Why do people commit suicide?
Perhaps nothing leaves more unanswered questions than death by suicide. The question of how to understand the death, or of what kind of death it is, often remains unanswered.
Death by suicide, even when circumstances might seem to appear obvious, is often described by a coroner by the terms:
- open verdict or
- accidental death
Suicide, when there is no explanation
If a note has been left behind then you can be clearer that the person meant to take their own life.
If there is no note or letter left, then it is very hard to know what to make of the death.
In the case of a young person’s sudden and unexpected death, what can be said? There is so much grief, shock and heartache.
All cases are different, all accidental deaths or suicides leave a terrible sense of an unfinished life, of the potential that was not followed through on. Of all the things the person would have done.
How do you make sense of suicide?
When someone commit’s suicide and leaves no explanation or note then we are left forever searching through our minds to try to make sense of it.
The biggest obstacle to getting at the truth is the suicide themselves. The person who could have told us what they were thinking, why they have taken their own lives, is dead and they have taken their reasons with them.
The question of why people commit suicide remains something that we can only ever speculate about. The painful truth is that we just can’t know the answer.
Drink and drugs and suicide
In the case of deaths related to drugs, where an overdose has proved fatal we may be left feeling that though we knew that it was possible that the drugs could kill the person, we never had any sense that they would do so now.
We may have felt that the drug or drink problem was serious, that if it carried on then it could lead to death, but we never expected the phone to ring and to hear that they had died last night.
Suddenly our lives change and where yesterday we were thinking about what could be done to help the addict’s recovery, now we find ourselves planning on what we are going to say at their funeral. We find ourselves comforting the dead person’s family. Suddenly we have been changed from a worried friend into a mourner.
Suicide leaves so many questions
After a suicide or accidental death, we are left with so many questions. No matter how many times we go round the answers we come up with we are invariably brought back to the stark fact that we just do not know. We can only imagine, only guess at what was going through their mind. We will never know the reason why someone chose to commit suicide.
Suicide – when the death can’t be faced
Some people, perhaps out of a need to find security or to make sense of the suicide, are drawn to cover things up. This makes it harder to speak about the death. The question of why someone chose death by suicide becomes more obscured and it becomes harder to speak about.
Suicide leaves dreadfully complicated questions in the air, and for many it is just too difficult to talk about. But for other members of the family turning away is no help at all.
Some people are unable to turn away. They can’t. These survivors of death by suicide find themselves powerless to access the information they need because the larger drive of the family is to cover things up. They are left with terrible grief and a want of information but are denied access by their families need to maintain silence; omerta.
Accidental deaths, suicide and family feuds
Suicide can lead to feuds. In cases of accidental death or suicide, painful complicated questions and feelings are left behind, but trying to find a way to address the questions often only deepens the sense of feud.
In these situations, the endless sense of pain and regret and the lack of sufficient information can severely impair the ability to grieve. One consequence is that life may feel false. Spontaneity and creativity may become restricted. When the foundations of your world have been damaged, and the damage ignored and then built upon without renovation or repair, things are precarious.
Having access to our sense of truth may involve pain and suffering, but it means that the right pain, the right injuries and wounds are being attended to. The unconsoled people forced to fit their grieving into a family narrative that obscures the facts of a death by suicide live in a kind of exile from what truth there is.
A child in this situation, a child whose parent may have committed suicide may not have much power and very little access to information and facts. It may take years to start to feel like it is possible to live better.
Psychotherapy after a suicide
If you cannot get the truth from those who have survived then you may have to do so privately, working in confidential psychotherapy. You don’t have to be exiled from yourself in psychotherapy.
Living in exile, in deception, distorts you. It demands a kind of ongoing compliant obedience. Finding a way into the privacy of your grief, into being able to talk about the suicide may be a route to a more spontaneous and creative sense of self and way of living.
Resources for people who have been bereaved by suicide
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide: SOBS