Dear parent of a suicidal child,
I know that you might be in shock.
You did not plan for this.
This may not have even been on your radar.
There is no preparation you can do in advance for how to act or how to feel if this happens to you and your family.
I know this might feel personal and so, so lonely. But please remember you are not the only one and you are not alone.
You might have woken up today and the only thing that may be on your mind is that this is your fault.
You may be berating yourself or finding others to blame. You might be in denial. You might be angry, bargaining, or trying to think of that “thing”—that one “thing” you could have done better to avoid this whole mess.
Perhaps you are feeling numb or you just cannot seem to get out of bed today.
The only thing you have to do at this very moment is breathe.
Feel that beating in your chest? You are still here. You are still alive. As long as you can feel that beating in your chest there is still hope there is still love.
This a hard part of life. F*ck, it is hard!
How you are feeling is normal.
Please know that there is no right or wrong way to feel or to behave, but recognise that this is all part of grieving. Even if your child is still with you in this world, you have lost a version of them—a version of yourself you will never get back.
I know this is one big, messy sh*tshow, but just allow yourself to feel and to grieve.
Let those big ugly cry tears out. Let your face get red and puffy.
Wail in the shower. Soak your pillow with those bad boys.
Rehydrate and cry some more.
I know you might want to hide this from the world.
The shame you feel—for believing you’ve failed as a parent—seems far worse than you have ever thought possible. It wants you to hide, to isolate yourself, to push people away.
The shame you feel—for believing you’ve failed as a parent—seems far worse than you have ever thought possible.
Do not listen to shame.
You need people.
You’re not required to share what happened with the whole world.
You don’t need to write about it on social media. Choose a few trusted souls to share what you are feeling with.
You will know who they are.
Remember part of your job is to take care of yourself so that you be there for your child. Letting others take care of you is part of the job description.
Needing people to help you might feel like weakness—a sign that you can’t hack it as a human. But asking for help is an act of courage and strength. The reality of life is that we are human and we need other humans. We need people outside of our immediate family circle to vent to so we can find the capacity within us to support the people who need us.
If you don’t have people in your life who you can do this with, reach out to counselors, your doctor, or phone a helpline. Don’t bottle up your emotions and let them choke or suffocate you.
Go out into the garden and scream.
Swear if you need to. Purge your feelings and thoughts out onto a piece of paper. Don’t hold back, let it out. You can always rip up the paper or burn it when you are done.
Just get it out.
If you are the praying type, then pray.
Pray on bended knees. Pray under your breath while you are making the peanut butter sandwich that will taste like cardboard, but you eat anyway because something is reminding you that you should.
Pray in the shower.
Pray over your sleeping child.
Pray in the car when you are stopped at the red light. You cannot wear out God’s ears with your prayers. You might feel as if He is deaf to your pleas or as if He has left you. Please be assured that He is still there, He is still listening.
I know that you might desperately want to fix this problem for your child, but fixing is an issue for another day.
I know that you might like to see into the future—to plan ahead. That you might want to try to control a world that is totally unhinged, senseless, beyond reason or control. I know how tempting it all is, but don’t.
You don’t need to think about tomorrow or the next day or getting through the weekend or the week. Let the future take care of the future. You only have to get through this second, this minute, this hour, this day.
Just be here now. Today your job is to be here.
Hold your child in your arms. Hold your tongue, and listen to them without defensiveness nor judgment.
Listen with your cracked wide-open heart and take it all in. If you do nothing else today just listen.
Please remember: mental illness is an illness.
I know that you might be angry. I know you might feel pain, but keep reminding yourself that your baby is ill. This attempt on their life is a symptom of their illness.
What would you do? How would you act if your child broke their arm or had a deadly virus? There is no difference.
Remember that all the stages of grief you are going through, your child is experiencing, too. Be gentle with them, and be gentle with yourself.
Expect your child to try their best to push you away. To test your love. To see just how far the boundaries of your support will extend. Do not take their words or actions personally. Do not expect them to be grateful for your support. They might not seem to even notice or they may reject or get angry at your love.
Love and support them anyway.
When they push you away, gather them up regardless. Expect them to not know.
They have broken trust with themselves, with life, and with you.
You won’t know if you can trust yourself—trust yourself anyway.
Recognise that you will need to make decisions for a while.
Trust your intuition, trust your knowing.
And did mention it before?