Why didn’t he work on his depression before he came to this place?  How could he violently end his life in a way that will shatter his wife and daughters forever?  Why did he drink again?  How could he not recognize the love and esteem of his friends and family, let along his patients and associates?

A counselor told your Dad that a suicide legitimizes the action as a way out.  If one person in a family or circle of friends succumbs, it grants permission for others to follow.  Your son, who also lost a friend to suicide feels it’s just the opposite; but maybe it’s true for those who carry the secret desire for oblivion.

When I was younger, my judgments on suicide were harsh; although, I could forgive the young people.  Without any true understanding of the choice to die, I simplistically believed that they just didn’t “get” that  death is real, death is forever.  When your sister’s college friend died, I even struggled to believe it wasn’t an accident.

I spouted my opinions of adult suicide vociferously.  I didn’t feel sorry.  Such selfishness.  Blah, blah, blah…

Through the years, though, I have known many people who have chosen to end their lives no matter what the cost to those who loved them.   I now comprehend that some people who seemed to have every possible thing to live for – love, money, personal and professional success – could not see any of these as a reason to continue.

And I have been close to people who live with debilitating depression.  I worked with a woman who said that when she contemplated suicide, she was in such depression it was impossible for her to think that anyone would miss her.  In that state of mind she truly believed that everyone’s life would be better if she were gone.

So I came to acknowledge my anger and resistance as fear.

And I began to live with statistics about teenage suicide.   I knew more and more parents of real young people who died in this seemingly meaningless way.   And I’ve known even more  families who have lost adults to self-inflicted death.  I never understand why, but now I have compassion.  And I’m trying to reserve judgment.  There, but for the grace of God, goes any one of us.

You say that the brain can fail the same as a heart or kidneys.  And alcohol plays a part in the lowering of inhibitions and increase of depression. For those with the disease of alcoholism, is it just a small step from relapse to mental collapse?

Who knows?  Nothing allays my fear and dread for those I love who are in depression. One small word or nuance catapults me into the abyss of helplessness.  What can I say?  Who shall I call?  Can I look and listen closely enough to avert this disaster for our family?

And yet I know that just like helping you in your grief, there is really nothing I can do except be available.   Your friend seemed the  sweetest, the brightest, and a man with the most to live for; and he’s gone.

Once again, I can love, I can commiserate,  and I can hope for healing for you, your family and your friends.


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