When a parent commits suicide

A few years back in high school I remember asking a friend how her father dies. It is only natural that when someone says so and so passed and the question would be ‘what happened”? She did not want to share what had happened and I probed, the fact that she did not want to tell me made me more curious. Highly annoyed she burst out “he committed suicide OK, he committed suicide” and she started crying. Of course I was stunned and did not know what to say afterwards. When she was calm she explained that her parents had marital problems and her father tried to shoot the mother and when he thought she was dead he turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger thus ending his life.

He did not realise that the mother was not dead, the bullet missed her. I regretted probing as that was not the answer I expected and from that day I seldom ask the cause of death.

A painful journey

Suicide must be the kind of death that’s doubly painful for children. I have met a two people whose parents committed suicide and they do not seem to have closure about what had happened. One lady feels that her father was selfish to leave them like that. He left a note but still that does not bring closure to her. During the mourning process she says her mother was the focus of all the support and they sort of had to deal with their feelings but later they went for counselling.

Death of a parent is not pleasant as sometimes you may feel that you could have done more but whenit’s suicide I can only imagine how tough it gets because you are left with a puzzle to complete especially if the parent did not leave a note. The young lady is still angry but is working through her feelings day by day but she says that this was a life changing event and one that she will never forget.

In our communities suicide is taboo and it is not something shared freely. I can imagine how painful it can be for a child having to conceal how the parent died, having to make up a story. It can be really hard for a child whose parent has committed suicide. When you are a child, your parents are always right, they are the all-knowing type that are there for you, they don't have their own life (in your eyes) and you look up to them. They are the ones that protect you when you are scared. They aren't the ones that cause you such pain as a suicide now just imagine how helpless the child is made to feel.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around one million people worldwide die from suicide every year and predictions are that by 2020 this figure is likely to escalate to approximately 1.53 million people per annum. Five times more men commit suicide than women; they generally use more lethal forms of suicide, like shooting and hanging. (source: health24).

"Let's think about the children"

I know we go through difficult life challenges as adults but I do hope that we do not see suicide as the way out. I am sure we all have the dark days but I know that we can overcome them with just one more ounce of strength, just push one more time. Let’s think of the children.

Read more by Masanda Peter

How would you deal with this kind of trauma?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24