Suicide is Not Selfish, and It Is Not a Choice

HEADS UP, folks. If you’re struggling with the death of someone you care about, this post will be hard to read. But if you’re up to it, bear with me, because this is important.

When you lose a loved one to suicide, you go through a whole range of really intense emotions. There’s disbelief, because often, they seemed to have it all together and you never knew how much they were suffering. There’s sadness, and guilt, and lots of wondering if there was some way you should have known, something you should have done, or said, or… Prevented this tragedy somehow.

And, often, there is anger, even rage. We think: how could they do that to their family???

It feels like such a selfish choice.

It feels that way, but it’s actually neither selfish, nor a choice.

Imagine you go to your favourite restaurant. You’re hungry, you’re not on any kind of diet, and you don’t have food allergies. You have money just burning a hole in your pocket. When you order your meal, you have a choice: there’s a whole menu full of options, and you can have any of them.

Being selfish also requires a choice: imagine a baby crying because its diaper needs to be changed. If the baby had the choice of learning, right now, how to walk and go use the toilet, then choosing to use the diaper instead, and inconveniencing a caregiver who then needs to change that diaper, would be selfish. But a baby doesn’t have a choice. It’s not selfish; it’s a baby. It doesn’t have any other options.

Suicide is not a choice.

It’s sort of like this: Depression, despair, hopelessness, and isolation form an ocean around you. The waters get rough. You do your best to keep your head above the water, but it feels like you’ve got two broken arms and two broken legs as you helplesslessly, painfully try to swim.

And sometimes, despite your best efforts to keep swimming, you just… drown.

That’s what suicide is.

Use this information – to help to quiet your anger at the person whom you’ve lost, and also, to quiet the second-guessing at what more you could have done.

I’d love to have you share your thoughts, comments, and questions. If you do post a comment, please don’t give specific details of your trauma – these may be triggering to another reader. If you’d like to offer criticism, I’ll take it – I know I’m not perfect, and I’m always willing to learn. If you do offer criticism though, I’d really appreciate it if you could do so constructively (ie., no name-calling, please). Thanks…

You can find me on Twitter and on Facebook.

~ Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.

*Fine print: Please feel free to share the link to this blog wherever you think it might be helpful! Reading this blog is a good start, but it’s no substitute for professional help. It takes a different kind of courage to admit to yourself that you’re struggling. PTSD is not a sign of failure – it’s a sign that you’ve been through a lot, and have tried to stay strong for too long. If you need help – you’re in some pretty great company. Reach out, and give yourself a chance to feel better.

**Really fine print: The content of Coming Back Home is copyrighted; please feel free to share the link, but do not copy and paste content. Unless otherwise noted, all original photography on Coming Back Home is copyrighted. The photo gracing today’s post was taken by M & C Charbonneau, and I’d like to thank them for generously allowing me to use their work. Please do not copy content, including photographs, from Coming Back Home without permission.

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