Monday, July 31, 2017

In Grief: When A Loved One Shares Thoughts of Suicide

[Reviewed and updated February 23, 2023]

When a person says that he or she is thinking about suicide, you must always take the comments seriously. Assuming that the person is only seeking attention is a very serious, and potentially disastrous, error.  ~ Kevin Caruso

A reader writes: I just had a conversation with my father who is constantly talking suicide. He even gave me a date of his death - my mother's birthday. It is his revenge to everyone - mostly to mom who left because of his drinking and adultery. What am I supposed to tell him? My heart breaks, especially because I am here in this country, and my father is far away overseas. So I would not be able to even attend his funeral, as horrible as it sounds. Can you advise me on how I can cope?

My response: My friend, it seems to me that your father is sending some very clear signals that should not be ignored (see Risk Factors and Warning Signs). When we see someone exhibiting such signs, it’s important to take them seriously, and to do whatever we can to help. People who are thinking of death by suicide usually talk about it first. They are in pain and oftentimes reach out for help in this way because they’ve lost hope and don’t know what else to do.

I understand that your father is half a world away, but I want to point you to some resources that may enlighten you and give you some ideas of what you might be able to do from here. You might begin by visiting Reading Kevin Caruso’s article will help you figure out what to say to your father and how to offer him the help that he so desperately needs: How to Help A Suicidal Person.

I don’t know what country your father is in, but Kevin’s site contains a list of International Suicide Hotlines. If your father doesn’t have access to the Internet, you can give him his country’s appropriate hotline number over the phone, and encourage him to use it. You can also print out whatever articles you find and send them via land mail to your father. (See Suicide Articles and those additional resources I’ve listed on my own Grief Healing website, at Suicide Loss.) Perhaps where your father lives there is a relative, friend or neighbor nearby, whom you could call upon to act on your behalf to help your father.

Your father has not yet acted on his thoughts of suicide, and there is still time to help him. Help for your father is “out there” just waiting for you to find it, and I hope that you will think of this as helping yourself as much as it will be helping your father. As Kevin Caruso says, if your dad decides to end his pain by ending his life, he will start a world of pain for you and the other loved ones he leaves behind.

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