Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ramificiations of Suicide

Katherine at Meaning and Authenticity has been teaching a seminary class on loss, and did me the great honor of including in her materials for the class some of what I have written about our son's suicide.

As is always the case, one learns from what one teaches. In describing the class, Katherine writes about a woman who has lost two children to suicide: "Talking about this level of Pain that she'd never fully understand, "A" said that she'd read recently that when a loved one completes suicide, all that Pain, (which she or he can no longer bear), explodes outward toward the loved ones who remain. It's a strangely recognizable metaphor. An explosion of Pain, transferred from one who finds his or her release, to the ones they most love. A testament, I suppose, to the inevitable narrowness carried within the very marrow of this kind of Pain."

It's been helpful to me to gain this new understanding. Our Josh did not, I am sure, intend to cause the damage to the rest of us that he did. And we would have much preferred to absorb his pain and help him with it with him still with us. But ~ the first did happen and the second didn't.

Now, today, Karen has included this quite from Richard Rohr in a penetrating post about how we deal with this level of pain:

"If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it."

One of the (many) great tragedies of suicide: unaddressed and therefore inevitably transmitted pain.

I have read that a death by suicide reverberates through a family for four generations. Not difficult to imagine; there are things which my great-grandparents, four of whom I remember, did, for good and for ill, that affect my own children ~ the fourth generation down from theirs.

Perhaps we can encounter our pain in ways that will transform it, so that our great-great grandchildren will know life as something worth clinging to in hope.


  1. Robin, all day long I have been trying to process a play I saw last night at my son's school, in which a woman completes suicide on television (it's based on an actual event from 1974).

    Your professor's description of the pain exploding out to all the loved ones is powerful, and feels very true.

    Thank you, as ever, for sharing here so honestly.

  2. I had thought of this in terms of myself, not wanting to become bitter and spew my pain onto others like a walking storm cloud. I never thought of transference/transmittal in the way that you have described it, but of course, it makes perfect sense.
    My heart just breaks when I think about the pain that all of you is unspeakable.
    A few days ago, I ran into a friend whose son died by suicide 9 years ago. We talked about our losses. She is a beautiful, radiant, compassionate woman, and of course, she made me think of you. I told her about you and your Josh.
    God bless every single member of your family, wherever they are.

  3. Beautifully expressed. Praying for you all. Love your courage and will to live with hope, and praying that it will be more than you can even imagine.

  4. Just catching up and you are so right. As someone who lives with the pain of a family suicide, this is the most apt description. It is a pain others fear to speak of and one that never goes away. I share your hope for transformation.