At first, I thought it was a choice. Those who do see it as a choice, take it personally when someone suicides. And when you look at it from that simplistic point of view, that can seem like a betrayal of our love.
Part of my grief meant educating myself about suicide. To take it apart piece by piece, throw away the myths, and really understand it. In that journey, I also needed to understand depression and addiction and how all of it fit together. As I read my son’s lyrics, I saw page after page about how much he hurt, how he thought he had let us down. Those words, such a gift, hurt so much to read right after he died I could only take in one song per day. Other days, I wasn’t up to it and granted myself the grace for a reprieve.
Experts define that word “choice” as it relates to suicide as “perceived intentionality.” There are people who have perhaps made suicide a choice. Years of suffering has worn them down. But for most, I believe they are driven to it by forces within their head at that moment in time, which is not within their control. It seems to me it becomes a contest where the person is calculating whether they can stand on that bed of nails barefoot and how long they can endure it.
Suicide is pain that has reached a point when a person feels their capacity to endure the pain outweighs the amount of time they can wait for relief. At that same moment, they have access to the means to end their life.
Those who are in the throes of suicidal thinking are not in a state of mind that allows them to make an informed decision. At that moment they can’t see rational choices but only black and white–stop the pain or don’t stop the pain.
It took me years to understand my son’s suicide. And educating myself was one of the greatest gifts I could have pursued. So if you were to ask me, “Did your son choose to die?” I’d say no, he didn’t. He did kill himself but I know now he didn’t want to die. And there is both joy and pain in knowing that.