Suicide: A Senseless Tragedy

Angie Viets - National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

A Senseless Tragedy

Angie Viets, LCP, CEDS

This article has originally been published on Psychology Today

As humans, we are hardwired to make sense of things. To analyze, formulate, and reason. We’re perpetually mining for meaning—especially when there’s chaos. Unconsciously we ask ourselves, “What does it mean?” And yet, there are situations where our logical brains fail us. Suicide is the epitome of such complexity.

Despite our most valiant efforts, to resolve what may be unresolvable, we sort and sift through the remains of a life robbed by suicide. Our bodies are programmed for survival, especially in dire circumstances. It’s a seemingly impossible endeavor to comprehend a person choosing to end their life. 

Many of us can identify fleeting thoughts in which we experience passive thoughts like “Wouldn’t it be nice to fall asleep and never wake up?” The intrusive thought of running your car off the side of the road flashes in your mind. We swiftly discard such notions when we are of sound mind. Able in those moments to call to mind simple reassurances, such as, “This too shall pass.” Often we’re able to conjure up past struggles, where yes, in fact, the plight passed.

But what if every way we turned we were met with the darkest, driest dirt—impenetrable despite our maneuvering? Intuitively, we know that worming our way out is where we finally find relief. With broken fingernails and dust-filled lungs, eventually, even the strongest soldier would grow weary. What if that endured for many seasons; no sign of the rain we prayed for to offer a lubricant to ease us out from dark tunnels into the light? Defeat and hopelessness would set in.


What if while we were in the cramped, suffocating space, we could make out, in audible laughter or soft whispers, the sounds of others, our beloved people (should we be so fortunate) above us? In spite of their best, most determined efforts, their passion and persistence to pry us out of the vice were unsuccessful, or only seemed to work for a short time, and then, without warning there we were again buried by the burden of our ailment. Desperate for their suggestions and solutions to work, yet also deeply resentful of how effortlessly they appear to twirl and tiptoe above. “What’s wrong with me?” we’d wonder.

Eventually, we would no longer be able to fight off the weariness and fatigue. The enormity of our guilt and our inability to simply “shake this” or “snap out of it” is added to our already failing lungs. Every possible solution—therapy, meds, meditation, more exercise, and sunlight—unsuccessful. In the stillness, we would ask ourselves, “Would they all just be better off without me?” Paralyzed by our powerlessness, our failure to thrive is cemented as we sink even further into the darkness. 

When all sound is gone, our ears caked with dirt, is likely, in my mind, when the tortured truth takes flight: If going up has failed innumerable times, then perhaps, with the gravity of a despairing and desperate heart, we decide that possibly the only way out is to surrender to what’s below. 

I’ve recalled my moments of deepest despair, prolonged pain, and silent suffering. In all of those trials there were—sometimes after agonizing searching—always, I repeat, always soft crevices where little by little I could inch my way back to the surface. I don’t believe it’s because I “tried harder,” or “wanted it more” that I was “successful,” any more than one who battles cancer is blessed to be in remission, while the friend she made while receiving all of those IV infusions learns the cancer has metastasized and no viable treatment option remains. Would we view that person as weak, failing in some way, or cowardly? Or would we find ways to accept the unacceptable and love him so hard it hurt until he took his last breath? We want so much for there to be another way. Trial drugs, a healer from a foreign land, something, anything. The hardest truth is hearing, “We’ve tried everything, we’re out of options.”

I will forever remember, as the kids swam in the pool, splashing and laughing, the sons, daughters, and husband of my beloved mother-in-law sat at the nearby table on the deck. The same deck where glasses of wine and stories were shared for years as the aroma of tender meat was seasoned on the grill. We listened, with tears streaming down our faces, as she told us she and my father-in-law had decided to discontinue the treatment for the tumor that invaded her brain only months before. 

My brain fought against this decision. “Surely there’s another way. Another specialist. Something, please God, something else we could try.” It was an agonizing process to surrender to her choice. I accepted this was her decision to make and my job, my one critical job, was to love her as much as I could, for as long I could. Over the course of those painful remaining months, as I curled up with her in her bed, she told me she was completely at peace with her decision, although unbearably sad about all that she would miss out on with her children and rapidly growing number of grandchildren. 

The stark contrast of my mother, a junior in high school at the time, who, as she turned into her cul-de-sac, sweetly known as “Candy Cane Lane,” after an evening shift at her part-time job was blinded by sirens flashing in front of her childhood home. Her adored father, the one she and her sisters lovingly refer to as “Daddy” and “Buzz” had—despite many years battling severe, intractable depression—ended his life mere days before Thanksgiving. There was no long goodbye. Perhaps he made his decision in an instant, or over the course of a year. 

They too wrestled with unanswered questions while cloaked in grief, “Surely there was another way. Something else we could have tried. Dear God, what did we miss?” And yet, as years passed, the acceptance of the unacceptable settles in. 

As a therapist, I offer my clients antidotes to ease the isolation, a soft space to land their weary souls, and the willingness to hold hope for them when they’ve lost all hope. Maybe, if there’s enough of us helping to scoop away the dirt carefully, perhaps some sunlight and fresh air will greet those trapped below. 

I know for sure, as I stand up here, desperate to make sense of the senselessness of suicide that we long to ease your suffering—to break the spell and bring you home. My belief and my experience are grounded in the knowledge that to suffer alone is not what was intended for us. We need to lean hard and deep into each other. To offer meals to the depressed the same way we would bring casseroles to the sick. The willingness to get close to the sufferer and say, “You are not alone in this, my dear. Whatever it takes, I’m here for you. For however long you need me.” We must call in the troops if there’s any hope of freedom from such despair. 

It alarms me when people negatively describe those who express suicidal thoughts as “attention seeking.” Yes, if someone tells you they’re suicidal, they are in fact seeking your attention. It’s a cry for help and requires a call to action. It likely took tremendous courage to say out loud what has haunted them inside for some time. Believe them the first time. During quiet evening porch swing talks, my mom has shared with me regret from all of those years ago, even though she was merely a teenager at the time, “We should have listened to him. Believed him when he said he no longer wanted to live in such pain. Instead, we tried to block it out and hoped it would pass.” 

With September being National Suicide Prevention Awareness month, I’m extending my heartfelt and sincere condolences to those who’ve lost someone they love to suicide. For those suffering with thoughts of suicide, please consider the following resources:

Informational Resources

Crisis Resources

  • If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.
  • If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
  • If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

Visit NAMI's website for more resources and to get involved.

Angie Viets www.angieviets.com

Angie Viets, LCP, CEDS is a clinical psychotherapist and certified eating disorders specialist in private practice. She specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, and overeating. Angie is dedicated to empowering others to nurture their body, mend their relationship with food, and to embody their most authentic self. Her passion for the field was born out of her own hard-won battle with an eating disorder. She believes that full recovery is possible!

Angie has a thriving website that offers resources for people in recovery and was voted #1 on Healthline's list of the Best Eating Disorders Blogs of 2017. She is currently in the process of writing her first book, where she will demystify eating disorder recovery and offer inspiration and guidance to those suffering in silence. Her writing is featured in Huffington Post and recognized eating disorder treatment centers throughout the country.

Interview on the ED Matters Podcast

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Mama #2: A Tribute to My Mother(In-Law)

© Angie Viets

© Angie Viets

On the day I married her son, she hugged me warmly and with tear-filled eyes said, “You are now my daughter, and although you have a mother, I am now your Mama #2.” The promise was sealed and honored from that day forward. I’ve never received a daughter-in-law card, been introduced, or treated as anything other than her daughter.

I met her son in the first grade. He was my first love and boyfriend throughout high school. Honestly, part of the reason I fell in love with him is because of her. The three-story colonial home at the end of a long drive, beautifully decorated with her impeccable taste, the endless cooking and laundry to keep up with her husband and five football-playing boys, and her never-ending devotion to her family. She embodied everything I hoped I would be as a mother.

Years later, when I broke her son’s heart and moved on, she remained kind to me despite his pain and consequently her own. Several years later she was the first to welcome me back into her family, and to tell me, “He never stopped loving you, and neither did I.”

Shedding tears with my mom, she watched me try on wedding dresses and helped us plan our special day. A year later, she soothed my fears in the delivery room as I gave birth to her grandson. She taught me the art and beauty of nursing a baby as she stocked our freezer full of meals with little notes attached, ‘Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 1 hour.’ She quilted each grandbaby a blanket that became soft and worn over the years and was quick to reassure me of what a good mother I was to her grandchildren and her gratitude for loving her son.

Even though there were four other daughters for her to love and endless flooding of her heart and home, she had the unique ability to make you feel adored and cherished. Each of us girls felt as though we were her favorite, because we were, just in different ways.

Sitting on the deck beside the pool one evening, with several daughters(in-law), each with a glass of wine in hand surrounding her, she shared that she never felt as good in her own skin as she did that year. She had just turned sixty, and she looked as beautiful outside, with her glowy Italian skin reflecting the light from the moon on that late fall night, as she explained she felt on the inside. She offered the wisdom to her young daughters that only a well-seasoned mother can about motherhood, marriage, and most importantly, the beauty of being a woman. Three months later she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer that took her life within twelve short and excruciatingly long months. Our foundation cracked the day of her diagnosis, and at times seems to be incapable of mending.

As I lay in her bed holding her over those months, she asked that I now make a promise to her, “Never forget how much I love you. Never forget how much I love you.” She repeated it as though trying to solidify it in my mind, body, and soul. During her illness, she continued to show me by example what a mother’s love truly means. She wanted us to know that she wasn’t angry that she was the one that got sick. “I’m grateful that it was none of you,” she said, as she looked at each one of us and shared the news that her doctors advised that treatment would no longer be beneficial.

During her last visit to my home, we sat outside, listening to the birds, as the kids played and I painted her nails. She looked at the youngest of my three children, as he toddled around the yard, unphased by the loss of her hair and rounded ‘moon face’ from being pumped full of steroids, and cried, “I’m so sad I won’t get to be a part of this...” She gestured to her grandchildren.

Her final promise as “her girls” sat on the edges of her bed: “Something beautiful will come from this.” She repeated it again, “Something beautiful will come from this.” I wish I knew what that meant, or if that’s even true, but maybe two years after her passing it’s too soon to understand. What I know for sure, is something beautiful came from the love she gave all of her children and grandchildren.

The night of her passing from this life to the next, she was held in the arms of her high school sweetheart. As we circled her bed, he opened the sliding glass door from their bedroom and released her spirit to the moon shining brightly above.

While filling out Mother’s Day cards, my baby, who becomes less baby and more of a child every day, asked to make his Grammy a Mother’s Day card and wondered, in the way only small innocent children do, if our postal carrier knew how to deliver it to heaven. I let him make her a card, and I sat in our pantry and quietly cried. Even though he may not remember his Grammy and my Mama #2, he knows her. He knows her because she is alive in our home, in the stories and memories we share, in the faces of his dad and his four uncles, the meals we make from her recipe cards, and the quilts we wrap ourselves in as a reminder of her enduring love. Happy Mother’s Day My Mama #2 and may something beautiful come from this...

Recovered: a Poem About Being Reunited With Soul, Self, and Sisterhood

Photo Credit: ©Angie Viets

Photo Credit: ©Angie Viets

Out of control.
Tethered to terror.
Everything that once was is no longer.

Sad, scared, deeply ashamed.
Desperate to hold onto something real.
Something to comfort and soothe.
Someone. Something. Anything.

Please help me escape this pain.
The not knowing.
The never-ending loneliness.
The deep, hollow feeling in my stomach.  

Alone. Unsure. Unsafe.
I turned in circles trying to grasp onto
something more solid than myself.
And then you came.
Rescuing me from…me.

The perfect antidote to my suffering.
Your predictability, reliability, and steady
presence tricked me into thinking I’d
found just the right place to rest.
You offered the gift of security in
my broken, battered world.

You occupied my every thought.
I could forget all the hurt
and perpetual sadness.
I had you, my ever-loyal companion.

The day marked forever in my mind.
The day I realized I was trapped by you.
Suffocating. Silent.
Utterly consumed and confined.

No matter how hard I tried to escape
the prison you so carefully locked me in,
I got more lost and less found.
Defeated and depressed.

I came to you for a safe place to hide
from myself and my broken heart.
You gave me just what I needed.
Or so it seemed.

I guess that’s what makes the goodbye so hard.
But I’m picking myself up now.
I’m determined, yet unsure of the way.
I can’t go back to where I left off.
Just forward towards what will be.

My mind unable to find the way;
I close my eyes and allow my soul
to guide and illuminate the path ahead.

Despite the harm you inflicted,
the damage you did to my body and spirit,
I still want to thank you.
I bow to you in deep reverence.
Somehow you got me through the wreckage.

But I’m saying goodbye now.
This goodbye is not temporary;
you are no longer welcome in my sacred self.

I assume you will try to return;
attempting to lure me in with false promises.
Yet I assure you I’m wise to your ways now,
and I will gently shut and lock the door.

Eventually you’ll give up on me.
Preying and prying your way into another unsuspecting soul.
They too will come to know you by name
and eventually usher you out as well.

My silent prayer,
my hope, my wish,
is that someday you’ll give up entirely.
You’ll see that we now rely on each other;
this tribe of us once lost now found
United. Mended. And completely whole.

Collectively we are saying goodbye.
Hands and hearts entwined.
We are rising together.
Softer and stronger.
Wise and awakened.
Fully, completely, alive.

To our beloved sisters unsaved,
we honor you.
We acknowledge your bravery and courage
to fight, what often seemed impossible.
We carry you with us.
We shine your light.
We remember you.
Always. Forever.