What I’ve Learned About Suicide (for Simone)

I’ve learned that doctors are trying to develop a predictive tool that could warn of a patient’s risk of suicide.

“We can identify those individuals with highest risk for potential suicide, but we can’t identify those who will commit suicide in the near future.  In part, this is because the duration between the suicidal thought and attempt is usually only about 10 minutes,” said Dr. Igor Galynker, MD, PhD.

Suicide risk factors include psychiatric disorders, chronic physical illness, suicidal ideation, a history of suicide attempts, and poor social supports.

Galynker contends that the suicidal act itself is not a thinking process. Rather, it is an affective state.

In their clinical work, Galynker’s team has identified repeated themes.  These include fear of entrapment and distorted and confused thinking. They also identified a distinct psychopathologic state or syndrome related to panic and psychosis.

Galynker and his coauthors describe the state as being “marked by ‘ruminative flooding’ (a confusing, uncontrollable and overwhelming profusion of negative thoughts) coupled with an acute ‘frantic hopelessness,’ in which not only is there a fatalistic conviction that life cannot improve, but also an oppressive sense of entrapment and imminent doom.”

All of this builds to an intolerable, confused state in which patients feel that suicidal action is the only conceivable route of escape.

I don’t know how effectively anyone can use this information but I know it is helpful to me. It may help you too, if you have lost a loved one to suicide.

While I was stuck in a dark well of misery, I blamed Max’s girlfriend for his decision to end his life. Even though he explained in a message he left that he couldn’t stand the chronic pain of his injuries and the complications that developed.

I blamed her and wanted her to suffer. I wrote about her here and demonized her without mercy.

Not too long ago, I realized how badly I had wronged her. I asked if she could forgive me.

Max loved her and felt their love was a kind of miracle. She loved him back and got this tattoo as a symbol of their love.

She loved him but couldn’t save him, just as I couldn’t save him. He would not be saved.

The other day, I confided to her that I don’t understand those mothers who go on after their child’s suicide and proceed to live a life as if it was just some chapter in their past. I cited Gloria Vanderbilt, whose son jumped out a window, right in front of her.

She agreed and suggested  that Gloria Vanderbilt had simply managed to stay distracted.   I said, “What, for sixty years?!” and she answered, “Yes.”

I think this is a piece of wisdom I couldn’t have found on my own.

I wish I could change so many things but of course I can’t. One thing I can do is apologize to Simone, and I’m doing it  publicly.   I’m sorry for hurting you. We are in this together, after all.   xo

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42 Responses to What I’ve Learned About Suicide (for Simone)

  1. sharnek says:

    This post has left me speachless.

    Thank you for your honesty.

    S x

  2. Heidi says:

    Beautiful, Sister Wolf.

    I think I’m almost past blaming my sister for contributing to the desperate state that led my father to shoot himself in the head, but I still have dreams of the conflict.

    What you have posted will be helpful, because ultimately I know the decision to take ones life is not influenced by another person. I suppose in times of pain it’s comforting to look at tangible reasons, though, which is why we may continue to struggle with these impulses to blame.

    Glad you’re back in touch with Max’s beloved.

  3. JK says:

    I dunno Sister.

    “She agreed and suggested that Gloria Vanderbilt had simply managed to stay distracted. I said, “What, for sixty years?!” and she answered, “Yes.”

    My Mum speaks of her [my sister] in both the past and present tense. Mum’s about to go visit her kids out in Austin and somehow “seems” to speak of her in the future tense. Don’t know if what I think makes much sense here, but I think you and Mum have a thing in common – Mum after the shock somehow seems to’ve adjusted something or other in her psyche that she’s always present. Of course that’s specific in my personal experience with Mum.

    As for Gloria Vanderbilt – isn’t she Anderson Cooper’s Mum?

    But I do think SW, what you’ve posted here can only be from a very thoughtful lady. But I realize too, that “thoughtfulness” wasn’t the result of something without a cost. You may have some difficulty understanding what/how Mum a few years ago explained to me however she managed to get to where she is – her precise explanation to me was:

    “I took my daughter off layaway.”

    I don’t know your foreign readers’ll get my drift – don’t know I have absorbed it in it’s entirety – but that’s what she said and it’s seemed better for her since.

  4. sharnek says:

    Speechless, not speachless….

    Speechless in a way that is humbling. I know of so few people who can be so openly honest.

    I hope I have the strength to but right some of my wrongs.

    S x

  5. Oh my! Well I’m so glad you’ve sorted it out. That you’ve both resolved the conflict that so easily happens after such a traumatic event. And understandably so. To be angry is part of the process but after anger and shock then you have to rebuild the normality.

    I think the piece you posted is very helpful and useful.

    And the fact you explained what happened, how and why you lashed out – how you have moved on. Very brave, very hard and very honest.


  6. liz says:

    this was enlightening, beautiful.

    Distraction is key, as long as you’re not avoiding. Avoiding in my experience leads to things getting out of control emotionally, it has to be a fine balance

  7. Simone says:

    Thank you. It means so much to me, there aren’t words…

  8. purpleafricanprincess says:

    Wow- your honesty and corage are encouraging.
    It’s amazing how God leads you down the path to these kinds of realizations and the need to ask for forgiveness. I hope you are able to forgive yourself too.
    it has given me a slight nudge to do the same to my poor, kind, loving and very supportive stepmm who i resisted for 5 years.

  9. Sheri says:

    I am very moved by this post, especially “She loved him but couldn’t save him, just as I couldn’t save him. He would not be saved.”

    This is, ultimately, the hardest part of loving someone. Your love can’t make them someone else, or heal their hurts, or even tell them what to do or what not to do.

    When you have children they start almost immediately making their way away from you. I have found that the most difficult thing for me as my sons get older is to figure out how they need me to be for them so that they can go off and find their own way in the world. Make decisions I wouldn’t make (some of which might be better decisions), and mistakes that I can see will cause them suffering and which I need to let them make. My oldest son told me once, as we were talking about this very thing, “But mom, if I don’t make these mistakes nothing will ever happen to me.”


    I am still so sorry for your loss. I grieve for you, and for Max, that he was suffering so much he couldn’t find enough to hope for. I hope that you and Simone can maybe build a relationship that will help you both.

    My best wishes to you, and congratulations on being able to move back into the light.

  10. Ann says:

    I love you and admire your courage and honesty.

  11. Juli says:

    Thank you Sister. That helped me tremendously. I’m glad to hear it helped you too.

  12. drollgirl says:

    hope you and simone patch things up.

    i tend to need to be angry at someone in life — almost all the time. of course i know this means i am angry with myself (almost all the time — lol), but i guess the game is fun for me to play. i don’t know. sigh.

    hope all is well. hugs to you if you want ’em.

  13. Sister Wolf says:

    Simone – Thank you for allowing me to make amends. This is not about my courage, I hope you know that. It’s about the blessing of your forgiving heart.

    Heidi – Oh Heidi, I’m so sorry about your father and what you have to struggle with. I hope he will come to you in your dreams without conflict, just to be with you.

  14. lisa says:

    Brings tears to my eyes that you can both share in your grief together now. You must both have been feeling that you were alone with the pain and hurt. Opening yourself up to others can sometimes be the hardest thing. Im so happy that you have come to realise that you have been standing next to each other the whole time, just looking in the wrong direction. Bless

  15. Elaine says:

    This was beautiful.
    Last week I thought about ending my life seriously enough that the keys of the car were in my hands but thank god my friend picked up the phone.
    Despite how horrible I feel about the world and how hopeless I feel at times, I cannot bear to hurt my family and friends in that way. It has always stopped me but last week it got to the point where I did not care. Thinking about suicide has always scared me.
    You posted a while back a poster that said Keep Calm We Need You. I remember it always.

  16. Sister Wolf says:

    Elaine – We do need you. I will send you my phone number and you can call me if you ever need to be talked down again. There is always room for hope, even if you can’t see it. Your comments have always made me feel that In Real Life we would be friends. So don’t leave me. xo

  17. Beannie71 says:

    So honest. Well done.

  18. annemarie says:

    Love is a great healer, even for wounds that are un-healable. I hope I don’t sound like an airhead for saying that. This is a beautiful post.

  19. Cricket9 says:

    Your post blew my socks off. I’m so proud of both of you! The ability to admit a mistake and ask for forgiveness, and the ability to forgive are so rare. I’m happy that you were able to reconnect, and I hope that your burden is a bit lighter now.
    I also would like to apologize to Simone, for thinking no-so-kind thoughts about her at the time.

  20. Elaine says:

    Sister Wolf,
    I am deeply touched by your offer but I prefer the internet to remain my other life. I don’t want to leave before my time is up so fear not I will be around as long as possible. I love coming here for your writing and it keeps me hopeful that there are sane people in the world. Please never stop!
    Sending you love xx

  21. Patricia says:

    It breaks my heart every time I read anything about Max in your blog. I wish I could just hug you!

  22. Andra says:

    You are my rock.

  23. Dru says:

    I wish I could give you a hug now, Sister. And I hope you feel at least a little bit better, you and Simone both.

  24. Dru says:

    And like Crocket9, I would also like to apologise to Simone for any unkind things I might have said about her at the time.

  25. Heidi says:

    Thank you, Sister, and everybody else who have written such excellent responses. This is a very intelligent crowd!

  26. Ann says:

    I’m with Dru and Cricket9 on the Simone apology.

  27. WendyB says:

    Beautifully honest. I hope you two provide some consolation to each other.

  28. J.Mill says:

    That was beautiful. And big of you. Apologies may be the 2nd hardest thing to do.

  29. Leanne says:

    This was so powerful to read. I’m awed by your humility. Best wishes to both you and to Simone.

  30. You are healing mommy. I love you xoxoxo

  31. Hammie says:

    I’m so glad that you’ve reached a level of peace with this. A level. I know it will never ever stop hurting.
    Now Sister, as you know I am a social entrepreneur and my network includes a number of suicide counselling, prevention and crisis support projects. In their communication, none of them have ever isolated that feeling of entrapment that occurs just before the act. But they know that many of those considering suicide will go online to research how – before taking their lives.
    You could use your powers of the Internet to link to all the crisis centres where you can go, where someone will hold your hand and pull you out of the dark place, tell you that you are not trapped and there is always another way.
    When someone googles that word they might find you- and a way out.


  32. Stephanie says:

    Congratulations Darlin’.
    Huge step.
    You two should snap a photo of the 2 Max tattoos
    And maybe come see me together for your touch-ups
    on your memorials to Max?
    Inky best,

  33. kt says:

    Hurt and anger are so powerful. So are shifts in perspective and forgiveness. Your breakthrough here is amazing and I hope you are feeling progressively more encouraged.

    I have struggled with my concept of self worth since I was a child that left me fairly emotionally isolated. I had more recently been in a long term volatile and abusive relationship. The day I felt nearly driven to relieve myself of the misery by ending my life, was beyond a rude awakening. The amount of anguish and sorrow that I had been internalizing, was becoming so burdensome. It’s such an indescribable isolating and alienating feeling. Thankfully, I have become encouraged in different ways (namely spiritual) that have granted me perspective that has been liberating. My heart grows very heavy and breaks when I imagine the kind of pain one feels that drives them to the point of suicide, understanding the clawing desperation in that desire for liberation.

  34. Sam says:

    Nice one x

  35. CNM says:

    I love you. I admire you because you are brave and strong and honest and cut through the crap. And you still come out on the other side with love.

  36. Aja says:

    I’m glad that you were both able to talk. Grief is so very hard. But you’re right, you’re in it together.

  37. I think what Hammie said is true – you can do it xx

  38. finally someone says that the period of time between suicidal thoughts and committing suicide is only about 10 minutes — this is something I’ve known for years but that almost nobody else seems to get.

    keeping distracted is definitely the best way to deal with negative thoughts that relate to anxiety, so maybe it’s the best way to deal with grief as well. either way, I hope both of you are able to find some peace eventually.

  39. Jaimi says:

    This is so beautiful.

  40. jane says:

    God I came to this site to read about Daphne Guinness & look where I ended up.

    My brother & only sibling killed himself this summer. I still blame myself, and am demonizing myself without mercy because there is no one else- as nonsensical as that is. I have forgiven him, as I know his suffering was so great that to leave this world was a small mercy. I know that when he died it was not his sickness that made that choice, but a rational part of him making an informed choice, as he knew his options here on earth were grim.

    We (in Canada anyways) are considering legalizing euthanasia for the horrific and torturous illnesses that can’t be cured, but not for illness of the mind. Someone pointed out to me that since we do not institutionalize the mentally ill anymore, that there are no (or very few) elderly schizophrenics….

    I hope if I read enough about other people getting through, it will help. Again, thank you for your honesty and for sharing this part of yourself. As a mother, I can only say your forgiveness is inspirational and so full of love. I am so sorry for your loss.

  41. Sister Wolf says:

    jane – I can’t remember if I wrote to you or not…I am increasingly senile. I’m so sorry about your brother. You must miss him terribly. Sending you blessings and love, xoxoxo

  42. Sally says:

    Dear Sisterwolf. I have been reading your blog for so long, your humour and eloquence have provided laughs and food for thought. Three weeks ago my husband and I lost a dear friend, he took his own life. It is the first significant person we have loved and lost in this way. It’s as though there is death and death by suicide. I have come to your posts about your beloved son Max for comfort for information. I have passed on this post about Galynker’s research. It is so helpful. Thank you. Feels as though we will never “get over” this and I can’t imagine what it must be like for his family. Likewise for you and yours but I think I get it. I wish it didn’t take experiencing such a thing personally to really understand. Can more education about this really help prevent I wonder.

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