Chapter 5: When death is from suicide


It's so difficult to not be able to give the a clear answer as to why this happened.

Suicide tends to raise many tough questions about what happened. It often leaves those left behind feeling intense emotions including guilt, anger and confusion. "Why?" is one of the most common questions for both adults and children. It’s also one of the most difficult to answer - and sometimes, there are no clear answers.

Explaining suicide

The reasons for suicide are complex. Because we don't always know what someone was thinking or going through, the why of it may never be clear. Some of these explanations may help as you talk with your children. 

  • There is no single cause of suicide. It can happen with someone feels hopeless and the suffering they are feeling overwhelms their ability to cope these feelings.
  • Some of the situations that can increase the risk for suicide include: 
    • Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders and addiction. 
    • Serious or chronic health issues. 
    • A history of trauma. 
  • Sometimes people with these problems feel a kind of pain that becomes too much to bear. 
    • This pain might be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. 
    • The pain may be so great they can't imagine ever being free of it. 
    • They may come to believe that death is the only way to stop the pain and end their suffering.
    • If someone sees no other way to stop the pain, and they have a way to end their life, they may choose to end their life so they no longer have to suffer. 
  • Be sure to tell your children that most people who are suffering don't decide to end their life. The likelihood someone will hurt themselves increases when they:
    • Feel hopeless.
    • Have a way to end their life (a gun or pills, for example).
    • Have the ability to act on these thoughts. 

Explaining depression

When depression has played a part in a death from suicide, it can be explained in this way. 

Some illnesses happen in a person’s body. Depression is an illness that happens in a person’s brain. When someone has depression, it changes the way they think. In the most severe cases, it can make them believe that life is not worth living. Depression made it hard for your mom to see that she had other choices. It can be hard for someone with depression to feel the love and support that can help them bear their suffering. Some people, like your mom, choose suicide even though they feel loved – and even though they love others, like you, very, very much. 

Let children know that:

  • Most people who experience depression don’t cause themselves to die.
  • There are many effective treatments for depression and other mental illnesses. With professional support many people with these conditions will be able to manage them and live a fulfilling life.
  • Occasionally, however, someone can be so depressed that they can no longer stand the pain. This can happen even with many people caring for them and trying to help. In such a situation, some people end their own lives.