I have recently learned of another mother, someone I don’t even know, who is putting herself through the hell of self-blame and guilt as the result of her son’s suicide. This journey has a familiar ring to it.
I can’t imagine a parent (father or mother) losing a child to suicide and not experiencing some (if not a lot of) self-blame and guilt. It’s the nature of our role: we are here, chosen by our children or by God or by chance, to protect our babies (young and older) from any and all possible harm. As if that’s even within our power. Ever.
When mental illness is involved, sometimes what’s called for is something called “tough love.” Saying “no” to the bad behavior, drawing a line and dishing out the consequences when the line is crossed, protecting others living under the same roof.
If we don’t do the tough love thing and it all goes to hell in a hand basket, we blame ourselves. If we DO do the tough love thing and it all goes to hell in a hand basket, we blame ourselves. If it goes badly for our children, no matter what we did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say, then obviously we’re to blame.
Letting go of this belief is SO hard, because if it’s not my fault, as “The Mother,” then who the hell’s fault is it? My dead son’s?! And if I believe for a moment that it is his “fault” have I then betrayed his precious memory? Ugh. It is a special kind of hell, that mental place where grieving mothers go when their children choose to end their lives.
Here’s the bad news: I was the only one who could get myself out of there. The good news: once I could bring myself to choose my SELF and MY life, I was able to begin to crawl my way back up and out of my crippling paralysis that had become my day-to-day trudge.
When these horrible tragedies befall us or people we care about, we instinctively want to assess blame somewhere, on someone. I have found this to be a very unsatisfying pursuit which often only added layers to my own suffering.
Ultimately the responsibility came back to Julian. As young as he was (20). His life. His choice. I hate the choice he made. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Every day. But I have let go of the delusion that I could have saved him. I certainly tried. It obviously didn’t work. I could beat myself up forEVER for this. Trust me; I could.
I choose not to. Not out of arrogance, but out of self-preservation.
Admitting that I am not, nor was I ever, that powerful has brought some peace. Some. It’s a work in progress. Which, for now, will do.