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.
About This Blog
Welcome to my blog, which grew out of my experience as a suicide survivor and my experience writing Why Suicide? (see below). On occasion I’ll be posting an essay based on something I’ve read, someone I’ve met, an experience I’ve had, or just a memory of someone in my life who took his or her life. If you have a thought on something I’ve written, I hope you won’t hesitate to join the conversation by leaving a comment.
- Tammy on A Father Attempts Suicide; A Son Struggles for Answers
- stephanie larson on We May Think We’re Alone, But We’re Not. New List of Famous Suicide Survivors Just Released.
- Katie on A Father Attempts Suicide; A Son Struggles for Answers
- Gerard Collins on Walking Through the Night to Heal a Wounded Heart
- Rebecca Barnes on Walking Through the Night to Heal a Wounded Heart
About Eric Marcus
Eric Marcus is the author of several books, including Why Suicide?, Is It A Choice?, and Making Gay History. He is also co-author of Breaking the Surface, the #1 New York Times bestselling autobiography of Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis. And he currently serves on the national board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (Photo Credit: Dixie Sheridan.)