It’s ironic that a successful suicide means death and an unsuccessful one means life. According to Stats Canada, and reported on Suicideinfo.ca, suicide has consistently been the 9th leading cause of death in Canada. Males commit suicide at a rate approximately three times that of females.
Over ten people a day kill themselves in Canada, and the age at which this is done the most is during the fifties:
- READ: Suicide rate in Canada by age group in 2019
Those families and friends left behind usually feel guilty, and ashamed. Not just of the suicide, but shame because there is a strongly held belief that they could have done something. Hindsight tears apart their hearts, and the stigma of suicide can turn the cause of death into a dark secret. And when something is painful, and it is a secret, it turns into a monster of demonic power.
There are no words of comfort that can reach into this darkness. No human words at least. Often we try to convince the survivor that it is not their fault and that there is nothing they could have done.
The reality is this is a complicated loss and so the grief is complicated.
This past while, my wife, Stella, and I attended two funerals of men younger than me who died of illness. Although I grieve these men, it is not complicated. It also helps me in my grief to know that since they followed Jesus, they are now in heaven. This really takes the sting away.
Deaths through car accidents or violence are not so easy to process. With any sudden death, we replay our last words and if they were not positive, we allow guilt to consume us. We can not take back angry words, and we can’t apologize for hurting them. The door is closed. So we grieve and we guilt ourselves. This gets complicated.
But we didn’t pull the trigger or run that red light. Their deaths, although complicated, are not internalized as our fault. Even if someone drove off angry at what we said or did, the guilt at their death is not as deep as suicide.
Suicide may seem sudden to us. Like a hidden tragedy that no one saw coming. This is because to us, friends and family, it is so hidden that we are surprised. Caught off guard. And then we begin replaying every conversation or action or event of the past weeks, months, or even years. We look for clues that we missed and try to piece together the why of suicide. Then we go into a place of if only.
If only I had noticed. If only I had answered the phone. If only I had known.
Suicide grief is very complicated, We grieve at the same time we deal with our own self-inflicted sense of failure. We punish ourselves and sometimes even blame others for not noticing.
Yet one of the reasons we didn’t notice might be that the person planning suicide didn’t want us to notice. There are many cases in which the person is so hurting and lonely and depressed that they do leave clues. They do reach out for help in subtle and quiet or unusual ways. Most of us can recognize these reaching outs and most of us reach back when we do see these calls for help.
Other times there is no reaching out. Times in which the suicidal person doesn’t want us to know and then hides his or her plans in secret. Maybe they don’t want us to see their pain. Maybe they don’t want to hurt us or to alarm us. Maybe they listen to the wrong voices, the ones not from a loving God but from a killing evil spirit.
Suicidal ideation is when a suicide is planned, imagined and mentally gone through. This is the where, when, and how. Suicidal thoughts generally base themselves in two lines of connected thoughts. My life is hopeless and I am helpless.
Post suicide life is difficult and made more so by the secrets we keep about it. And this is made more difficult by the secrecy of mental and emotional illness.
We need to be less ashamed of mental and emotional issues and more helpful. We need to quit seeing them as failures or weaknesses and treat them as we would a broken leg or a chronic illness.
If you are in a desperate situation, please tell someone. If you have lost someone to suicide, please tell someone. Dark secrets lose their power once they are in the light of revelation.
Here is one resource to help you do that: suicideinfo.ca.
Andy Becker is a pastor, retired counsellor and former CEO of a Hospice organization. Currently, his wife, Stella and Andy, lead both Lighthouse ministries and Bread of Life ministries in North Central Regina, one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.