10. Ignorance is okay.
I have had some of the most ignorant and hurtful comments made to me after Rob’s death. Such as – how did he “do it”, does he know what he did to his kids, do you know he went to hell, and what reason did he have to want to die? These type of comments used to really bother me until I understood – for others to understand – they would’ve had to go through the same situations I did and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone, so I now understand – it’s okay and to let the ignorance go – they just don’t know.
9. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want help.
Many of us watch our loved ones suffer through depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction and many other mental health issues. However, YOU can only do so much. Often times, the one suffering has to hit rock bottom before they actually will get the help they need. Love and support the best you know how but sometimes letting go – provides them the help they need.
8. Denial is a safe place to be.
So many are in denial of their own mental health issues or a friend or family member but so often they are ignored or people may say – oh that’s just the way they are, or excuses are made because denial is easier than dealing with the issue.
7. Most people who die by suicide don’t want to die – they just want their pain to end.
6. Death by suicide is not a choice; it is a side effect of an illness.
A mental health issue affects 90% of all deaths by suicide; there are over 800,000 suicides per year worldwide.
5. Death by suicide is the most difficult way to lose someone.
I often would have friends going through a divorce say to me how much easier my situation was than their own. I really didn’t know how to respond. Suicide or divorce? The unknown devastation to those who have not experienced such a loss is difficult to comprehend by someone who has lost a loved one in one of the most horrific ways possible. So many elements are misunderstood, there is judgement and so many questions as to why?
I have had girls nights out with divorced friends, they all have something in common – they all have Wednesdays free, every other weekend off, can all complain about their ex and have someone to help them through every aspect of their child's life. I sat and listened – I was alone - alone in a sense that no one knew what it felt like to lose someone in such a tragic and horrific way. I was alone in raising my kids. I didn’t have Wednesdays and every other weekend off. I rarely said anything, I would sit and listen and quite honestly wish I wasn't there. I do understand that all of us think our situation is the worst and instead of making it a contest of who has it worse, let’s just agree, life can tough but let’s understand, support each other and not make it about who has it worse because our pain is our pain and sometimes, no one can ever really know how deep it is.
4. Love heals
Many people, never having experienced a similar situation to mine would say, give it time; time heals or just get through the first year. Let me tell you, that’s the biggest lie yet. Time helps the grief not come as often but certainly didn’t heal. I got through the first year and waited for something magical to happen. Guess what? It didn’t; if anything it was worse because I was still stuck in the same place waiting for that first year to be over, waiting for the pain to be gone and questioned what others meant by just getting through the first year. Doesn’t matter where the love comes from – your child's love, love from parents, friends, or strangers or a new love interest. The giving and receiving of love in any way shape or form should be accepted and given, it is the greatest gift of all! Love heals.
3. Saying “ I could never commit suicide” does not mean they could never “do that”.
The day before my Rob’s suicide attempt, he told me he could never “do that” to me or the kids. I was confused for a long time because, I believed him. I finally understood that at that moment, no, he could not “do that” but that moment changed. His illness in the end won.
2. Like all illnesses, mental illness can be terminal.
As with cancer, heart disease and even the flu some people live and some people die. The proper diagnosis, treatment and medications are key to living successfully with all illnesses and that includes a mental health illness. Like all illnesses, sad to say some are terminal and some are not, mental health issues are the same way, some are and some aren't. Talk to your loved ones, seek proper treatment so you have the best chance to fight it and beat it.
Without the acceptance of what life offers us we will be stuck. If I didn’t accept what happened no matter how tragic and misunderstood it was, I would not be able to move forward and perhaps create problems for myself such as self medicating to relieve the pain. We cannot change the past and the difficulty of it, but I can guarantee, Rob wants us to move forward, Rob wants us to talk about this, Rob wants us to bring understanding and without acceptance, I wouldn't be able to do what I do and continue to move forward in life.
by Vonnie Woodrick
About the Author
Vonnie Woodrick created i understand in 2014 in loving memory of her husband Rob who lost his battle with depression in 2003. Vonnie routinely provides speaking engagements to private organizations and community groups throughout the year in an effort to raise awareness about suicide and encourage education about mental health. Learn more about i understand's "Love Heals" Lecture Series.