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Suicide leaves legacy of pain and dispair

A friend of mine just got the news that another man in her neighborhood killed himself. He's the fourth in 12 months.

Another man who decided that his family would be better off without him.

Another man who will never walk his daughter down the aisle or be the best man at his son's wedding.

Another man whose wife will forever wonder what she could have done differently.

I don't know what happened in each of the circumstances, but I do know that when someone is depressed they lose perspective and fail to see the true consequences of their actions.

I've never been severely depressed myself, at least not yet. I'm one of those annoying people blessed with high serotonin levels who need nothing more than an ABBA song to get in a good mood.

But I do know what it's like to live with a depressed parent, and I have close friends who have been personally effected by suicide.

If you're facing financial or other problems, I'm not so insensitive or naive to think that a few verses of "Dancin' Queen" on your iPod is going to make everything OK.

But if you're starting to think that things would be better if you weren't around, let me fill you in on the aftermath of a suicide.

Your family might get a big life insurance check, and be able to catch up on the mortgage or credit cards. But here's what else happens:

Your kids will spend the rest of their life wondering why they weren't enough to make you happy.

They'll go to bed every single night knowing that their mom and dad would rather be dead than be with them.

They'll look back over happy moments you spent together and wonder if you were just faking it, because surely if you really loved them you never would have chosen to leave.

They'll struggle with relationships for the rest of their life, because they'll never feel confident that someone will ever love them enough to stick around.

With each new person they meet, at work, or in church, or at school, they'll wonder, should I tell? Do they already know? What will they think of me when they find out?

Of course, your spouse will have to plan a funeral, sort out the mess of your finances, and manage every aspect of the household alone. But that will be nothing compared to the grief they face as the surviving parent trying to keep it together for kids whose lives will never be the same again.

Some people will even suggest to your spouse that he or she should have gotten you some help. It will hurt to hear, but it's nothing that they haven't thought a million times themselves.

And, if your parents are still alive, they will suffer the worst grief a human can bear, and they will forever feel like they failed.

Oh, and did I mention that suicide runs in families? Taking your own life not only creates a chain of despair that lasts for decades, but it increases the likelihood that your kids and other family members will do the same thing, because you've already let them know it's OK.

Depression is an awful thing, but if you're still thinking that the world would be better off without you, you are dead flat wrong. Get help, it's the only real way to take care of the people you love.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect." Contact her at www.forgetperfect.com.