It’s the questions that haunt you.
Long after the initial shock has subsided, and the funeral flowers have faded, the unanswered and unanswerable questions that a suicide leaves in its wake echo over and over again in your head no matter how hard you try to shut them out.
Why didn’t she call us?
Why didn’t she ask for help?
How did we not know?
What was she thinking?
How could she do this to the people she loved?
How could she do this to us?
Why? Why? Why?
If, as someone described it, suicide is “grief with the volume turned up” then the suicide of a child cranks it up to 11 and beyond. The sudden death of any loved one hits you with a sledgehammer to the stomach that makes you weak at the knees and sucks the air from your lungs; the intense shock of a suicide shakes you to the core, paralysing you with fear and anxiety as you feel your whole world give way beneath your feet. Disbelief quickly dissolves into anguished, primal howls of despair and floods of tears that you think will never end.
And almost immediately, you start asking the questions, seeking answers to the unexplainable, desperately looking for something or someone to blame. Something to be the focus of all your anger, frustration and raw anguish. Anything but having to accept the unacceptable: that your child alone did this to herself. There is no cancer or other hideous terminal disease to blame. No drunk driver, no gunman, no freak airplane crash. At some point you have to accept the cold, harsh reality that your child deliberately took her own life.
You start to question whether you really knew your child at all and even whether love – the deep unconditional love that only a parent knows – can ever be enough when it couldn’t protect them when they needed it most. You search in vain back and forth through your lives in search of anything – family history, a bad childhood experience, an unintended slight, substance abuse – that will somehow explain how this could possibly have happened.