Suicide: I heard…

suicide-is-painless2-2Each year millions of families around the world will receive the news that their loved-one has died and under a variety of circumstances; illness from a dis-ease, accidents, fires, murder, war, natural disasters and natural death. Somehow, someway and someday families will learn to live with that loss and hopefully make peace moving forward.

For a family who grieve the loss of a loved one who has taken their own life, there is no way to comprehend; “the action of killing oneself intentionally.” In the absence of a suicide note of explanation, families are left bereft in their search for answers.  The pain of loss compounded by the excruciating guilt that we the wider family circle somehow contributed to the death; “not being there for them when they needed us,”   “I should have’s and could have’s in abundance…..”

Not only do families suffer the loss, they also suffer the stigma associated with suicide, the inside and outside of the family speculation of what happened, how, where, who was there, who found them, why, the intense emotions of pain, guilt, anger, hurt, and associated gossip, the family stunned as they try and mentally accept that our loved one “actually killed themselves.”

Suicide: I heard…

“I heard he was depressed for years.”

“I heard she tried to COMMIT suicide a few times, this time it worked.”

“I heard it was in the family, the family are a bit funny/crazy, weird, mental health problems run in the family.”

“I heard he had major financial problems and he couldn’t handle the guilt and shame of losing everything.”

“I heard he/she was an alcoholic, he/she crashed the car killed a child and couldn’t live with the guilt.”

“I heard he/she was estranged from his family for years.”

“I heard he was to proud to come home, was homeless for years.”

“I heard he/she was being abused for years and just could take it anymore.” 

“I heard he/she wouldn’t let them out of their marriage.”

“I heard he was never the same after he lost his job, he worked for that company for 35 years.”

“I heard, he/she never got over the separation and then the divorce.”

“I heard she/he drank himself to death.”

“I heard it was drugs.”

“I heard he/she was being bullied.”

“I heard he/her parents put extreme pressure on him/her to do well at school, college, work.”

“I heard that he/she was gay and couldn’t live a lie.”

“I heard that his disease was incurable and that he just decided to go sooner rather than later.”

“I heard that he could never accept his losing his legs.”

“I heard he couldn’t live after the trauma and PTSD having serving in the army.”


(Source: World Health Organization WHO)

Suicide through the ages

In general, the pagan world, both Roman and Greek, had a relaxed attitude towards the concept of suicide.

In Rome, suicide was never a general offense in law, though the whole approach to the question was essentially pragmatic.

The Romans, however, fully approved of what might be termed “patriotic suicide”; death, in other words, as an alternative to dishonor.

Attitudes towards suicide slowly began to shift during the RenaissanceThomas More the English humanist, wrote in Utopia (1516) that a person afflicted with disease can “free himself from this bitter life…since by death he will put an end not to enjoyment but to torture…it will be a pious and holy action”. John Donne‘s work Biathanatos, contained one of the first modern defences of suicide bringing proof from the conduct of Biblical figures, such as JesusSamson and Saul, and presenting arguments on grounds of reason and nature to sanction suicide in certain circumstances.[4]

In the Middle Ages, the Christian church excommunicated people who attempted suicide and those who died by suicide were buried outside consecrated graveyards. A criminal ordinance issued by Louis XIV of France in 1670 was far more severe in its punishment: the dead person’s body was drawn through the streets, face down, and then hung or thrown on a garbage heap. Additionally, all of the person’s property was confiscated.

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, loopholes were invented to avoid the damnation that was promised by most Christian doctrine as a penalty of suicide. One famous example of someone who wished to end their life but avoid the eternity in hell was Christina Johansdotter (died 1740). She was a Swedish murderer who killed a child in Stockholm with the sole purpose of being executed. She is an example of those who seek suicide through execution by committing a murder.[5]

The secularisation of society that began during The Enlightenment questioned traditional religious attitudes toward suicide to eventually form the modern perspective on the issue. David Hume denied that suicide was a crime as it affected no one and was potentially to the advantage of the individual. In his 1777 Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul he rhetorically asked, “Why should I prolong a miserable existence, because of some frivolous advantage which the public may perhaps receive from me?”[4] A shift in public opinion at large can also be discerned; The Times in 1786 initiated a spirited debate on the motion “Is suicide an act of courage?”[6]

By 1879, English law began to distinguish between suicide and homicide, although suicide still resulted in forfeiture of estate.[8] In 1882, the deceased were permitted daylight burial in England[9] and by the mid 20th century, suicide had become legal in much of the western world.

By the 19th-century, the act of suicide had shifted from being viewed as caused by sin to being caused by insanity in Europe.[3] Although suicide remained illegal during this period, it increasingly became the target of satirical comment, such as the spoof advertisement in the 1839 Bentley’s Miscellany for a London Suicide Company or the Gilbert and Sullivan musical The Mikado that satirised the idea of executing someone who had already killed himself.[7]

Source: Wikipedia

Coping with Suicide

I live in a society that accepts death from disease e.g. cancers, heart disease as somehow an affliction of which the individual has no control over….we as a society comfort and the families of the alcoholic, cancer patient, heart attack/stroke victim, we pay our respects,  we try if we can to share their burden of grief.

I also live in a society that reacts to suicide based on beliefs developed and personal experience.

Behind closed doors

The Unsympathetic say

  • It’s a mortal sin, they will be condemned to the fires of Hell..
  • They are Cowards
  • They took the easy way out
  • They are so selfish, we all have to get out of our own problems, look what he did to his poor wife, children, selfish and cowardly act by a coward.
  • They destroy families, they shouldn’t have done this to me/us….
  • How could they do that to their poor families.
  • Good riddens, he tortured his family with his depression for years… (This type of person may be a narcissist who feels little to no emotion).

The unsympathetic person believes that there is nothing and no-one; “that broken, that they cannot be fixed.” To quit life when; “the going got tough,” is a “cop out.”  They simply refuse to believe that it could be; “that bad.” These emotions underpinned by taught and learned beliefs.

The Sympathetic ask

  • What was going on in their life and in their head that they felt they had to get out leaving families and children.
  • Did they really believe that their family would be better off without them… They must have really hated themselves.
  • They are in such pain they are not thinking about their family.
  • They have lost hope, feel unworthy, life is hell on earth.
  • What must have been going through their minds as they were taking their own lives?

The sympathetic person will try to find a way of understanding so as to ease self-guilt, anger and all of the other negative emotions associated with traumatic loss. We try and walk in the empty shoes of the person, our attempt to understand; “Could life be so bad to justify such a drastic action?”  to find a way sooth the trauma that suicide brings to those left behind.  I have learned that; “there is a reason why people behave the way they do, we may not understand it, but; we must trust that their leaving has brought them; the Peace they seek so badly.” To celebrate their life in appreciation of the time we had.


“If you change the way you look at things,

the things you look at change. ”                                                                                                                                                                          warrenpoint-sun-boat

Connecting, communicating and caring

The message of 2016 World Suicide Prevention Day….

I also believe World Suicide Prevention day, is a day of recognition for all the non-judgemental listeners who work toward the prevention of suicide, helping those who are ready to  find a different perspective and reason to choose life.  Those who support the families through their grief and loss.

“In honor of those who have suffered loss through suicide, it is my sincere hope, you will find this article helpful and informative,” and, May God grant you the Serenity to accept this thing you cannot change; Courage to change the things that you can; And the Wisdom to know the difference.

May you Grieve but not for too long…..





How much does a funeral cost?

Robin Hyde Chambers is a lovely young man and Managing Director of Hyde Chambers  Suffolk Family Funeral Services. Robbin has developed what I believe is a very creative and informative info-graphic.   How much does a funeral cost? If you are organising a funeral, please take the time to compare service costs, financial stress on a family is a real difficulty following the loss of loved one.


Don’t be so hard on yourself

let goWise words from a great artist;

Learn to forgive, learn to let go…..

I came here with a broken heart that no one else could see

I drew a smile on my face to paper over me
But wounds heal and tears dry and cracks they don’t show
So don’t be so hard on yourself

Let’s go back to simplicity
I feel like I’ve been missing me
Was not who I’m supposed to be
I felt this darkness over me
We all get there eventually
I never knew where I belonged
But I was right and you were wrong
Been telling myself all along

Don’t be so hard on yourself
Learn to forgive, learn to let go
Everyone trips, everyone falls
So don’t be so hard on yourself
‘Cause I’m just tired of marching on my own
Kind of frail, I feel it in my bones
Won’t let my heart, my heart turn into stone
So don’t be so hard on yourself

I’m standin’ on top of the world, right where I wanna be
So how can this dark cloud be raining over me
But hearts break and hells a place that everyone knows
So don’t be so hard on yourself

Let’s go back to simplicity
I feel like I’ve been missing me
Was not who I’m supposed to be
I felt this darkness over me
We all get there eventually
I never knew where I belonged
But I was right and you were wrong
Been telling myself all along

Don’t be so hard on yourself,
Learn to forgive, learn to let go
Everyone trips, everyone falls
So don’t be so hard on yourself
‘Cause I’m just tired of marching on my own
Kind of frail, I feel it in my bones
Won’t let my heart, my heart turn into stone
So don’t be so hard on yourself

I learned to wave goodbye
How not to see my life
Through someone else’s eyes
It’s not an easy road
But no I’m not alone
So I, I won’t be so hard on myself no more

Won’t let my heart, my heart turn into stone
Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Lyrics and song by: JESS GLYNNE


Cardboard Coffins Orla’s Carriage

When asked to assist at the funeral of Orla Mullins aged 9 nearly two years ago, my heart sank with sorrow for her family.  What I didn’t expect going into her house was a plain white cardboard coffin being creatively and carefully hand decorated by Orla’s mother, grandmother and sister. I asked Orla’s mum Sharon if she would share her story about her decision to move from a traditional coffin. What an inspirational family they are.

Orla’s CarriageOrla rose1

When my daughter Órla was diagnosed with a terminal illness (Cystic Fibrosis) aged 7 years old, my world was turned upside down.  A very quick 24 months later and I knew I was spending the last summer with my precious baby.


During those last few weeks I thought a lot about her funeral, in fact I could think about nothing else, I needed to plan and organise and keep my mind busy.

I researched palliative care and what to expect.  I choose songs that I wanted played during her funeral. I decided what she would wear  and which favourite items would go in her coffin.  It then came to the choice of coffin.

I had buried my father two months previous to Órla and looking at choices available I desperately needed a sign from him that this was ‘the one’ he would want but alas they all appeared cold, dark and melancholy.  In the end we chose one that was named Stanley “the name of the company my father had worked for most of his life.” The sign we had asked for.

When it came to Órla I wanted to be prepared, I wanted her final resting place to be quirky and funny just like my little girl.  I wanted pretty and girly not dark woods and cold brass handles. I wanted something very personal so that her last send off was about me and her and no one else.

It seems that a lot of people are feeling the same way and the variety of different coffins available have increased immensely in the last few years.  We have wicker, wool, bamboo to mention a few and then there’s the Eco coffins and cardboard variety.

It was whilst browsing I noticed a ‘decorate yourself’ cardboard coffin.  I knew straight away that this was what I was looking for, it couldn’t get anymore personalised.

When the day came that Órla passed I was dreading the coffin arriving, I wasn’t ready for her to leave her bed, her room.  The coffin was placed on wheels in my kitchen, suddenly the blank white box I chose seemed like a mammoth task that I had to undertake when I was at my lowest.  When we were all at our lowest but it had to be done, so we began drawing, painting, sticking.

Sharon coffin




granny coffin



Zoey coffin

What I never imagined was how therapeutic and calming it was.  All three of us put Órla’s favourite characters, pictures and sayings around the sides of the coffin.  Our two cats meanwhile climbed on top and inside also wanting to be part of it.  We played loud music that Órla loved, we reminisced about the past, we laughed, we cried, we drank and we even danced over the following 24 hours in our kitchen in between popping in to see Órla in her bed in the next room.

By the time her carriage was ready (we no longer saw it as a coffin) we were ready to say goodbye to our beautiful girl. All three of us felt we did her proud.

Órla had no big funeral, no traditional wake just very immediate family.  She was a very special girl and never liked people around her so our work was not to be paraded about but then that was never our intention, we just wanted a more personal resting place but what we ended up with was an amazing experience that we shall never forget.

Sharon has developed an inspirational blog:

For more information about Cardboard Coffins, please follow the link.