Looking at parental suicide through the eyes of children who are left behind

It is very sad to know that out of 361 suicide cases recorded by the Royal Bhutan Police and health facilities across the country from 2009-2013, 66 percent of the victims constituted married people. This means that it’s not only youth who are dying by suicide in Bhutan. Many parents are also killing themselves every year leaving behind their innocent children at the mercy of the surviving parent or their relatives.

For children, nothing is more painful than having to see their parents die by suicide. It raises several questions for them as they drag themselves through the traumatic experience. “Why did he or she decide to commit suicide? Why didn’t he or she think of us? Why should this happen only to us?” are some of the questions that will haunt children throughout their life.

As a child, trying to make sense of his or her parent’s suicide is an intensely personal journey that can often last a lifetime. Those children who are left behind are often haunted by the feeling of abandonment, sadness, guilt and even anger as they try to figure out why their father or mother, or both of them, decided to leave them behind. This wave of emotional feelings spills over even to the surviving relatives and friends who are close with the victim’s family.

A couple of days ago, my heart froze with pain when I met a 6-year-old girl in my wife’s village who has been left behind to grow up with her grandparents after both of her parents committed suicide. Just within the span of three years, she was totally orphaned. I have been told that her mother, following a heated argument with her father, consumed herbicide and died in 2013 when she was just over 2 years old. Then in 2016, her father too killed himself by hanging, reportedly due to some financial problems.

Today, she is being looked after by her maternal grandparents. Although she is too young at the moment to realize what she is going through, she is definitely struggling to cope with her new life without the love and warmth of her parents. No matter how much her grandparents treat her special, her story would have been certainly different if she had both her parents alive today. However, she is not the only victim of such a fate. There are many children in Bhutan who are compelled to live with the painful memories of such a family tragedy.

As a parent, I can feel the pain of those children who are fated to grow up with the trauma, guilt, shame and stigma caused by such a seemingly stupid decision of their parent (s). I don’t know what drags people so close to the edge of the world that they even fail to think about the future of their children when they decide to end their life.

As it is generally said, committing suicide is a selfish choice. People don’t realize how many people will be affected by their death after they are gone. As spiritual masters always say, this human life is too precious to be destroyed like that. We must be able to love ourselves and be grateful to our body for all the pleasures and happiness it gives us. If everybody dearly loves himself or herself, he or she will never consider committing suicide even in the face of unbearable pain and miseries.

We should not forget that after all, we are the best creation of Nature with all the faculties perfect enough to make us the most precious and special inhabitants of this planet. When we have all the abilities and opportunities to be a good human being and make great contributions to the wellbeing of other members of the society, it would be really unfair on our part to kill ourselves and waste all the blessings given to us by Nature.

Therefore, it would always be better to consult medical professionals and counsellors for timely support and care if you ever feel suicidal or depressed. No matter what, please never consider killing yourself. When you encounter problems, it’s not the end of everything. The problems always come with solutions. You just need to take time to sort them out and you will be fine. Committing suicide will never solve the problems you face.

By Amrith Bdr Subba

The writer is a visually challenged counselor at the Youth Center Division, Department of Youth and Sports under the Ministry of Education.

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