I’m a 65-year-old man. My youngest son, out of my two sons and three daughters, committed suicide a few months ago. He committed suicide because he was suffering from clinical depression. There were many reasons for his depression; one of them was I, his father.
He had gotten married four years ago to a girl from our community. We had chosen the girl for him and he was fine with that. Ours being a joint-family system, where the entire family lives in the same house, it was not very easy for our new daughter-in-law to adjust, especially since my wife is an extremely possessive and a bad-tempered woman who didn’t treat her daughter-in-law very nicely.
After a year, the girl got tired of all this and went back to her parents’ house. We tried to patch things up but she and her family were adamant that our son get a separate place and they both stay there. We refused and she filed for and got a divorce.
Our son loved his wife and was heart-broken to have been divorced by her. He went into depression. We took him to a few psychologists and doctors but nothing helped. Believing that companionship might be a cure for it, we got him married again a year ago. He didn’t want to get married as he still had feelings for his ex-wife but my wife and I, along with the rest of the family, pressurised him and he had no choice but to accede to our wishes.
The outcome was not what we expected. Instead of settling down with his new wife to a happy married life, as we foolishly believed he would, he went deeper into depression. He didn’t like his new wife and pined for his ex-wife.
One day he told this to his new wife and she left him and went back to her parents. We discovered she was pregnant. We asked our son to bring her back not only because of the baby but more so because we feared dishonour amongst our community but he declined.
The whole family again pressurised him to do what we wanted but this time he had had too much. He drank poison one night and was found dead in his bed in the morning.
Needless to say we were all devastated. His mother went into deep depression and became paralysed. She still cries for him every day.
I blame myself for his death. If I, along with the other family members, had not forced him to bring home his second wife, he would not have committed suicide and would still have been alive and well amongst us. I so much wish I hadn’t done that. I wish it was I that had died, not him.
Words cannot begin to explain the turmoil, anguish and pain that I feel inside me. Nothing dulls the pain. I feel like a killer. I feel as if I killed my own son, the son I helped bring in this world, my own flesh and blood who I dearly loved.
I would give anything to have him back but I know that’s impossible. I can’t go on living like this and now just want to die. I pray and wish for death every day. The pain is so much that at times I feel like killing myself and ending my misery. But I am too weak to do that. I don’t know what to do. I just see darkness in my life and nothing else.
Dear Devastated Father,
I am very sad to know about the death of your son. May God have mercy on his soul and give you and your family the strength to deal with the loss of your son. No doubt it must be extremely difficult and painful for you.
Without blaming anyone (blame never helps, is counter-productive and can’t reverse what’s been already done), I would just like to say that the guilt that you are feeling now is quite natural. You blame yourself and you feel that you are justified in doing so. I beg to differ with that. When a loved one commits suicide, you might be consumed by guilt – wondering if you could have done something to prevent your loved one’s death. No one, including you, can be held completely responsible for his suicide. It was his decision and his action. Remember that your son did not mean to upset you. He felt he needed to die to get away from himself (or the situation he could not control any more), not you, and didn’t want it to upset you.
As much as you want and no matter what you are willing to do, you can’t bring your son back. But what you can do is to try to help yourself in grieving him and moving on with your life. It will be hard, but there are some things you can do to help yourself, in the short run and the long term.
Know that you are entitled to all of your feelings and emotions
During the first year, you will probably feel numb. You may experience intense anger, guilt, denial, and fear, all of which are normal for a bereaved parent. For many, after the first anniversary of your child’s death, the numbness begins to wear off and the true reality can hit you very hard. Many parents say that the second year is the hardest. It’s possible that our brain creates this numbness to protect us from going insane, from feeling the full blunt of our loss all at once.
Share your grief with others who knew him and loved him
Talk to others who knew him and loved him, or others who have experienced the same thing – losing a child. Strength can be found in numbers. The key is to talk about it and get every emotion – sadness, grief, and others – off your chest. Don’t hold anything back.
Go for grief counselling
Find a grief counsellor if you are having a particularly hard time and have no one to turn to. A grief counsellor can not only help you in better processing your emotions but can also help you in understanding them. It might also help to do this to get a fresh perspective that friends and family of the person who died cannot offer.
Occupy your time
Staying busy can help move past the grief to a certain extent. While you shouldn’t hide from your emotions by working or staying busy all the time, remaining active can ward off depression and dark thoughts and help keep your sanity. Don’t stop living. Don’t bring your life to a standstill. Immerse yourself in activities – personal or professional – that would take your mind off this tragedy for the time that you are busy doing them.
Consult a doctor for medication
Prescribed medication may help, however, will not dissolve your pain. Many parents feel that anti-anxiety or anti-depression medication helps them cope better. There are many variations of these medications, and finding the right one that works best is often a daunting task, but worth it, if it helps in the long run. Just be mindful of the fact that many are habit-forming, and try to keep from becoming dependent upon them.
Do charity work
Fight a good fight in honour of your child. After the loss of a child, parents often feel as if they have died too, that their will to live left with their child. For some, finding purpose in life seems fruitless, while others are given new purpose through their loss. Consider giving your time and efforts to a charity that mainly deals with suicide.
Give yourself time
Know that time is a huge factor. It may be some time before you can even look at your son’s photographs without losing it. Memories will hurt to your core, even the good ones. In time you will come to cherish those memories, and they will once again bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart.
My prayers are with you, your family and your dear departed son.
Asad is a counsellor, life coach, inspirational speaker and a personal-development expert. He advises on social, personal and emotional issues. You can send him your questions for this weekly column at [email protected] with “Ask Asad” mentioned in the subject line and provide as many details as possible.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Express Tribune.