It never occurred to me that my father might have killed me, too.  At least not until my Uncle Richie explained how relieved he was that my father hadn’t taken my brother and me with him when he ended his life.  I was reminded of what my uncle said when I read a stunning “Modern Love” column in yesterday’s New York Times by Kelly Thomas, whose mother decided on purpose (or on accident) to drive off a highway overpass at 70 miles an hour with her daughter in the passenger seat.

Kelly’s mother was killed instantly, but Kelly was left to clamor through the physical and emotional wreckage in the aftermath of a journey that all too literally evoked the classic road trip film “Thelma & Louise.”  Unfortunately for Kelly, her final moments with her mother didn’t end with a mid-air freeze-frame, but a terrifying airborne crash.

How often, I wonder, is the shock and grief of a loved one’s suicide followed by relief that at least he (or she) didn’t take anyone with him?  When I interviewed my uncle two years ago for my book, Why Suicide?, he told me:  “Your father was so heavily medicated that I thought he might accidentally drive off the road.  I also thought he might use that method to kill himself, maybe even with the two of you in the car.  And I didn’t know what to do about it.  So it was a relief not to have that worry anymore, but I felt terrible for feeling relieved.”

Sandra, who I also interviewed for my book, had a deeply disturbed brother who lived with her mother.  “I was saving those articles about mothers who were hacked up by their sons and stuffed into the upholstery,” Sandra recalled.  “I was sure he would eventually kill my mother, so when he killed himself I was relieved.”

Now whenever I hear about a suicide that involves no one other than the person who wanted to die, I find myself feeling relieved, too, that at least the person who took his life didn’t take anyone else with him.  If there’s a silver lining to be found in any suicide, including the death of Kelly Thomas’ mother, perhaps this is one.



4 Responses to At Least He Didn’t Take Me With Him

  1. Samantha says:

    I also feel overwhelming thankful that my fiance did not take me along with him and leave our two beautiful children behind. He suggested to me that night that he just might do that.

  2. Liz says:

    Eric, I wasn’t aware that your father had committed suicide. Mine committed suicide, too–with a gun. When I was told, my first thought was (with mild and growing panic), “Where’s Mom?! Did he kill her, too?!” I only managed to get out “Where’s mom?” to the neighbor who had called to tell me the news. Turns out, my mom was too upset to call; I was relieved to hear that she was sitting next to our neighbor very much alive.

    When I was growing up I saw my father physically abuse my mother many times, including one time when he threatened her with gun. He never threatened me directly, but I was terrified nevertheless. As I grew up and heard on the TV news about murder/suicides, I had in the back of my mind the knowledge that the same could happen in my family. One time I hid in the closet because I thought he’d kill her, then come for me.

    So as I look back on it, he I realized that he had terrorized us for years. I fully expected that if he did go that route he would take her with him. I wasn’t sure about me. When I went away to college, I felt terrible leaving her there alone with him, but she, I thought, had made her choice. I had to live my own life. I was relieved not to be under constant threat.

    So when I got the call, I fully expected to hear about a murder/suicide in my household, but, yes, I was so relieved to hear that that was NOT the case, that my mother had literally “dogged a bullet.”

  3. Thank you for sharing so openly. I am interested in your blogs and work. Warm wishes

  4. Ernie Bass says:

    Dogged a bullet? Really? You are so fortunate!

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