What you should know about suicide in the wake of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain by Jennifer L. Lane 

posted in: Uncategorized | 24

Losing my youngest brother to suicide eight years ago changed my life forever. I know things now that I could never have known if I hadn’t experienced this terrible loss.

HERE’S WHAT I THINK YOU NEED TO KNOW.

1.  YOU’LL NEVER KNOW WHY, AND NOTHING GOOD COMES FROM SPECULATING.

One of the most frustrating things about losing a loved one to suicide is the unanswered questions. Even whenever a note has been left behind, that note will never answer completely answer the question of why. The note might give you some idea to what they were thinking, but you can’t assume they are they are sharing what they were truly thinking in their note. Their last thoughts were likely so untethered that they themselves might not know why they are making this bad decision.

When famous people end their life, there is a temptation to try to answer why. It isn’t helpful to the family grieving or to your own mental health to try to pin an answer to something like fame or true happiness.

2. YOU NEED TO EXAMINE YOUR MOTIVATIONS FOR WANTING ANSWERS.

Everyone wants details. The story is sensationalized. Why do we want to know?

Would you have listened to a podcast interview with Kate Spade last week? Would you have watched another rerun of Anthony Bourdain before this?

The details of their life go from mildly interesting to must-know the instant the news breaks of their death.

My suspicion is that you want to know details because you think you can isolate yourself from this kind of loss. You want to make sure you or your loved ones aren’t headed down a path that could end in suicide. The truth is you cannot isolate yourself from suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

This fear is why people love to blame famous people’s suicides on fame. When you aren’t famous, you don’t have fame as a danger in your life.

Do you want to know because you genuinely care about the family affected? Do you want to know out of morbid curiosity? Do you want to know to reassure yourself that you are safe from this type of threat? 

3. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE FAMILY IS GOING THROUGH.

After living through the loss of my brother, I now know that it was impossible to imagine or explain the depth of emotions to someone else that comes when you have lost a loved one to suicide. I had experienced a near-fatal suicide attempt of another loved one previously, and it in no way compared or prepared me for the blow of actually losing my brother. The sudden loss is so beyond heartbreaking. I can try to describe some of the feelings that are unique to suicide loss, but even knowing these facts will not help you to imagine the loss. 

Suicide comes with a rejection that isn’t present in other deaths. When a loved one dies from cancer or an accident, you can know that they did not decide they wanted to never see you again.

Suicide comes with anger. With other deaths you can be angry at a disease, circumstance, or murderer. In suicide, your loved one is their own murderer. I was incredibly angry with my brother for years. I had to navigate grief and forgiveness at the same time.

Suicide comes with uncertainty. Not only do you have to come to acceptance of your loved one’s death, you also have to come to a place of acceptance of not having answers. 

Suicide comes with guilt. No matter how your relationship was with your lost loved one before their death, you will inevitably feel as though the loss is your fault. It is not your fault. It will take years to accept that the blame for the loss cannot be laid at your feet.

4. LOSS BECAUSE OF SUICIDE CAN TAKE A LONG TIME TO GRIEVE.

Because of the added stress, feelings to process, and stigma, grieving suicide can take much longer than typical periods of grief (as if typical exists.) The closer that a person was to the lost loved one can make the amount of time to grieve longer as well. Do not expect someone to be done grieving a suicide loss in a year, two years, or even five years. It would be better to see the grieving as a process that never ends during their lifetime.

5. LOSING A LOVED ONE TO SUICIDE MAKES YOU MORE LIKELY TO TAKE YOUR OWN LIFE.

This fact may contribute to the feelings many people have that make them want to isolate from suicide loss or reassure themselves that they are not at risk. You need to be aware of the statistic so you can be proactive. If you’ve lost a loved one to suicide, you will need to take your mental health very seriously for the rest of your life. Keeping your mental health in a good place is extremely important. 

If you have a friend, family member, or church member who has lost a loved one to suicide, it is important that you remain proactive in showing love and care towards them. Remember that it takes years to grieve this loss, and you will need to show support throughout the whole grieving process. You don’t have to have the right words, just show up for them and remind them that you care about them and their grief. Check in often, and make sure they are caring for themselves.

 6. CELEBRITY SUICIDES BRING UP FEELINGS OF LOSS FOR SURVIVORS OF SUICIDE.

I remember exactly where I was when I found out about Robin Williams’s suicide. I will remember where I was when I read about Kate and Anthony as well. It isn’t because I’m a huge fan of their work. It is because feelings resurface. It is impossible to not think of my brother. Those feelings linked to his death rise to the surface. Guilt, anger, uncertainty, and rejection have to be processed again. I’ve gotten good at calming these feelings over the years, but I still have to go through the thoughts: It is not my fault. I forgive him. I will never know why. He loved me.

*Jennifer L. Lane is a writer, podcaster, and mom with a missionary heart. She has blogged at jenniferllane.com for four years, not shying away from difficult subjects like mental illness and the church. Jennifer is passionate about the Great Commission, loving her husband, and loving her four great kids. She resides in Amarillo, Texas, where her husband James serves as minister of media at Citychurch.

24 Responses

  1. Barbara
    | Reply

    Reading this was very helpful. My daughter lost her 14 year old only child, and my only granddaughter, in March 2016. Some in our circle of family and friends have been slow to recognize that this grief is a lifelong process.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      I am sorry for the loss of your precious granddaughter. Lack of understanding can cause such hurt. I’m glad my words were helpful to you.

  2. Patti Dille
    | Reply

    Thank you Jennifer for sharing your thoughts. I do agree with all that you said. I too am a suicide loss survivor. I lost my son, Matt on 9-26-14. He was 17 years old. I am sorry to hear of the loss of your brother.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      I’m sorry so for the loss of your son. That loss may still feel so fresh almost four years later, but healing and processing grief takes time. Thank you for commenting.

  3. Sandra Y. Erdle
    | Reply

    Well said Jennifer – thanks. So true about celebrity suicides bringing up feelings of loss, and sometimes tossing us right back to those dark days. Hearing about Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade and others took me to a very emotional place and I was grieving my husband’s loss again. Sigh. It is a process, a long one. Be well.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      I’m sorry for the loss of your husband. It is a process, and I’ve had to learn emotions can’t be ignored. May you be well also!

  4. Denise Hairfield
    | Reply

    Jennifer I personally wish to thank you for sharing this piece. I have trouble finding anything about sibling suicide loss. I to lost my brother 2 years 6 months 9 days 11 hours and counting . I was able to relate closely to what you wrote. I sorry for your loss and again thank you for sharing.

    Denise Hairfield

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      Thank you for commenting, Denise. I am so sorry for your loss of your brother. There are so many ways that losing my brother has affected every part of my life even though I had left home 14 years earlier and had started my own family. Even eight years later, I am still working through those emotions and thoughts. Continue to pursue healing. It is worth it.

  5. Lynne
    | Reply

    Really great job of capturing what we as survivors have to endure. Thank you.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      Thank you, Lynne. I appreciate your words of encouragement.

  6. Ruby Luster
    | Reply

    My name is Ruby and I live in Amarillo Tx.. my husband committed suicide , we have 8 kids together and 6 grandkids, he has been in rehabs for alcoholism, I have really bad days because I will never know why and I blame myself.. no much to put into words.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      Hi Ruby! I also live in Amarillo (and I have a niece named Ruby!) I am so, so sorry for the loss of your husband. That is a big loss, and you have a big family who probably is depending on you while you navigate your grief. That is hard. It is very common to feel guilt over this type of loss. No matter the circumstances, it is absolutely not your fault. I went through a 6-week course for survivors of suicide after losing my brother, and sharing my story with that group was so good for me. They also shared resources like journaling, and we had a ceremony at the end of our class to remember our loved one. I would encourage you to reach out to The Hope and Healing Place for an SOS Survivors of Suicide group. The class I joined was free. http://www.hopeandhealingplace.org/support-groups.html

      Thank you for commenting. I am praying for you.

  7. Deb Adams
    | Reply

    So true your words. Nearly 43 years since my own dad’s suicide. No words to express how it still feels. No one in the family talks about it. It was not allowed. After all of these years no one wants to hear of the grief and sorrow.
    Thank you for your words. A survivor.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      Thank you, Deb. I appreciate your encouragement. I am sorry for the loss of your father. I know you still feel that loss so deeply. I would encourage you to find someone to talk to. Even if your family isn’t a safe place to express feelings, there are people who will listen. I’m praying you will find that.

  8. Randee Tucker
    | Reply

    I recently lost my husband of 25 + years, 20 days ago. I needed this. Thank you.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      I am so sorry, Randee. This loss is so fresh. I know you are deep in those early stages of grief, and I am praying comfort for you.

  9. Kelley
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing. It’s always helpful to hear messages on coping with the devastation of suicide loss. The “why’s” that will never be answered and the motivation to examine other suicides (for me, seeking answers through other suicides). It’s an endless search for peace. So very painful. Wishing you peacefulness.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      I appreciate your encouragement, Kelley. I understand trying to find peace where it can’t be found – reasoning and examining. I do that all the time. May both we seek peace in a better place, a place where it can be found.

  10. Molly
    | Reply

    I lost my brother to suicide October 2017. I’ve never been angry. I’ve been so sad that we didn’t recognize his dispair. How could just one of us not have known the depth of his depression. I have to focus o his eternal spirit.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      I’m sorry for your loss, Molly. I’ve asked those same questions. I agree with you; focusing on the eternal is far better than getting lost in questions without answers. Thank you for commenting.

  11. Gracie
    | Reply

    I just lost my sister to suicide June 27th. I felt this was so different from other losses, your words brought clarity to my feelings. Thank you.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      What a compliment to say I helped you realize what you were feeling. I’m so glad my article was helpful. I am sorry for the loss of your sister. It is such a recent loss. I know you are hurting. I hope you will be able to give yourself kindness as you grieve, knowing this loss is very different from other losses you might have experienced.

  12. Carol
    | Reply

    I miss Jeffrey every day and I battle with guilt. This was very well written, thank you my sweet daughter. ❤️

  13. G
    | Reply

    Thank you so much -I lost my husband in April. Every day, all day long I ask why, what could I have done and why didn’t you say something to me. Your words have helped more than you know. I so wish I could have stopped him – and now I know I always will.

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