Posts Tagged ‘parental guilt’


When my seventeen-year-old daughter Mary died by suicide in 1995,  one thought confounded me from the first: “She couldn’t take her life another day. The life that God, her father, and I gave her–that precious life–she didn’t want. So she threw it back in our faces. ” 

 Mary’s death was incomprehensible, a rejection of the values she’d grown up with not only at home but also in Catholic classrooms for almost a dozen years. 

In Grief After Suicide: Understanding the Consequences and Caring for the Survivors, researchers John Jordan and John McIntosh highlight the bewilderment of parental guilt following suicide: “It’s bad enough to lose a child . . . but the guilt [that other parents who have lost a child to some other form of death] have over not getting them to a doctor ‘soon enough,’ the guilt over not being able to protect them from cancer or drunk drivers or whatever can’t be as fundamental and soul-searing as knowing they couldn’t endure the life you gave them” (Sue Chance. Stranger than death: When Suicide Touches Your Life. New York: W.W. Norton, 1992, p. 50 as quoted in Jordan and McIntosh)

“Soul-searing” is an apt phrase; it describes the anguish better than most.

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