Staring suicide in the face
A mother shares how she tries to cope with and fix her child’s grief after a fellow pupil commits suicide.
By Bertha Russell*
I don’t know if it was with a rope, or a gun.
Article originally in Parent24
A fall from a tall building. I ruled that out. That would have been all over the press. I must admit that I was morbidly curious about this death of a child.
The death of a child is too vulnerable to hold. It opens deep, raw crevices in anyone capable of love.
The death of a child by his own hand is an anguished torment that lives out of peripheral range because to live comfortably we cannot look it direct in the face. So it dwells on the edges like a wild beast.
Today the terrifying spectre stood square in the middle of our neighbourhood playground. A matric boy in my son’s school killed himself.
I see my child walking around the house in a daze, looking for his characteristic laughter. That which defines him. He’s numb, shocked and in disbelief. He hadn’t known this boy but had talked to him. He’d watched him walk across the quad in the mornings. He’d also heard stories about the now dead child from a friend who was close. “I will never speak to him again,” my son says.
How is it that our children understand the finality of death so much better than we who have distanced ourselves from that which we fear? As a mother my first instinct it one of selfish control. I want to push my son back into my womb where my warm edges can enfold and safeguard him.
That is, of course, the impossible.
Can I fix it?
So I prepare to fix this situation with funny DVDs and an emotional environment where anything and everything is up for discussion. My recipe is frank discussion with comic reprieve in a soft, nurturing atmosphere filled with attentive love.
I watch my intelligent son going through the appropriate stages of grief and loss, while I in my need to control, delay looking at the ghost face to face.
Yes, control was my first response. We need to know why and how. If we have the tools to fix then perhaps we will be able to do the impossible. Perhaps we can ensure that this tragic beast never walks near our yard again.
But control is a myth in uncomfortable situations such as this. For even in the most open, accepting and loving families, terrible things happen. It is the nature of this life that there is no absolute certainty when it comes to death. We merely invent superstition and ritual to try and make loss less petrifying.
Life is always too short, fragile and precious when it comes to those we love.
If I have learned anything this week, it is to do and talk less. To try not so readily to find cause or ascribe reason. To listen without needing to fill up the uncomfortable, empty spaces, so that I might see what lives in between. To be hopeful that fearless love, emotional openness and truth is enough of a rock for my own child to cling to in stormy seas.
To live hopeful.
This column was written anonymously. If you'd like to do the same, send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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*Not her real name.