Subscribe to Free Healing Emails for Mothers

Emotions & Challenges, Grief Journey

Guilt, Blame and The Complexity of Suicide

As the pandemic continues, the Alliance of Hope has experienced a surge in forum registrations and requests for individual Zoom consultations. It has been heartbreaking for me to read posts and speak with newly bereaved loss survivors. 

Over the last month, I have been particularly present to how many people fear – or are sure – that their words or actions, said in haste or anger, led to the suicide of a loved one. So many carry around a lead overcoat of guilt for doing – or for not doing – whatever it is they think had an effect. Undoubtedly, each of us impacts our environment and other people by our actions. Yet, it is essential to remember that there is almost always a confluence or convergence of variables involved in any one suicide – psychological, physiological, pharmaceutical, social, economic, and so forth. And it is also important to realize that hindsight profoundly alters our perspective on what happened. 

The same can be applied to our feelings of blame. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to understand how someone treated our loved one. Sometimes, people do hurtful, disempowering, and even evil things. When we are treated that way – or when our loved ones are treated that way, our anger mounts. We want to cry “foul,” let the world know, and perhaps even seek revenge.

And yet, while it is natural to feel sad or angry if they were mistreated, it is again important to remember – and this is not easy, especially in the first months and years – that there are many factors involved in suicide. We try to create a narrative around what happened, but we can never know the details of any relationship or why our loved ones did what they did. We can never know all that was involved. We can observe that they faced life challenges, were not treated well, or suffered intolerable pain or mental illness, but in the end, we never really know all that was involved – all that led to that final act of ending Life.

As we mourn our loved ones and as we look to what makes a difference in the arena of suicide prevention, we need to remember that suicide is complex. We do our best to understand and to create a narrative, but it is never one thing. Suicide is the final “dance” of an individual with Life’s circumstances. A circumstance may lead one person to end his life, but it might inspire another to take other actions. We are complex beings living in an extraordinarily complex society.

About the Author

Ronnie Walker

Ronnie Walker MS, LCPC is the Founder and Executive Director of the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors. She is a survivor of suicide loss.Read More »