Dear Annie: I lost my beloved father to suicide on Oct. 23, 1997, making me a suicide survivor, which means someone who has lost a loved one to suicide. My father was on his second bout of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and he didn’t leave a note. Most do not.
I was desperate for guidance after he died and found much assistance from the sites you recommended to one of your readers who was in a similar situation.
The letter was ABSOLUTELY correct in saying no one can cause another person to take his/her own life. That action lies solely with the person in pain. While initially I blamed myself as one of the reasons for his suicide, I learned rather quickly that that burden was not mine to bear.
Besides the sites noted in the resources letter, I recommend to anyone who experiences a suicide loss to seek therapy quickly. I started with one-on-one counseling, and when my therapist thought I was ready, he helped me locate a grief support group AND a suicide survivors group.
All of these resources were most helpful to me, and I still occasionally see a therapist when milestone anniversaries roll around. You NEVER get over a suicide death, but you DO learn effective ways to cope as time passes.
Besides the aforementioned websites, there were two books that gave me great insight as well as initial coping strategies: My Son … My Son … by Iris Bolton and No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One by Carla Fine.
On the anniversary of my father’s suicide, I went to the cemetery where he is buried along with his best friend. We shared a Coors Light — his favorite — with Daddy by drinking ours and pouring his beer at the head of his grave. I KNOW Daddy would like that, as it reflects his sense of humor.
— Better Now in Bama
Dear Better Now in Bama: I am so sorry for your loss. There are no words. Thank you for sharing your experience, and I hope it brings others comfort knowing they are not alone.
Santa Barbara County Resources
Click here for suicide prevention resources that are available 24/7.
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Dear Annie: I read the two letters from readers who were concerned about potluck meals and allergies. I’m not a meat eater. When people ask, “What exactly do you mean?” I tell them that I don’t eat anything that can act on its own volition. Some people laugh; some nod. It usually takes care of people who want me to eat seafood as well.
It’s frustrating, though, to go to family gatherings and be told I can eat chicken because it’s white meat or fish because I guess, somehow, fish is not “meat” in their thinking.
I understand the religious background on eating fish instead of red meat.
Other times there are chips, potatoes, a salad of some sort that can be my meal, I am told.
I deal with this by eating in advance and snacking on the side dish. It’s worked for me!
— Nothing With Eyes, Please
Dear Nothing with Eyes: Thank you for your letter. Eating in advance and snacking on a side dish sounds like a good solution.
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— A native Californian, Annie Lane writes her Dear Annie advice columns from her home outside New York City, where she lives with her husband, two kids and two dogs. Her latest anthology, How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?, features favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation, and is available as a paperback and e-book. Email your Dear Annie questions to email@example.com. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.