Grieving the Loss of A Child to Suicide

Today is the fourth anniversary of the suicide of my only child. Since Toran’s death, I have been involved in 9 government enquiries into the circumstances that led him to end his life including an inquest that spanned 3 months.

During the inquest I learned techniques for numbing myself. I had to. How else do you survive listening to a pathologist describe what happened to your child’s body and brain when he hanged himself? How do you not become homicidal when a psychiatric registrar smirks at you and says that two weeks after he prescribed your child Prozac, when told of the suicide, couldn’t recall your child’s face or name?

Despite this ability, the tributes posted to my son on facebook this morning and the text messages of love and support left me curled up and wailing like a wounded animal. As I write this, I am in so much pain I can barely breathe.

I want to write it though because one of the things I must steel myself against today are the well-meaning but ill informed comments I will receive from friends and supporters. I am speaking on suicide tonight at a meeting of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors too and while I know they will be kind I also know they will make all sorts of judgements based on the DSM and grief literature.

Suicide kills over one million people every year. That means that it is likely that anyone reading this blog will have had contact with someone bereaved by suicide in their personal lives and some will be involved in supporting suicide survivors professionally.

Here are some things I would like you to know about the impact your responses to grief may have on someone who has lost a loved one to suicide.

I wonder how many of you use the phrase committed suicide?

This is of course a relic of the quite recent past when suicide was a crime. For many families this term is really offensive and upsetting. Saying ‘died by suicide’ is much more sensitive and much more accurate.

On days like today, people often tell me how proud they are of me for doing so well. I’m not. I’m not doing well at all. When they say this, I experience it as minimising the pain I experience and rendering my pain invisible. Often the people who tell me this are those I have learned it is not safe to be honest with. The people I put on a brave face and pretend for. It’s much better to ask me how I’m doing than to tell me what your take on it is.

Please, please don’t talk to me about recovery. I will live with my child’s suicide for the rest of my life. I will never be ‘healed’ or ‘recovered.’ My right arm has been cut off, my heart has been ripped from my chest. No one will ever call me Mum again. My son will never get married to his beautiful girlfriend or have a daughter as he planned.

Don’t talk to me about closure or moving on. Where would I go without my child? How would I close off the part of my life that my son lived with me?

Don’t tell me everything happens for a reason. My son’s death was the most senseless event in the universe. Nothing good came out of it. It served no purpose. I am not a better person because of it nor is the world a better place because his death led me to do the work I do. What might I have accomplished with him alongside me? How might he have changed the world? His death is a tragedy, the senseless loss of a beautiful young life, please don’t try to define it as anything else.


I read a piece of research on grief and suicide survivors recently which said “The majority of survivors spoke about needing and wanting to find meaningful ways of continuing to love the deceased youth” and “maintain healthy and continuous bonds with deceased individuals.”


This is my reality. You do not stop loving your child because they die. You don’t stop wanting and needing to be their parent and have them in your life. You just have to find different ways of doing it. This is not an adjustment disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated grief or major depressive disorder. Don’t pathologise my grief or characterise my response to it as some kind of personal deficit.


Telling me to let go of my son and the relationship I have with him is like telling me to let go of myself and my life. I loved him before he was born and it would take more than death to sever our bonds. I long for his physical presence. What I have now is so much less than that but it is something and I can’t imagine letting go of the little I have left.


I know you have read that we feel angry with the child who died and that we feel guilty for feeling this anger. You are being kind when you say you understand our anger and urge us not to feel guilt over it. The thing is though that I have never felt a moment’s anger at Toran. How could I be angry with a child who ended his life to escape the torture of prescription drug induced akathisia? How could I be angry that he did the only thing he felt was possible at the time?

Don’t avoid talking about my child for fear of making me cry. I’m crying not because you reminded me he’s dead (like I could forget that for a minute!) but because he is dead. Giving me the opportunity to talk about him is such a gift and sharing your memories of him with me is the closest I get to Christmas. I want and need to talk about him and need you not to be afraid of my tears.

My experience of my child’s suicide is not a universal experience although the issues I have raised strike a chord with most of the families I work with. Others will undoubtedly want and need different things from their friends and family and the professionals involved in supporting them and have a different ‘don’t list.’

My plea is not that you adopt this list of don’ts as definitive or representative and change your response to suicide survivors accordingly, but that you challenge your own beliefs around grief and suicide and allow your responses to be guided by those who have experienced this loss, rather than by the DSM or grief literature which doesn’t include survivor views.

Ask us how we feel. Tell us you don’t know what to say. Understand you can’t fix us. And that we will resent your attempts to try.


    • thank you Maria and all the other parents who have lost a child to suicide, It is 9 years since my son Josef aged 31 chose to leave us he was suffering from an episode of major depression and had also lost 2 close childhoood friends to suicide. It is a complex issue and i am so gratefull i have found this and other cites. Much love and light to you all may we stand united to offer each other support always. Denise

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      • To Maria, and all the parents and family members who have lost loved ones…..

        On Friday May 15th 2015, at approximately 1:20 pm, my son Jeffrey, my beautiful boy, told me he was going for a bike ride. “Don’t worry Mom, I’ll be back in half an hour…..”

        On Sunday evening, the police were at my door, telling me that I had better sit down…..

        There is a long story attached to all this, but the bottom line is, that my beautiful Son, had gone to a park, two blocks from home, where on a windy, rainy cold night between the Saturday and the Sunday, he hanged himself….

        Jeffrey, was 26…

        I can’t bear the pain….. I am dying Inside…..


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        • Dear Elana,

          Please accept my deepest condolences. I too lost my 26 year old beautiful daughter to suicide. I can relate to the pain. It’s been 18 months and I am still broken inside and out.

          There are no words that will soothe the pain. Just know that I am with you in spirit and will pray that you will get the much needed support from family and friends to get you through. It just doesn’t make sense none of it – why, why, why? For me the answers never became clear. I have been thinking of you day and night since I read your posting. It took me back to that awful day that changed my life forever. I cried knowing how you must be feeling right now. I have accepted that this is the worst thing that will ever happen to me. My dear Leilani was my only child. Please write me soon when you have the energy to talk about your son Jeffrey. I find that it helps to be heard by someone that has been through this tragedy.


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          • The WORST thing is totally true. I lost my son 2 months ago and am still trying to figure out what went wrong…how did I not see it coming? Terry was 35 and full of life – the life of the party is how most people would describe him. Yet…he was suffering and NO ONE saw it, or didn’t recognize it. I feel for you, your family and your daughter. Not sure how to move forward. This is my first post and hoping somehow, some way I will find help – or even better, help someone else.

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          • Hello luisa007,
            I know it’s been a long time since this post but was hoping maybe you would see this. My daughter 15 years of age took her life about 6 weeks ago. Zero signs and absolutely no mental health issues whatsoever. She was a happy, loving, gentle, sweet sweet girl who was full of life. She enjoyed everything about life. Nature, animals, you name it. I’m so broken. I’m so lost and confused and just having a hard time trying to survive.

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        • Elana,

          Having lost my 23 year old son to suicide almost 12 years ago, I will say, it is a painful process to deal with it alone. If I had to do it over again, I would have immediately gone into to group therapy with other parents who have suffered a similar loss. I believe this would have helped to deal with things so much better.

          I realize there is nothing anyone can say to help you feel better. My son was everything to me. Although I will never laugh as hard, or feel as joyful, or seem to appreciate the fullness of life without my son, I have been able to discover a different existence. Not a better or worse one, just a different one.

          One of the things that helped me was to dwell on the wonderful 23 years I had with him instead of the future years without him.

          From one parent to another, feel whatever you choose to feel during this process. Time won’t heal your pain, but it does help in dealing with it much better.

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        • Dear Maria, Elana and Luisa, and all other moms who lost a child….
          your stories made me cry because I too lost my son at age 26 to suicide only 6 weeks ago. He hanged himself only hours before I was supposed to pick him up for a long road trip for Thanksgiving to be with his brother and wife. We never left town….no one saw it coming as he was his usual happy go lucky only hours before, having a few beers with his best friend. But he was on antidepressants and carelessly mixed it with alcohol and pot and as to our horror we found out later, he also got into cocaine and ecstasy and mushrooms. No one knew. I am soooo heart broken, I cant eat, I cant sleep. I beat myself up with guilt, telling myself I was a shitty mom, saying to myself I could have saved him if only I knew….the odd time I get mad at him for about a minute or two because of all the broken hearts he left behind. He was the kindest, happiest, most caring young man, always making sure everyone around him was happy, no matter how dark it was inside his heart.

          Please please tell me how do I get through this? Is there even a “Getting through this or getting over this?”

          Maria, I know what you mean about some peoples remarks….my sweet co workers who always hug me and laugh and joke, went silent and cold, no hugs. I felt like saying: ” Its ok. Suicide is not contagious you know? I could REALLY use a big hug right now” But people dont know how to react to a suicide death.

          I had another friend text me only 2 days after the funeral asking me if I was back at work and if I could possibly pray for her critically ill step son. I felt like texting back ” Are you F%@$ -ing kidding me????” I know everyone means well….but no one really knows what to do with the Mom of the suicide son.

          Thank god I do have 3 awesome friends that have been my rock so far. Plus I still have 2 sons ( 24 and 26) who are my rock and I am theirs. How long did it take for you moms to be able to go back to work? How long should I give myself? There is just no ” operators manual” out there for this, or is there?

          Thank you Maria so much for your website. It has helped me soooo much! Blessings and much much Healing and Peace to you all and your families xoxo

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    • My wife Mary and I, after 4 years of repeated attempts to both get help that worked and at least 6 attempts to end her life finally did on June 11, 2012.
      The devastation, the agony, the grief, anger, sense of hopelessness, essentially all the emotions that Maria Bradshaw writes about are in our souls, minds and hearts. Alexis was 26 and in the last day of an MFA Grad Program. All that remained was one lousy small assignment and to read and grade 20 undergrad papers and submit term grades for these snotty, arrogant business writing class students. We had brought her home Thursday night as we knew she was not functioning. We got her Lorazepam .5 mg to stabilize her performance anxiety problem she would battle with as poets/writers often do. Her psychiatrist BTW had given her this med before and it always had worked. FYI it had been 2 years since Alexis’ last episode and she swore she was past the suicide portion of her life.
      Over the weekend, with sleep and meds and home cooked food and Lamactil ( her current mood stabilizer after 1 1/2 years of Depakote) she was back to herself: an extremely gifted poet and writer often published and many times given awards for her works.
      We took her at her promise she would not harm herself. She seemed fine. On Monday we drve back to the University. I made her drive to see if she was truly ok. Upon returning to her apartment I talked with her for one half hour to ascertain her mental status and make a determination if she truly was ok. I would have NEVER left if I thought she was at risk.
      After making her promise once again she was fine and reiterating the effects of suicide, and once again she PROMISED SHE WOULD NOT HURT HERSELF- I drove home. 2 hours later I called her (at 2:10 p.m) and spoke with her in her office. She sounded happy and said she was printing out her assignment and meeting with students. SHE WAS FINE IT SEEMED.
      Later at 3:30 I found out she was meeting her boyfriend, a gun freak, at 6:15 to have dinner. That reassured me she was ok. She was going to break up with him as she had planned and tried to before but he talked her out of it. She stopped liking him because of his atheism, the guns, the Republican beliefs and his being overweight.
      At 6:15 p.m. He went to her apartment. Or so the text message record states. His apartment was about 1 1/2 miles away. Meanwhile she had gone to his apartment and grabbed one of the seven LOADED GUNS. Alexis put a .40 caliber semi automatic pistol in her mouth.
      At 6:39 p.m. I texted her in capital letters ALEXIS!?!?!. she had just pulled the trigger.
      SHE DID NOT LIKE GUNS. she was afraid of them. She didn’t know howls to load them. She would not know which bullets went in which gun.
      We are experiencing the unspeakable. We don’t know how we can live. Our only child was our whole life. She was everything. NOW WE HAVE NOTHING.
      Yes- everything that Maria says is true

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    • Thank you Maria for your thoughts as I have succumb to these same views not only once but twice. My son 7 years ago on Oct. 18, 2006 and now my daughter as recent as Aug. 3, 2013. Numbness has filled my body and my mind. I will not tolerate anyone saying the “S” word or “are you OK?”.
      I’m heading back to work on Aug.19, however, only my body will be there. My only surviving child is in the USAF and is being deployed in about 2 weeks to the Mid-East. I wish all the nonsense out there would stop and my boy comes home safe. I can not bear the thought of loosing all my children. Thank you for listening, Judy.

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    • On Christmas Day 2010, Simone Back, a depressed charity worker killed herself as Facebook users mocked a suicide note she left as her final status update, that read: “Took all my pills be dead soon so bye bye every one.” Facebook “friends” of Simone Back responded with cruel messages. One user replied calling her a liar who “overdoses all the time” while another said it was “her choice.”

      The allure and power of Facebook is the way it enables us to be social while sparing us all the embarrassing realities of society— the unanticipated revelations we make at parties, the uncomfortable pauses, and the spilled drinks etc. Instead, we have the ease and efficiency of a seemingly well-oiled, social machine.

      But at what cost?

      In a timely story that deserves some consideration on Facebook since the subject of the story shared with the world her passing on Facebook even while the world ignored her – I offer you “Take The Reins” – about two parallel lives – one in which the subject found connection with the world – and the other where the disconnection became so great she couldn’t imagine going on: – if you get a chance – share this with people you know – and remind people that connections are things you form by really reaching out to the people who are important to you rather than ignoring a potential cry for help.

      Thank you,

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      • The problem is that suffering and abuse is normalized, commonplace and socially acceptable.

        These things are considered to be “it is what it is” and “that’s life” and “it’s all good”.

        People are desensitized and acclimated to life in crisis, as if it was normal.


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    • I remember reading Maria’s article shortly after my daughter died by suicide on Nov. 15th, 2013—and thinking how well she hit every nail on the head, and how she truly describes the turmoil and hell we are going thru and will continue to go through for the rest of our lives. My thoughts go out to all of you survivors. I honestly can say I would give my life 1000 times over if it would prevent anyone from feeling and being in the hell I have been in, and still find myself in to this day. Sadly, nobody understands and not even my own family members has stood by me and been there for me in my hours of need. They expect I should have been healed by now. I have a dog who understands and loves me unconditionally for who I am, each day, without carrying grudges or judging me when I err. Much like the love I gave to my daughter, and she to myself. I thank God for every close minute I shared with her, but then again, I dont know if he exists anymore. And so we carry on, in spite of it all–deserving a huge medal of honor for courage and bravery at the end of it all.

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  1. So sorry to read of your loss, I believe whilst we may go around this tragedy we will NEVER get over it! I totally understand and agree with your feelings on how the subject is often taboo…..”in case it upsets us”! I lost my lovely son to “suicide”(verdict was based on ‘balance of probabilities”) in 2006 and despite Trust SMT and Board stepping down the SHA delayed an investigation for 6 years…….the “whitewashed” SUI investigation was published last year. I have given evidence to the Parliamentary Health Select Committee for their Complaints and Litigation Inquiry and their findings were “The NHS Complaints system is not working”……AND? Justice delayed is justice denied!
    There may be times we feel powerless to prevent injustice BUT there must never be a time when we fail to protest!

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  2. Hi, My heart goes out to you. The asses think their jobs are a joke. You wrote, “a psychiatric registrar smirks at you and says that two weeks after he prescribed your child Prozac, when told of the suicide, couldn’t recall your child’s face or name” If you give me that person’s name I’ll put up a web site telling the story and naming him.

    It might save lives. I will only be posting the facts.

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    • I think the “Registrar smirking” is a type of default mode, whereby a medical psychopath shows their face.

      I took my ex psychiatrist to the Irish Medical Council when I discovered the historical cover up of my own Near Fatal Adverse Drug Reactions. Under scrutiny, my ex Psychiatrist made light of my experience to the appreciation of the Irish Medical Council.

      I believe that this man could have been a Psychiatric ‘Dr Shipman’ and the Irish Medical Council would still have let him off the hook.

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  3. I feel exactly how you feel, i cannot describe in words like this but my only little sister was like my daughter, there has been a two year inquest into her death and I have been treated like shit and told to draw a line in the sand and move on with my life, and reading your blog is exactly how i felt hearing those comments from a Nz Gov Department, 1. i will never move on, 2. i will never be an aunty 3. i will never see her graduate 4. never have a happy christmas ever again, and i will never be able to share the womanly moments and the things we were going to do ever because she is gone. My home is lonely and like you all i long for is her presence. I send you light and love, although that is and never will be enough, I am inspired by people like you making change, I hope Torran will keep you safe, although you cannot see , hear or feel him there, he will always be in your heart and no one can take that from you.

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  4. I haven’t lost anyone to suicide, but many of my friends have. This was really insightful and I thank you for taking the time and courage to help build a bridge in communication between those who are grieving and those that want to support them but don’t know if we are going to offend or be an annoyance etc. I have a friend whose husband is currently dying from a short-term illness, and knowing how to approach her has been hard, but she has been experiencing in many situations that the people they would usually be around now clear a distinct path for them, which is not what they want. They just want their friends to be talking to them. So thank you, you have passed on your courage 🙂

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  5. Bless you for writing this, Maria, I could not agree more. I lost my own adored son, John David, to drug-related suicide and so I feel much as you do. If our sons had been killed by drunk drivers or as casualties of an armed robbery, officialdom would be sympathetic and outraged on our behalf. Because they died from drugs prescribed by trusted professionals, the offical reaction is that these senseless deaths were merely unfortunate random events with no cause, or perhaps the “fault” of a personal deficiency or a family failure. I hope we live long enough to see an admission of where the real failure lies – with the regulators who have lied to us all by omission and with doctors who do not bother to educate themselves on the truth of these drugs, and take into account their true risks. Our lives are shattered but as we have said, we have no choice but to push for official acknowledgement of the truth, for the sake of our sons and others.

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    • Julie, you and Maria and all of those who have replied to this blog have shown tremendous strength. The tears, the grief, the gaping hole do not diminish this strength, it only serves to show how much the human spirit is capable of enduring. And how poison can be turned into medicine. We can’t know the generations of children who are being saved by all of your efforts to speak out. I wish that could bring back your children.

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  6. The first is a poem which I posted on my desk at work and gave away many copies when I lost my child.
    The second is a list of terms regarding suicide which I developed for my business as a coach trainer. You are welcome to use them but I would appreciate being given credit.

    When you talk to me about
    the death of my child…

    Please, don’t ask me if I’m over it yet
    I’ll never be over it.
    Please, don’t tall me he’s in a better place,
    he isn’t with me.
    Please, don’t say at least he isn’t suffering.
    I haven’t come to terms with
    why he had to suffer at all.
    Please, don’t tell me you know how I feel,
    Unless you have lost child.
    Please, don’t ask me if I feel better.
    Bereavement isn’t a condition that clears up.
    Please don’t tell me at least you had him
    for so many years.
    What year would choose for your child to die?
    Please, don’t tell me God never gives us
    more than we can bear.
    Please, just say you are sorry.
    Please, just say you remember my child, if you do.
    Please just let me talk about my child.
    Please, mention my child’s name.
    Please, just let me cry.


    Terms about Suicide
    A consumer/survivor perspective
    (From the River of Hope Training Manual with permission)
    There have been many attempts to adopt and clarify terms which
    are accurate but do not stigmatize when describing suicidal
    behaviour. Until better terms can be found these are the ones we
    would prefer are used. Also at the bottom of the page is a list of those which we
    would prefer are not used at all. Rationale is provided for the terms throughout.
    Suicide Loss Survivor or Bereaved by Suicide – refers to someone who is grieving a
    death by suicide not someone who has made a non-fatal attempt at suicide
    Suicide Attempt Survivor – someone who has made a non-fatal attempt at suicide.
    Died by suicide, death(s) by suicide or “suicided” (not a proper term but acceptable),
    “Completed suicide” is sometimes used but like “successful suicide” implies some
    measure of good – these are preferred to “committed suicide”, which is a throwback
    to when suicide was considered a criminal offense.
    Non-fatal suicide attempt – rather than a “failed” suicide attempt. Those who
    experience a non-fatal suicide attempt are likely to consider their self a failure
    already and this does not need to be added to an existing list of failures.
    Para-suicidal – this term is used to describe suicidal behaviour which has a low risk
    of death and may occur more frequently.
    Self-injury – refers to behaviours such as shallow cutting that usually does not have
    suicidal intent.
    Suicidal Ideation – many people have suicidal thoughts in their lifetime but this term
    refers to a more persistent rumination about death and suicide.
    Gatekeepers – refers to those who work in the human services and are in a position
    to identify possible risk for suicide (i.e. teachers, police, medical personnel, etc.).
    Do not use
    Committed suicide – see died by suicide
    Successful suicide – success implies something good – see “died by suicide”
    Failed suicide attempt – see “non-fatal suicide attempt”
    Terms are frequently updated and reflect terminology used by the American Society
    for Suicidology
    Mental Health Rights Coalition – Hamilton
    Used with Permission from River of Hope Enterprises
    Last updated May 2010.

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    • Peggy your poem is beautiful, I lost my son Dec 28, 2014. I felt so close to you reading your poem. Its so much what Ive heard. I know people mean well but they dont and will never understand the pain of loosing a child. I would like to share your poem and will use your name. I just wanted a confirmation that I can use it. Can you please confirm back to me at [email protected]

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  7. dear Bernie. I’m so sorry for your loss. Words can’t describe what it means to loose your beloved child. I agree with you in the fact that there is so much taboo around suicide and death as a result of psychiatric malpractice. I hate to hear that the psychiatrist didn’t even remember your son when you told him about his death. They are so arrogant.
    My daughter Luise died in psychiatric treatment almost seven years ago. I wrote a book about her and her treatment in psychiatric care, and in the end of the book I made some kind of poem, where one of the paragraphs was “She died on the altar of absurdity”. The deaths of our beloved was absurd, and the psychiatrists and the politicians should be made responsible for this calamity. (sorry for my poor english)
    Dear Berni. My thoughts are with you.
    Love from Dorrit

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  8. My child, Serena, did not die from suicide but died nonetheless. She was my only child and died in a car accident when she was 16 1/2. I still grieve for her but am able to live through it. I too will never see my child find love, marry or have her own children. She wanted to be an engineer. She wanted to get a Master’s in Florida where she could study on the beach. She had a lot of dreams and never realized them. I had dreams too and they are gone.

    My family deflects any comments I make about her, it makes them uncomfortable. It makes me sad.

    I don’t understand when someone dies for whatever reason that people say they loved them. I still love her, not loved. My love did not die with her.

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  9. I love this. As someone who lost their brother to suicide recently I completely understand. I hate when people tell me just give it time, time heals everything and bull crap like that. It will never go away. I will never be able to see my brother smile or hug him or talk to him. I won’t ever be able To go into his room and just lay in bed with him. A part of me died with him and I wish very say that he was here and not a minute goes by that I don’t think of him.

    I’m sorry for your loss and wish I could just hug you right now.

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  10. It will be two years on May 10, 2010 that my son a Sgt. in the USMC shot himself at age 25. Tommy served two Combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan diagnosed with PTSD and TBI his medical records are filled with his discussion of suicide but since he had no plan the Doctors did not take it seriously.

    I thought I was strong, a Retired Police Officer who had seen the worst of life, I was wrong. A Marine who is the Son of a Marine, I thought I was tough, I was wrong. I also feel all alone, I have cried a river this big strong, tough Man, and I miss my son every day. I have also found a way to speak about what I call Tommy’s story to as many people as possible, I don’t shy away from what happen I attack by trying to reach as many as possible. I have also been a pain in the Ass to the military by asking questions and demanding answers. Going on two years waiting for the NCIS to release the investigation into my son death, it’s completed but I still has not been released. People tell me to move on but have no clue what it is like to have this on your mind every min. of every day. I miss him so much

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  11. Lost my brother 7 yrs ago in April. Hung himself in a his college garage. He and I were beyond siblings; best friends. The only thing we ever fought about was his life, and my fear that he would end it.
    I resonate with everything every one of you has written (so beautifully!!) in homage to one another and your loved ones who are no longer breathers. My heart breaks with you over and over again still.
    What I have come to understand is that living the grief with every first breath-almost getting it mixed in with my identity, isn’t of any service to me. It has taken me a long time to even be close to others without a certain anxiety that the world will collapse, metaphorically of course. But so real to me, and so disruptive to relationships I wanted to be part of.

    I remember/ like to think that they miss us just as much as we miss them. I can feel my brother with me all the time, he shows me things, I tell him I love him, he hugs me somehow- and my whole body tingles in a very specific way, if I sink in sadness- the sensation leaves just as fast as it came. It may sound crazy… but it’s magnificent & it keeps me going.

    I ask myself if I would have chosen to know and love him… had I known our time would be limited. that’s the only easy question (of those I struggle to stop asking myself) to answer. And the ones that still rattle around… the need to answer them is the only thing that died with him.

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  12. Maria, I cannot understand your pain. But I can offer to help hold it. I can thank you for speaking through your tears to make all of us aware how our words can hurt or help (and likely both). I know so many whose lives have been lost to despair, mistreatment and/or neglect. I am sure I have “committed’ many of these sins in attempting to provide solace, and more horrifying, probably in the last day or so with a friend who lost her son two days after you did.

    Thank you for sharing your grief and reaching out to help others who are grieving.

    How can we help you?

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  13. This post was wonderfully written. Something I wish I could have had my friends and family read after my Father took his life on January 19, 2011. I was the one that found him after he shot himself. I am forever broken because of it. I started a blog shortly after his suicide to allow friends and family to know what was going on without having to have the same conversation over and over. Then it turned into a way of venting, then it became so much more. I applaud you for sharing your story.

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  14. How very true this is. I lost my 18 year old son to suicide June 9, 2011. He had been prescribed prozac as well, though it is my belief he had stopped taking it prior to his death. The grief those of us, particularly a parent, and especially a mother, feels when we lose a child in this way, is beyond mind numbing. Losing a child in any manner is unfathomable, but when it’s by suicide there’s a heightened sense of responsibility. As mothers we feel our number one job is to protect our children, even when they are adults and considered responsible for themselves. I truly believe unless you have been through it you cannot understand it. That in and of itself isolates us from support. Such a vicious cycle.

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  15. I lost my son on Feb 22, 2012 to suicide. He was 13 and the joy of my life. Of all the piles of books I was given after he passed away, you short article summed up everything. I am tired of people telling me how to grieve, or trying to coddle me into feeling better. I lost my only son. I have a daughter and she is my only reason for still being here. No one will ever know how this feels unless they have experienced it. And even the ones who have don’t always know because everyone grieves differently. Thank you for your post. I saved it on my computer and will read it often. I too am trying to make sense of this. My child was diagnosed with ADHD 6 years ago. They put him on a new medication, and he was dead within 8 weeks of starting it. There was no warning label to watch for sign of suicidal thought. Nothing. I know it won’t bring him back, but I am going to try and get to the bottem of it. Something took my son from me, whether it was pill, depression, or a chemical imbalance. I want to know for my own sanity. This is the most brutal thing a mother could ever endure.

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  16. Thank you! I lost my son on 2-26-11 to suicide. It is alienating to be around people who don’t get it. My life is so lonely without him in it.
    I’m very spiritual and even my friends in spirituality are no help.
    You begin to wonder if something is wrong with yourself because all those cliche’s from those thinking they are helping only make you feel worse and that something is wrong that you can’t let go of your grief. It’s crazy making and lonely.
    Very draining & immobilizing.
    Thank you for saying everything I’m feeling!
    Why can’t people just agree with you. I have found the lack of validation for my feelings very disturbing and alienating.
    I pray no one knows this pain.
    I am single and trying to deal with this on my own, it is tough.
    I count my blessings to make myself feel better. I still have a daughter and 3 grandchildren I must stay strong for.
    There’s still this gnawing feeling of loss and an irreplaceable void I must learn to live with.
    I know inside I will never be over it.
    Again, thank you for making me feel a little more sane.

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  17. Thank you for writing this. My beloved daughter hanged herself in November 2010, we buried her 2 weeks before Christmas. She was taking 6 different psychiatric drugs during a breakdown. We believe the drugs lead to her suicide and we fought all the way with reports from pharmacologists, professors etc but the coroner wasn’t having any. The whole inquest was a disgrace and the press printed many untrue statements with a sensational headline.
    We miss our daughter so much and this Christmas the 3rd since her death is unbearable. I feel suicidal myself.

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  18. Hello,My Son James died three weeks ago by suicide,I am needless to say devastated to beyond belief.I feel as though my heart has been ripped out of my chest.James had bi polar and was on one of his low stages.I though that he had sounded the best yet and the meds he was using were doing him good.I am angry with him that he left us and my daughter behind.
    I will never know why ,and I will never be able to hold him and hug him like he used to do.Everything is very raw at the moment and I just think how in the name of god are we going to cope,not able to phone you and hear your voice.
    Like you say everyone just avoids you and look frightened to speak ,well I am ok to speak about the beautiful man [my son] that has left us.He was my life and so is my daughter.She is left without her big bro[6ft 6′ ] and she will have no big uncle for her children ,my grand children.
    How in Gods name will we get through this I don’t know………..

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  19. Maria, I came across your writing last night, I must have been looking for something. I find myself in an identical situation, with the 4th anniversary looming on 27th March. My problem has been I don’t know how to tell people how I am feeling. Your letter put the entire situation into words for me. Thank you so much!!

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  20. Thank you Maria for your thoughts as I have succumb to these same views not only once but twice. My son 7 years ago on Oct. 18, 2006 and now my daughter as recent as Aug. 3, 2013. Numbness has filled my body and my mind. I will not tolerate anyone saying the “S” word or “are you OK?”.
    I’m heading back to work on Aug.19, however, only my body will be there. My only surviving child is in the USAF and is being deployed in about 2 weeks to the Mid-East. I wish all the nonsense out there would stop and my boy comes home safe. I can not bear the thought of loosing all my children. Thank you for listening, Judy.

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  21. You definitely know how I feel. I lost my daughter Michelle on 2/7/2013. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it intact I know I won’t. The pain inside is unbearable. She left 2 young boys ages 6 & 9. I ache for them. I look at their little faces and see her. Now their father moved them out of state. People think I should get over it and move on. It’s only been 5 months how can they say that. Nobody knows what it’s like unless they have walked in our shoes. I really wish I could meet you. I really need to be able to someone who understands. Thanks so much for your posting.

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  22. My son committed suicide one month ago by hanging. He was so all alone. Nobody wanted him but me. He was backed into a corner with nowhere to go and believed there was no other option. I can’t breathe. I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live.

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    • My son Died October 29, 2014. He too was lonely. I moved away thinking if I weren’t there he’d find his way, his friends…. but in reality the most important thing to him was our little family. What a fool I was to ever believe us being apart would help. To breathe is excruciating. I don’t want to die because my heart holds him within me, where I know he is loved. I don’t know what happens when we die, but I can’t miss the sunsets, the blooming spring, the kiss of the sun in the summer, autumn’s crisp air, and winter’s dark nights, because that is where he lives now and I want to be with him…. I want to hold him, to whisper I love you Davie Boy…. I will always love you, no matter what…

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  23. Dear Maria, I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to thank you and to share my story.So, first, Thank You. I kind of feel like I’m eight years old writing to the President. In 2009, you inspired me to become an activist. I got my first personal computer, and I listened to every interview or video I could find, and I read anything that google could find with your name in it.Thank you so much. You showed me how a Lady does this.Maria, I know in my heart that your son is proud of his mother, just as I know that my little girl lives on. My little Sarah died at four and a half months in 1982. In 1989, I went to a psychiatrist in Concord, New Hampshire, after my fourth daughter was born. I had post partum depression and my husband was trying to hide that he didn’t want to be married. The psychiatrist listened to me for a long time (he was quite the charmer)and then pronounced with great certainty that “In his clinical experience” (imagine someone smoking a pipe and peering at the heavens)the depth of my pain could only mean one thing. I must have been molested as a child. Our work would be to uncover the memory and confront the abuser. What followed was a nightmare worth writing about someday….it was a nuclear disaster. The drugs I was given, and the number of nearly completed suicide attempts I made (all explained as “mental illness”)….mine is a familiar and well documented psych survivor story. What I wanted to focus on was the complete lack of understanding that man had of what it’s like to lose a child, that losing a child is forever, and that after losing a child life itself is never the same. Reframing becomes necessary, and more than once. Our entire identities are changed. This incredibly ignorant and fascist psychiatric elite that charges itself with inventing disease while somehow seeing itself as a gift to humanity had better be prepared to arrest all Jews sitting Shiva. Now here’s an idea for any drug rep who may read this; forget about teen screen, that’s small potatoes. Put surveillance in graveyards and find the people who show up on camera. If grass has grown on the grave, you know the person is mentally ill. Could be big money. That was my way of thanking you for your sarcasm in your article, Maria. It was great. What disturbs me most, the grief debacle, is that it really is targeted at women, and guess what? All of psychiatry is. Yeah, they’ve tried to balance things out with ADHD but this is only perhaps because passivity is now politically correct.Political is what this all is.The politics of greed and power.And the really tragic thing about the very idea of denying grief is that it’s the best possible recipe for making creativity absolutely disappear.So thnk you Mria and God Speed. This is a song I wrote for Sarah,

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  24. I have fortunately never lost a loved one to suicide. But my deepest sympathies to all of you who have. There is no way I will ever understand what you are experiencing.

    But I do agree with those folks who have said that you never get over this. That I do understand.

    Hugs to you all.

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  25. Maria, Although I don’t know exactly what you’re feeling, I do know you described many of the exact feelings I’ve had.

    Upon arriving home from the hospital with the birth of my fourth child (First with my second wife) we found our son had shot himself in his room. He was suffering from PTSD and depression.

    That was ten years ago. I’m not over it, but deal with it better.

    Michael was more than a son to me, he was my eldest child, my best friend, my teacher (he had a 165 IQ), my student, he was everything.

    Although I will never be able to reach the levels of joy, laughter, and maybe love, again this life time, I work to discover a new aspect of life without him.

    I feel as though I’m doing so well, keeping my mind focused on all the wonderful times we had together and dealing with life without him, and then, Bam! I come tumbling down.

    I’ve come to realize there isn’t anything that is going to help me this life time without him being in my life, but I will hang on as long as I can for my three younger son’s and wife’s sake. If it weren’t for my children still at home, I would have followed him. Not because I didn’t know better, and didn’t realize the pain to those left behind. Simply put, I pretty much died that day as well.

    I do use this as a tempering event for my life. I try to love and serve other people to the maximum of my ability. I’ve done this pretty much all my life, but now, I’m able to do it on a much larger scale because I don’t have anything to lose–only to give.

    I love the old saying someone shared with me as a child, “What happens to good people when bad things happen to them? They become better.”

    Much Love,
    Michael Sr.

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    • Michael, Sr.,
      I’m not able to type the things I want share that we have in common. Not yet. All I can say is that I hope that soon, I can be in a position to write things as great as what you have posted. Thank You for sharing this.

      Very Respectfully, Santi H.

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  26. Thank you for this article. My daughter, Leilani, died by suicide on 23 December 2013. She was 26 years old. I know that she struggle with depression since she became a teenager but seemed to handle life and issues with some degree of resiliency. She served in the Air Force for seven years and then was involuntarily separated in July 2013 for medical reason specifically for clinical depression, bipolar personality, and physical issues (loss of movement in her shoulder and hip). She came home to be with me for two glorious and happy months. Then moved to Georgia to re establish a romantic relationship. I began to see that she was unhappy – feeling that she was a failure since leaving the one thing that gave her a sense of purpose and identity, her AF career, and group of friends. She was lost and felt very isolated. We all tried to help her move towards a new career, school, volunteerism, etc. She Facetimed me the night before and we had a typical mother-daughter chat but I noticed something different just didn’t process it to be what it was…her goodbye call to mom. The next morning she drove to a deserted park and shot herself. My life has changed forever and I died that day too.

    I have been dealing with guilt…why did I not DO something when I felt a difference in her. Perhaps it’s because I don’t understand the illness and it’s not in my DNA to process suicide as a solution to pain. It’s been a month and I just feel a deep sadness and numbness all at the same time. This is the first time I have written about this.

    Lost in grief.

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  27. I remember all too well the acute freshness of the pain. Now, at the 10 year mark, I will tell you, you will get better. Never do we, as parents get over it, but we do learn to deal with it.

    There’s is nothing to say to someone in your situation. Just feel the love and embracement from all of us who traveled this travesty before you.

    I will tell you one thing I regret. I so wish I would have gotten into some sort of group therapy with parents who experienced the same thing as we have. I believe that would have helped immensely.

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  28. Thank you for writing this. As the mom of a child that died by suicide, I find myself surfing the Internet looking for guidance, support, and the sharing of other parents grief. My son took his life on November 30th, 2013. I am physically able to stand upright each day but my heart, feelings and soul are fractured. I visualize my insides as a war torn region. My sadness is palpable, no matter how professional I try to be in my work, I know I am a fake and a fraud. I’ve always worn my emotions on my sleeve, but now it is necessary that I put on a front in my professional life. For those that assume I am coping well – you don’t see what I feel like in side, but if you care, you will see the sadness in my eyes. In my personal life, I make no attempt. If I need to cry, I cry. I want to talk about my son and make sure that people know it. I really don’t care if it makes them feel uncomfortable. He is my son, I love him and he will always be a part of my life. I have my daughter remaining and worry constantly about her. She has been devastated by the loss of her brother.
    I am so completely disgusted with the mental health system in the U.S.; the lack of laws that prevent suicidal individuals from buying guns; the fact that you can’t truly get help for your adult child that is suicidal and suffering from mental illness.
    My heart aches for all of us trying to live with our loss. Just knowing we live the rest of our lives without our loved one is so sad . There is no escaping this sadness, just living with it.

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  29. Andy’s mom – I cried when reading this. The pain is still very fresh eight months later. I too put on a good front but inside I just want to join my daughter and hold her again. And get answers. It’s because of her death and reasons for it that I understand the pain she was going through because I also feel it also – hopelessness and deep sadness. I know I have to move forward and make new attempts each day to be thankful for the great memories, the time that we spent together, and enjoy moments of peace. Mental health issues are much bigger than I ever imagined. I still don’t understand how we can truly help someone that is determined to end their pain in this way. Medications don’t solve the problem at least not in my daughter’s case. I miss her so much.

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  30. My daughter left this life on September 28th. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, bipolar II, histrionics and depression. She moved her in 2010 after going back to California for 3 years. Living the life of partying but cutting herself when things got too painful. I was happy to have her home. I was desperate to get her help. After Obama was elected I was able to put her on my insurance. Prior to that, they just let her out after tending to her wounds telling me “She’s not suicidal” really? What’s considered suicidal — when she’s laying on the slab — is that serious enough. My deepest fear. As a borderline, she self medicated — although she didn’t have a prescription she took xanax and she would drink beer. She also smoked pot, she said it helped prevent seizures. After the insurance kicked in, she was mental health and behavioral hospitals 6 times between January 10, 2011 to April 2014. Her insurance ran out when she turned 26 on September 6, 2014. There is no real help for people like this, churches are blind to it. Oh they’ll pray but no one actually reached and called her or stopped by. I know she was lonely, her fiancee is bipolar and they would fight. Sometimes they’d call and I’d tell them “you’re both special and when you’re fighting and angry like this you need to stop. You don’t fight fire with fire, use water. Someone has to stop. The last time I saw her was Sunday, September 21st. I picked her up and we went shopping for a bit, brought her to my house. My last image of her was dropping her off at his parents home. I talked to her Saturday the day before, she sounded sad and talked about missing her father, missing her friends in California, missing the old house we had there. She had talked about getting married to Nathan, going to school, getting another grant but she sounded down. She knew I was going out of town on Sunday. I asked her if she wanted to check out a new church with me down the street from where she lived. She said she was going to his parents’ church, and she would call after. She never called. Instead she was there and proceeded to drink with his mother. He didn’t realize that she had been drinking and was drunk. They were told they had to leave because she was drunk. They got dropped off at their apartment and got into a fight. He left and she hung herself. I was on a plane to Utah, al of a sudden I got this image of her when she was little. It made me smile, then I worried, because I always worried. Was she okay? When I got down he started texting me. He was worried, he had left and she wasn’t answering. Could I call her. She didn’t answer me either. I don’t know the time of death but I suspect she was already gone. He said he was going back and an hour later I got his text message.

    Imagine — I’m in a hotel in Utah, it’s after 11pm. My daughter is dead. My only child.

    This article was helpful, yes I do want to remember her. I took care of her for 26 years. I feel lonely, my life seems pointless. What’s my purpose now? She’s with God. My Nina doesn’t need me anymore. But I need her.

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  31. My son died October 29, 2014. He too was lonely. I moved away thinking if I weren’t there he’d find his way, his friends…. but in reality the most important thing to him was our little family. What a fool I was to ever believe us being apart would help. To breathe is excruciating. I don’t want to die because my heart holds him within me, where I know he is loved. I don’t know what happens when we die, but I can’t miss the sunsets, the blooming spring, the kiss of the sun in the summer, autumn’s crisp air, and winter’s dark nights, because that is where he lives now and I want to be with him…. I want to hold him, to whisper I love you Davie Boy…. I will always love you, no matter what…

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    • Although I don’t know how you’re feeling (everyone’s experience is a little different) I know how I felt when I was in a very similar situation. I too decided to change my life by moving away and started a new family. This contributed to my son’s decision to take his life at 23. Of course, now I realize there are other factors involved as well.
      Guilt is part of the process of losing someone to suicide.
      I couldn’t breathe for many years, turned to alcohol and pot myself. Worked hard to stay alive (barely avoiding suicide myself a number of times due to the grief of losing my son).
      I won’t say “Time heals all….” because we never get over losing a child–especially to a suicide we can logically say are actions contributed to it. But, I can say we can create a perspective on all of life–including the loss.
      First, I decided to only allow myself to dwell on the wonderful times I had with my son. I would only allow myself to think about the great times we had together and what a great son he was for 23 years. I must admit, this helped a great deal but I continued drinking and smoking.
      Next, forgave myself. This was very difficult because of the enormous amount of guilt, love, and loss around the whole event. I realize, “When we knew better, we did better” was so true for all of us. We all make mistakes. It’s just part of Life’s journey. Unfortunately, some of our mistakes are really big, as in our case. Nonetheless, we made them, and everyone, including our sons, made mistakes as well. We all become geniuses in hindsight. We will make more mistakes along the way, just as everyone does, and will learn from them as well. Let’s pray they aren’t as big as we’ve made in the past.
      Finally, I allowed myself to adjust to a new adventure in life. The new adventure is “Life without my Son.” Since I loved my Son more than anything in life, this was difficult to do. I had to surrender to the fact, he was gone from this earthly plane, went to the next phase of life, and understood his mistakes like I’m did mine, and was able to forgive himself and would like me to do the same.
      After almost 12 years, and barely miss killing myself many times, I’m here. I stopped drinking and smoking. I started living life to the maximum every day. Although I may not ever be totally happy again, and may be a little off of life with my son in it, I am getting to a point of new happiness again.
      I would strongly urge you to get into group therapy with others who lost a child. I did not do this and could see (hindsight genius) that probably would have made my life so much easier on the road to where I am now.
      I send you love and spiritual support as you discover (whether you want to or not) your next adventure in life.

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  32. It’s heartbreakingly sad to read all of the comments, and the article itself.

    And I’m on the “other end” of the spectra, I have tried taking my own Life. I have been obsessed with the thought of ending it all. Even though I never ‘really wanted too’.
    All I can share to this conversation is that when a person, like me or others, have SSRI-type medication in our system, out goes the reasoning within ourselves. Suicide becomes an option. And I could almost never see any drawbacks with it when I was the most obsessed over it. Despite I know very well what the family would go through had I died.

    So to all of you who have lost a near one to suicide, please make your voices Heard, because there is something strange with these pills.

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  33. I don’t know what to say or explain how I feel or where I am currently at. All I know is, I lost my only son, my oldest of three children, on the 4th of November, 2015 to suicide. To be honest, this is the first time I have put that in writing. I can’t, at this time go into the details, because of nothing more than the fact that it hurts too much to do so. My son was 14 years old.

    Reading the original article and the replies, have not given me hope. They have not provided me with anything to figure out how to recover.

    What they have done is provided me with some comfort that my family is not alone. I am not angry at my son. I am hurt. I feel guilt. Furthermore, being a father, I feel as though my pain should be mine and only mine. As though I shouldn’t share it, because I am a “man”.

    They have provided me with words I needed. Words I couldn’t come up with on my own, at this time. Despite friends and families best efforts, so many have unknowingly done things that are on my personal list of “don’ts”. Some continue to do so. All because I have been more concerned with saving their feelings; I had not realized how much it hurts me to endure it, nor that I don’t need to, until I read these posts.

    I hope that soon, I will be able to write a better reply. I regret that I share the experience with so many of you. I wish I didn’t, but knowing there are others does provide some comfort. Thank you all for sharing. I needed it. Thank You.

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    • My heart goes out to you dear melee….we are all in the same boat here and it is so very hard to let go and not know what to do next. All the words of love and encouragement will not bring our babies back but it does soothe the pain somewhat to know that others are going through the same pain.
      I am sending you much Love and Healing on your journey… for little signs….my son visits me every day. He was 26 and left us 6 weeks ago on our Canadian Thanksgiving. It will never be the same again. Stay strong and know that you are not alone in this. ((((HUGS))))) Angela

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  34. Maria,
    I just happened to see this… years after you wrote your piece. Today it is relevant to me as my daughter died, by suicide, 6 months ago today. She suffered for a long time with a rare illness and was in chronic pain. Everyone knew that she would not get better, but one doctor was determined for her to get off the painkillers, very very heavy duty ones,cold turkey so he took them off her 25 year old body and sent her home. By day 5 her body had so much pain and she had been assured that it would get better in another day. It didn’t. She felt like herbody was on fire, so she shot herself.
    We contacted attorneys, but were told that we couldn’t sue on behalf of young adult children over 25. Now everyone tells us that we are much bette since she is in no more pain. No she isn’t, but I miss every waking moment, every text, phone call, every flush of her PICC line that I did. I am broken, as is her father. I love our precious friends,but I can only be told that it will get better so many times. It’s a lie… it wont. At least not after just 6 months. So, I weep, remember, talk to her, weep some more. I’m blessed to have a patient husband. But now… I’m just mush inside

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