DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: When I was about to graduate college, my grandfather committed suicide. He had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and couldn’t face what his last few months would be.
At the time, his suicide was much more devastating to our family than his diagnosis had been. My mother took it especially hard, thinking she could have and should have done something to prevent it.
Last month, the mother of a good friend of mine took her own life. She had a history of severe depression and some personal circumstances pushed her over the edge. She left a letter asking her family to forgive her and not blame themselves. She said she had thought about doing this many times over the years and was just waiting for her family to be grown-up and living their own lives to act on it.
My friend is now deeply depressed. Like my mother, she said she should have seen it coming and done something. She is supposed to be getting married in the fall, and now is thinking she ought to delay the wedding, which I believe would be a mistake.
I’ve tried to console and counsel her, since I too had to face having a loved one kill themselves, but she keeps telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about. A grandfather isn’t a mother. An old sick man isn’t a healthy middle-aged woman. When I gently reminded her her mother wasn’t entirely healthy, she just got madder at me.
I know I can help my friend, but at this point I don’t know how. Everything I say seems to just make her madder and sadder. What else can I do? --- NEED TO HELP MY FRIEND
DEAR NEED TO HELP MY FRIEND: For now, rather than trying to treat her, you should just be her friend. Listen to what she has to say and be as available as possible to her when she wants to talk to you. By keeping close, you can better be on the lookout for signs of worsening depression.
If you see any, you should alert someone else in her family and/or circle of close friends. Together or individually, in addition to being there for her, you might convince her to seek professional grief counseling or other behavioral health services.