How can we possibly get past the guilt, shame, confusion, fear, and pain that have overtaken us in the wake of our teenage son's suicide? Not only are we blaming ourselves and wondering where we went wrong. We're also dealing with the toxic effect this is having on our entire family. Can you help us?
The first thing you need to know is that this is not your fault. Parents in your position tend to blame themselves. If they don't blame themselves, they may blame one another and end up destroying their marriage. You need to be aware of these dangers and make a determined effort to avoid them. Remember, even the best parents in the world can't expect to have absolute power over the attitudes and actions of their children. So don't add to the severity of your grief by assuming responsibility for things beyond your control.
Next, we want to assure you that our hearts go out to you and your entire family in the midst of this profoundly painful and distressing situation. We can imagine that you are experiencing a wide range of conflicting emotions at this point in time. In particular, it must be overwhelming for you as parents to try and understand why the precious child you brought into the world somehow felt compelled to put an end to his life. If it hasn't happened yet, you can shortly expect to be overwhelmed by a host of why God questions. You'll ask yourselves where you went wrong and how you could possibly have missed the signs that this tragedy was approaching. You'll wrestle with feelings of shame, guilt and despair. Please know that your friends at Focus on the Family care deeply about you and are here to come alongside you in any way we can.
Above all, we want to encourage you to fight any tendency you may have to withdraw into yourselves and "clam up" about the terrible thing that has happened to your family. It's vital to talk about your feelings and allow yourselves to grieve openly. This has to take place whenever we lose a loved one, but it's especially important – and difficult to achieve – in the case of a suicide. At a very deep level, most of us don't know exactly how we should respond when someone close to us takes his or her own life. At moments our grief and sadness get tangled up with feelings of anger and resentment toward the victim, who seems to have abandoned us for purely selfish reasons. At other times we feel guilty about getting angry and beat ourselves up for being so hard-hearted and callous. It's awkward and complicated, and it can become a deadly downward spiral of self-perpetuating despair if you don't grab the hand of someone who is trained and equipped to pull you out.
With that in mind, we want to urge you in the strongest possible terms to seek the help of others who have walked this path before you. There are several reputable organizations and ministries that offer support groups for parents and family members of suicide victims. It would be worth your while to contact some of the following groups for further information: SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education); The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry; The American Association of Suicidology; and The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program.
You should also engage the services of a professional counselor as you work your way through the aftermath of this experience, and we highly recommend that you include the entire family in the counseling process. Focus on the Family's Counseling department can provide you with a list of qualified Christian therapists in your area who specialize in dealing with problems of this nature. Our counselors will also be happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone. Call us for a free consultation.