books (2)Dear Michael:

I am a 49-year-old bisexual woman whose 17-year-old son just killed himself.

I still can’t believe it. My husband, my girlfriend and I are all in shock; we didn’t see it coming.

He was my youngest child and I thought he was doing so well. He seemed okay with my husband (his Dad), my girlfriend and all that, but maybe this pushed him over the edge and he just felt like he couldn’t tell us how he really felt about having a bisexual mom with a girlfriend AND a husband.

I can’t let go of the guilt, and what do I do with all this grief?

Can’t let it go


Dear Ms. Can’t:

A former client of mine, whose adult son killed himself, told me, “I wanted to die too, I never thought I could survive the death of one of my children.”

How do you work your way through such a deep and profound loss and the grief that inevitably follows?

First of all, give yourself permission to feel your feelings: anger, grief, shock, guilt, helplessness and/or despair. There’s no way around them. You can avoid them for a while, but, eventually, you have to go through them.

At a time like this, there are no right or wrong feelings. Feeling sorry for yourself is natural. Grief and regret are normal, healthy responses to your situation.

When I worked at San Diego Hospice, almost every family I worked with felt regret when a loved one died. I typically heard, “I wish I had done more/been nicer/loved her more/not yelled at him that time” or some version of that.

Your guilt seems based on your bisexuality and your relationship with your husband and your girlfriend. While this is a normal concern, isn’t it possible that none of this played a role in his suicide? Could it even be possible that your (bisexual) relationships brought joy into his life? Maybe his life was greatly enriched by you, your girlfriend and his father? Why assume that any of you contributed to his suicide?

Please don’t jump to conclusions.

When a loved one kills himself, rather than admit to helplessness, we often look for somebody to blame.

Enlightened people tend to blame themselves; less enlightened people may blame others.

Regardless, blaming anyone is useless. It is more helpful to admit we don’t know why he did it, we wished we could have stopped it, but it happened and now we are grieving, puzzled, confused, angry and helpless.

An unexpected suicide, especially when it’s your child, shakes you to your very core. The pain generated is almost unimaginable. To help yourself cope, I highly recommend the books “When Goodbye is Forever: learning to live again after the loss of a child” by John Bramblett, and “Finding Peace through Pain” by Antoinette Bosco (a mother whose son killed himself).

It’s crucial that you reach out for help; don’t deal with this alone. Turn to your husband, your girlfriend, loved ones, colleagues and anyone who loves and cares about you. Don’t try to tough it out. Admit to those close to you that your heart is broken and ask for help as you put yourself back together.

Many San Diego area Hospices have bereavement departments, offering both individual and group therapy. You can also search on the internet for a psychotherapist who specializes in grief counseling. A therapist or group can help you sort out your losses,

Don’t be surprised to find yourself ashamed when you start to feel better. One of my clients told me she felt “awful” when she found her sense of humor returning after the death of her daughter. She thought it inappropriate to enjoy one bit of her life while she was grieving.

Most of us heal slowly, piece-by-piece, and some days we find more joy and peace than others. To allay your guilt, ask yourself, “What would my son want me to do now?” It is unlikely he would want you to be miserable forever. It’s much more likely he would want you to remember him AND to move on with your own life, carrying him in your heart, taking the gifts that he gave you and giving them to others.

This is the “Other Side” of our grief: the deceased lives on through us, in our kindness, compassion, joy and wisdom. You’ll never be the same person again, that’s for sure. Perhaps you’ll find yourself becoming just the kind of person your son would be proud of. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Please contact me through this website if I can be of assistance to you.