What happens when a parent commits suicide?

I recently read That Losing Season, by Pat Conroy, where he describes a little bit about what happens to the children when a friend commits suicide. At about the same time, out of nowhere, in a casual conversation, a friend said something to me like “Now that I have kids I wouldn’t even think of suicide. That would be really awful.”

That got me to thinking about this issue. I’d guess that it’s often extremely devastating to the offspring, to say the least. I think I’ve even heard that when a parent commits suicide the chances that the children will increases significantly, although that may be one of those correlation and causality issues.

Does anyone have any direct or indirect experience with this? Any books or magazine articles you may have read?

plan b-

I can address this topic, but why is it stuck in the middle of another thread?

Sorry I obviously goofed…I’ll try to get a moderator to move it to it’s own thread.

S’okay-I didn’t think it was you-I thought it was a screwy board thing!

I split this off into a new thread, as requested.

Well, from my experience with a friend who has been in that situation… if you think divorce makes children feel guilty and has them out of sorts, the suicide of a parent is a gazillion times worse.

She had to be put on anti-depressants (at age 10), and underwent serious counselling. As far as I know she’s still doing both (she’s now 26) and still feels guilty/angry/upset about it. Unlike an accidental death, or a death due to illness, there’s no way to really “understand” a suicide. The grieving process is really different it seems.

It left her feeling like she was responsible, like she could have done more, like she should have seen it coming and asked for help, and like her mother didn’t love her at all if she did something that selfish.

Talk about a blow to the self esteem… and then some.

I worked with a woman who had adopted her brother’s twin children, Lisa and Lucas, when he died in an accident. Their mother had committed suicide some time before.

Last year, Lisa made a suicide pact with her best friend. Her best friend was discovered in time by her parents and survived. Lisa’s brother heard her death rattle, thought she was snoring, and yelled at her to shut up.

I don’t know what else to say; my co-worker is heartbroken. Her brother may never get over it. Lisa was beautiful. She really really was.

A friend of mine commited suicide a bit over a year ago and left 2 children behind. There was no note left and it was a drug overdose (a cocktail) but from what I was told by others she had been making references to it. Such as not being a good mother to her kids, having a hard time making ends meet, having people around that were not good influences on the kids, etc. From the sounds of it, it did seem that she believed she was doing something for the kids by commiting suicide. How sad…

I really can’t give much follow up about the kids, the family situation wasn’t the greatest, both kids had different dads plus their ex-stepdad was a larger part of their lives even while being the ex (but he was also a crack addict). At first I heard that the oldest’s dad was going to take custody of both kids to keep them together but later heard that the youngest was going to his dad. I have since lost track of them both…and I think of them often.

I will say that my friend did make a lot of mistakes in life but she did love her kids and did try to do right for them. I can’t really say what was going on with her at the end, I had talked to her a few days prior to her death just briefly and she told me stop by that day (the day she was found). I stopped by that day and found out she was in the hospital on life support and was not expected to make it.

I do feel that I should point out that she was one of those people that would do anything for anyone. If someone needed a place to stay, her house was it. If someone needed a shoulder to cry on, she was it. If someone needed a few bucks, if she had it the money was theirs. The day she was found her ex-husband said to me that for someone that was always there for everyone else she certainly did not know how to ask for help herself when she needed it.

Although I know that there was probably not a whole lot that I could have done for her I feel guilty everyday. Angry too, if she would have told me she needed help I would have been there for anything she needed and lots of other people would have been as well…

And I can only hope for the best for the kids. I keep asking around about them but no one I have run into knows anything.

I apologize, I never answered the OP’s actual question. My friend had 2 children, one is a pre-teen boy and the other a teenage girl, obviously not known if their mothers suicide will make it easier for them to do the same later in life themselves.

My post was more in response to the OP’s friend, that this was an opposite situation, my friend seemed to feel the kids would be better of without her…

Got interested in the thread because I love Pat Conroy, especially “My Losing Season”. And “Beach Music”–which actually may be relevant, because a mother commits suicide in that book, and is central to the story.

But then I read the OP.

My high school sweetheart. His name was Josh. We dated from when I was 16 until I was 19. I was going through a particularly difficult time in life. I went to him for help, and he played the song, “Old man, look at my life” by Neil Young. Telling me that his father had shot himself. It was his attempt at making me feel better, I mean, how much worse could it be than if your dad committed suicide. To this day, I am ashamed at myself, and try to use that experience to judge my life. Noone in my family took their own life, so it can’t be that bad, ya know?

Now, I realize that the use of that song as an illustrator could mean more than he let on, and I wish that we hadn’t lost touch. It is my hope that he is all right, but from mutual friends, all I can figure is that he hasn’t killed himself yet. But being homeless and a junkie isn’t all that far, I imagine.

So to answer the OP, I would say that a parent killing oneself is about the next best thing to killing that child. They will never recover.

A close friend of mine had his father commit suicide about five years ago. He has 3 brothers, ranging in age from 16 to 25 (at the time). All are still around, and mostly doing okay, but to answer your question from what I have seen: Yes, I’m sure that the suicdie of parent greatly increases the kids risk of suicide.

What we are talking about here is the absolute ultimate in rejection. It is impossible not to take it profoundly personally. It takes a lot of support and love from those around you to move on from this.

My heart goes out to all in this position.

It’s completely devastating.

I know two girls who are in that situation.

With the first, her father shot himself when she was 8 or 9. She found him. For obvious reasons, she doesn’t talk about it. I knew her for about 3 years before I even realised that her dad wasn’t on the scene, and even longer before I knew why (I only met her as an adult). She seems like a normal, well adjusted young woman in her late twenties. She is very capable and independant though - I never thought about it really, but it probably has something to do with growing up on a farm with no dad.

The other one, I knew the girl before and after. Her dad hung himself when she was 14 (about 18 months ago). At the time, her parents had just seperated and she was living with her mum, so she hadn’t seen him in a few months. She was completely devastated. But she is also extremely resiliant. She is one of the most vibrant, charming and passionate 16 year olds that I have the privalege to know. Most people wouldn’t know. I’m quite sure it haunts her, but it seemed to give her a new resolve to live life to the full. As an aside, his death has also left her a very wealthy 16 year old, but that doesn’t seem to have changed her in anyway. Again, she doesn’t talk about it. Ever. Most people know that her dad died suddenly, but they don’t know the circumstances.

My mother’s mother.

My aunt found her.

The family is riddled with depression - but my aunt has been particularly bad - hospitalized, huge doses of drugs.

I was two. My mother said she never really bothered to deal with it - she had me and my sister (who was a newborn). So it was years before she had time to think on it.

The strange thing is NO ONE talks about it. Ever.

Originally posted by Seldon

The ultimate selfish thing to do, huh. May I ask [all of you], your opinion: What if the parent - and child - is older. What if the parent has explained his - or her - suicide, has nothing to do with the child. What if the parent tried to live and couldn’t. No matter how much the parent loves the child. What if the parent is in too much [mental] pain. Should the parent still live on?

I’m a member of that club (Gloria Steinem wrote an article about being a member of the “crazy mother club” or something like that).

My mother killed herself when I was six. I hear from family that she was definately depressed and had had some hospitalizations for it, and that she may have had a more serious diagnosis such as paranoid schizphrenia that wasn’t properly diagnosed or treated.

I have very few memories of her- probably because she wasn’t very involved with her children prior the time of her death. I can’t say I miss her as I didn’t know her. Not having a mother was normal for me and I don’t feel the “empty place” feeling that I have heard others describe, probably because of my age at the time.

As an adult, I have kept in mind the idea that mental illness can run in families and have tried to protect my mental health by not getting drug or alcohol involved and staying away from weird or problematic people. Quite likely I would be this way anyway, though.

There are six children in my family. An older sibling harbors some guilt stating that she “should have known” or “could have done something.” I don’t think this is true in our case. Fortunately, she is not too negatively influenced by her feelings.

My lay opinion is that there are two types of suicides- those who are genuinely in pain and cannot cope, and those who are pissed at someone and want to get back at them.

I have thought my mother was in the first group as she went to a hotel rather than kill herself at home for the family to find.

A lady I worked with found her husband in the livingroom (gunshot). That situation seemed to fall into the “pissed” group to me.

Finally, I don’t tell people (IRL) about it. I say she died in a car wreck. I do this for two reasons. First, because I have very little feeling about my mother (not having known her) and don’t want to tell casual people like coworkers and neighbors about it. I don’t want sympathy (I think it’s misplaced in my case) or to try to answer questions that I don’t know the answer to. And second, there is a stigma to suicide that I don’t feel rightly belongs to me- it wasn’t my act.

I know this is a sensitive issue. I’m available for PM if anyone needs to talk privately.

Email, not pm.

Knew a chap whose dad killed himself when the boy was eleven. Sat down at the dinner table, stuck the business end of a shotgun in his mouth, and blew the back of his head off.

Heckuva thing for mom and the kids to find. The young man in question – call him Joe – told me that his mother kept him out of the room, but he couldn’t help but see the gory ceiling painting through the open doorway,… that, and his father’s foot, sticking out from under the table. The last thing of his father he ever saw was his foot.

Unless you count that portion of Dad that was splattered across the ceiling and far wall, that is.

I would be inclined to agree. His family never discussed it, which left him to talk about it with a few friends, including me.

Joe was in his late teens before he really began to consider, in an adult fashion, why his old man might have killed himself. The guy was unemployed, and apparently drank quite a bit, and only around age nineteen did Joe really begin to consider that perhaps the old man was simply ashamed of himself and his inability to live up to his own standards. Mom supported the family by managing a fast food joint, and Dad couldn’t find work to save his life.

Before that, Joe pretty much assumed that his old man hated him, his sisters, and his mom, and had opted out rather than try divorcing them.

The result of this on one sister was to become a raving nymphomaniac and party animal, drinking and drugging a blazing path across town. She quit school, turned into something of a town pump, and left town, finally, a couple years later at twenty or so, and I don’t know anything about her after that.

Other sister became a sort of extremely quiet drone, with no friends I knew of, who simply went to school… went home… went to bed… got up and went to school again. I don’t think I ever heard that girl speak more than ten words, total.

Joe became your archtypical teen stoner, for whom marijuana was one of the basic necessities of life. Went through his entire teen experience stoned to the gills. Began to wise up in his late teens, and went through a period where he kept trying to straighten out, lay off the beer and weed, and try dealing with life on its own terms. He failed some six times that I know of, before I left town myself and lost track of him.

I hope he made it.

My dad shot himself almost 3 years ago. I was 23 at the time, my brother was 20 and my sister was 9.

The first thing I felt, I am ashamed to say, is anger that he had taken that choice away from me because two suicides in one family is too many. Actually, even one is.

My sister doesn’t seem too outwardly affected but you can tell inside it still hurts. I still think about him everyday. He was not the most understanding or patient father because he was going through a lot of depression but now my sister no longer has the man to look out for her or be the “tickle monster” It’s heartbreaking for me to think of her having to grow up without him.

The best friend of a former co-worker of mine has lost three family members to suicide - first his mother, then his sister, and years later his father. His sister was about 12 when their mother committed suicide, and she was in her early 20s when she did it herself.

He believes that his sister probably wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for their mother doing it. This was a devout Catholic family, and suicide is a sin in that religion, so besides the typical guilt and anger, there was that issue as well - the thought that not only would they be separated in life, but in the afterlife as well. He thinks that his sis saw their mother’s suicide as ‘permission’ to do it herself when she began to be troubled with depression.

His father was in his 70s and was seeing his construction business fail when he killed himself. Apparently he felt that there was nothing left for him - either here, or in Heaven, if he waited for a natural death to take him.

An adult friend of mine had her father commit suicide (at the age of 87!) about a year and a half ago. She didn’t tell me at first that it was a suicide - just that he’d died suddenly. Even though she is an adult and knows on an intellectual level that there isn’t anything she could have done about it, there is still some guilt there because she saw him doing things like re-arranging his finances, which is something he’d refused to do before. To her, that should have been a tip-off that he was planning something. And there is still a stigma there about it, which has got to make everything just that much harder.

I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of the dopers who took the time to respond to this thread. I found the stories to be so moving that I was only able to read one at a time.

I was also struck by the number of views recorded - over 1,000 in a couple of days. Seems like a lot of interest in this topic compared to other threads. Perhaps someone should write a book about this subject.