Helping Elder Parents Through Loss...

Updated on April 30, 2008
R.K. asks from Brook Park, OH
15 answers

Hi all--

Having problems communicating effectively with my parents after the loss of an adult child to suicide. Most talking has been stilted, and non-substantial, then things blow up. A lot of anger exists over how each adult sibling is handling the grieving process--as relations with our deceased sib varied greatly between us. Situation simmers, then blows up, then simmers some more.

Any suggestions?

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So What Happened?

My parents and sibling will be going into mediation to try to work out their communication difficulties. My house is "Switzerland"--I listen to everyone, and try to suggest alternate points of view if it seems appropriate. My parents seem to be handling things a little better--there's a lot of adjusting to do in the roles each of us play in the family right now.

More Answers



answers from Dayton on

Hi R.,

First let me say that I am so very sorry for your loss. I haven't lost anyone to suicide, but I lost both of my parents by the time I turned thirty, so I know a little about grief.

This has been my experience: grief is a very personal indvidual thing. Yes, there are stages, but how each person moves through those stages and the speed that they move through each stage and the process as a whole can be vastly different. When my mom died my sister was angry at everyone. Rather than feel guilty about her relationship with our mother she chose to be angry at me. My brother was drunk. Or high. Rather that deal with his guilt and hurt he escaped the only way he knew. I just shut down. I couldn't function. I didn't talk to any of my friends. I even withdrew from my children. I was a mommy, just not a very attentive one. It was as if all my energy was focused on pain management and getting threw another day. It took me a long time. It has taken my brother longer. It took my sister probably the least ammount of time to get to an OK place.

When you are in the throws of deep grief it is a very selfish, kind of inward turning time and a person can do very selfish things. Not because they are mean, or bad, or ugly but because they are hurting.

If you are in a better place than other people in your family I would suggest that you simply love them. Write letters, send cards make phone calls and just love them. It heals alot. There will be time to figure out what happened later, but it won't happen right now. If some family is in a better place than you or you have a group of friends that are a support system to you, let them love you. My dear friend Malic helped me through the worst part of it. She lived across the street from me and I must have been at her house every day for a while. She made me coffee, made me laugh, helped me cry and loved me.

In short the only things that help are time and love and some people take more time and love than others.

You have my heart felt sympathy and my prayers for you and your family, dear.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

Schedule a time for EVERYONE to get together and talk about it. I DEFINITLEY would make sure everyone has the opportunity to express anger issues AS WELL AS making SURE EVERYONE contributes something special they remember about him/her. Trust some point...SOMEONE will be laughing. I did this at my grandmother's funeral. Everyone loved it. We had laughter in the midst of tears and it was a great tribute to her & her memory and personality.

Even if your parents just decide not to talk and will be helpful. Talking about it helps the healing process. I know! I lost a fiance to drowing at 25 and my parents told me not to talk about it. 13 years later, I'm a type A+ work-a-holic who still cries because I missed my best friend. Not talking about it DOESNT work!

Slay your giants, make the effort to talk and you'll be amazed at how much better EVERYONE feels. There will be tears and laughter. Celebrate what you HAD!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Mobile on

Dear R.,

I am so sorry for your loss. It is very common for the family of a suicide victim to feel enormous anger. If any of your siblings or parents would be willing to talk with a professional counselor, I think it would be worth the time and money.

Are you any good at journaling? Writing about your sibling and your feelings would help you.

Be gentle with your parents they are struggling with loss, grief, shame and guilt. That's a whole lot of emotions to deal with at once. Be gentle with yourself and your other siblings as you come to terms with and heal from this tragedy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lima on

Suicide is devastating. The grieving process is unlike any other. Everyone either blames themselves or others for the loss. WHY? WHY? WHY? This question seems to reverberate through your mind endlessly. You feel more isolated than with the normal death. I suggest counseling. There's probably a support group in your area too. Time heals too. The first year was rougher with my father-in-law's suicide than any other death I have dealt with. After that things seem to settle down. God helped me deal with it. Perhaps you know him too. If not, I'd love to talk to you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I am so sorry. My dad killed himself and I know the situation is different. I can understand problems related with suicide.
I think the best way to help your parents is to love them no matter how they react. If they hurt you. Let them know and forgive them. If they blame others or themselves, focus on their pain and that your sibling made his or her own choice regardless of how great or terrible they were.
Pray for them and yourself. Seek God desperately. Ask God to heal your family. Ask Him to heal your heart too.
Just keep being honest and don't hide from the truth. If you avoid because it is uncomfortable then soon there will be no relationship at all. Just keep forgiving as people don't know how to react except out of hurt.



answers from Canton on

Hi R.,

My condolences to you and your family. I pray God gives you & your family comfort and wisdom as you deal with your loss. It is so difficult to loose someone you love so much even without having to deal with all the emotions that suicide bring about.

Perhaps at some point you could all have an informal meeting. It could be a time when you can grieve together and discuss how each of you deal with the passing and the feelings each of you have regarding the suicide. The hardest thing to do, in any situation and especially in this one, is to learn to forgive. Discuss forgiveness; forgive your loved one for choosing suicide, God for 'allowing' this to happen; forgiveness for yourself and others for not being able to prevent what happened. A very wise person once told me, "We do the best we can with what we know at the time." You and you family did the best you could with what you knew at the time. There is no fault, no blame. Remember to love each other in order to bring yourselves to healing. Remember your loved one with tenderness.

I hope this helps in some way.
L. W



answers from Indianapolis on

I lost my adult sister when she was 34. It was difficult for everyone in the family, and like yours, we all seemed to grieve in a different way. As for my parents, it was extremely difficult for them to cope. Even now (years later) it is difficult for my mother to experience the pain of losing her daughter.

Everyone grieves in a slightly different manner. Some keep things to themselves more than others. Others need to talk about the loss and remember. Grief can be especially complicated when the person commits suicide. That can leave behind feelings of guilt and resentment that are hard to reconcile. For a parent, to be guilty that they didn't raise their child, or protect them from becomming suicidal can be pretty painful. At the same time, it is quite natural to feel angry at the person who passed away. The problem is that people often feel guilty again about feeling angry. When they do they try to supress their anger, which often leads to the explosions you describe (because they can't contain it).

There isn't exactly an easy way out. It will help as people learn to talk around the loss, but that can be difficult when the entire family is involved. At those times it seems that no one has the strength to just listen and be supportive as people work through and come to terms with their feelings. You could consider family therapy. A therapist might help mediate and keep things in a place where everyone feels safe enough to move through this. Otherwise you might want to speak with one yourself, so that you can cope with your own pain in a manner that will give your siblings and parents the opportunity to do the same.

I do hope you are able to find a way to move through this in a loving manner. My heart goes out to you.




answers from Indianapolis on

I am sorry about your loss and will add you all to my prayer list.

I saw this when my uncle committed suicide with my dad and aunt trying to deal with my grandparents and actually some of us older grandchildren.

You have to be open with your parents. Sit down with them individually and talk to them calmly. You can't let your own feelings about the deceased family enter into this.

Imagine being a parent and losing one of your children this way. How would you feel??? Your parents are feeling this. Confused, angry, worried about whether or not they had been decent enough parents, blaming themselves for not seeing the problem or problems before they escalated to the point of no return. Blaming themselves for not doing something to have stopped this problem.

Tell them what good parents they have been, how no one can accept the responsiblity for this tragic event, and how if they continue to be so hard and bitter they will be pushing the rest of you away and eventually will lose you all as well. This can be done calmly on your part with no bitterness.

If you have other siblings talk to them before you divide your parents out and talk to them individually, maybe you should do it together.

Remind them you need them as much as they need you to get through this, hug them, let you know you are all suffering and closing each other out is not the way to support each other and keep the family together.

They may need grief counciling, talk to a minister or other person trained in ways to council people suffering this type of loss and get your parents to go to a meeting.

P. R



answers from Cincinnati on

First, I am very sorry for your loss. Perhaps professional counseling might be helpful. You could tell your parents that you were having a difficult time and ask them to attend with you. (This provides an "excuse" to get them there with you.) Then, maybe open the invitation to the rest of your sibs. I believe that there is a group at St. Elizabeth Medical Center that might be helpful to you and your family also.



answers from Terre Haute on

I have not gone through losing an adult child through suicide.
I did lose a baby i wanted so very badly. I also lose my first
grandchild as a baby. It hurt so very badly!!!! Time and prayer are the only things that will get you through it. You
could talk yourself blue in the face. Plan happy family things. Don't try to fix it. Talk if they want to but don't
keep bringing it up. Go on with life and plan happy family
occasions or trips. Prayer and time will ease the pain.
Love and prayers,



answers from South Bend on

I am so sorry for your loss. First your job is to listen when any loss happens. If they want to blowup, sit as calmly as you can until the rage is gone. Then you can recount the influence the deceased had on you, but it is their grieving period that has to come primarily. Each person should be allowed to express exactly how they feel without interruption from others (if at all possible) and only after they are done speaking can someone else comment. This is a long period until peace and understanding can come. Try to be nice to each other, you are all hurting.



answers from Fort Wayne on

I am so sorry for the loss your family is suffering. Grief is such a unique process to go through and often families who really mean to help each other through the process end up losing their focus and feeling like enemies in a whole different battle. My husband's brother took his life several years ago and I think suicide is the most difficult of all deaths to work through. There is an entire extra set of questions that go through your mind every day, "why did they do it," "could I have prevented it," "did I miss something," "why didn't someone see it coming," "what if they had just waited another day?" The list is as endless. Unfortunately because it is not understood by people who haven't been through it, family members often receive harsh critical words from friends and strangers. The truth is suicide is not a natural thing to do, and is a step taken in total hopelessness, despair, confusion, or illness. Your loved one didn't do it to hurt their family, and it is usually no ones fault. It is a very complicated issue that only God is capable of understanding the entirity of. I also believe that God's intention is to comfort you and your family, not burden you further, so if this means stepping away from negative people then do so. There are many good books and counselor's available to help people learn to cope with this saddness that's been dealt your family, please seek some source of guidance for yourself even if your parent's won't. The funeral director who helped with arrangements should also be able to direct you to many available grief and healing sources, please contact them. May God Bless you on your journey to healing, it is one of the hardest roads we have to travel.



answers from Cleveland on

I am so sorry for your loss! There is a group of people who meet monthly called Compassionate Friends. You can google them to locate a chapter near you. Its for parents who lost a child to anything. I also think there is a specific group for people who lost a loved one to suicide. You might want to see if your parents will go to that group meeting. Nobody makes you talk or share anything unless you want to. I went to my first meeting 8 years ago and just listened to other peoples stories about their child. Even though you "logically know" your not the only one its very difficult to not feel that your the only one who has been through this and feels like this!
I wish you all the best of luck with working through this. It never goes away it just gets easier to function!
Also I will tell you in the group that I attend now there is a 60+ y/o mom, and an 75+ who lives in a nursing home and is brought to the meetings my another member. So in case your parents say I am too old or anything like that, really its for EVERYONE who has lost a child of any age.
God Bless
Prayers and love,



answers from Fort Wayne on

Hello, I am sorry to hear first of all for your loss. It is hard when someone so young passes away. There has to be a reason and maybe that is what God had in store for him. Second the only way to get through something like this is PRAY PRAY PRAY. We lost a sister to a brain tumor, a mother and father to cancer a sister who at present has cancer and no matter what the case may be it is hard. I must say that in your case it is different than any of ours as none was suicide and I am not sure how I would react to that either. My grandson came out of the closet and said he is gay. His dad said he didn't know which would be the worse to say he was gay or had committed suicide. How tragic this has been for us. Again the only way I can see to handle this is PRAY PRAY PRAY. God has helped me through so many trials in my live and if it hadn't been for HIM i don't think I would have survived. I will keep your family in my prayers. tappy33music



answers from Indianapolis on

Your local hospital or church probably has a grieve support program, they have them at different times & days so that it works for everyone. They can give you great help in going through the process.You don't all have to go together & sometimes it's easier to talk to strangers.If your involved in church your pastor can be a great help.Sorry for your loss.

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