Divorce and suicide (not mine)


#1

I am a divorced father of two and as the saying goes, you never really know until it happens to you.

What I never really knew was the plight of divorced fathers and the resulting anti-male bias that exists in society.

I am not going to get on my soapbox about that, but it has guided my actions and those are the issue.

I have become very active in fathers rights posting forums and local organizations.

Recently I started posting on a site and was involved in a dialog with another father who was just starting the divorce process. We were discussing what goes on, what he should do, what he should watch out for and how to handle the emotions. Not that I am an expert on any of them, but I believe in sharing my experiences in hopes that my mistakes can be avoided by others.

To try to keep this short, I later found out that he had attempted suicide (failed, presently he is in a psych ward and appears to be doing ok). It turns out that he had posted a response to me about an hour before his suicide attempt.

It got me to thinking… what if? Then I got scared. Could an innocent comment or observation be the catalyst to cause such a decision?

I have no idea if this applies in this instance, but given that the suicide rate among divorced men is 4X the national rate for men in general it does cause me concern.

Given that one does not attempt suicide spontaneously. Studies have shown that it is thought about and planned for a long time. But there has to be something that causes one to say that now is the moment.

Being the person that I am, I cannot stop doing all that I can to help people.

I would say that this is an instance of trying to reconcile a desire to help without knowing the possible outcomes of such help…

Thanks,

Ronin

PS. To all those who recommend talking to my parish priest, thank you in advance - there is no need to post it.


#2

Dear Ronin,

I used to answer calls from suicidal children on the Youth Crisis Hotline here. I understand completely what you are saying about not knowing. Part of it is the feeling we “should” help them. That is the Superman trap. People have been messed up for years in most cases, and we have not failed at crisis intervention if we don’t completely heal them with a five minute phone call. Nor do you know, sometimes, whether you are going to see one of the people you talked to in the paper.

Also, your questions about your possible role in his attempt do not mean you said something you should not have said. It’s possible I suppose, but one of the greatest traps satan has is to keep you concerned about the past. Of course you want to examine what you said for anything you might want to avoid in the future, but people usually aren’t so fragile that it was a matter of you saying “boo” to them and that tipped them off. “Last straw,” possible but not likely. (I’d be happy to look at specifics if you want to send me a link to the post by PM)

When dealing with a suicidal person, it is important to “empathize” with him – that is different than “sympathize.” That means we hear them. That means we normally should not try to contradict them, for example by saying, “oh it isn’t all that bad.” Well, it is that bad in the other person’s mind and you’ve just ruined your credibility as someone who understands. Another one is, “well you know that isn’t going to solve anything.” Gee, you know what? In fact it will. It will solve the problem of the person experiencing worldly anxiety and this statement basically calls them a fool in addition to being depressed.

First I mostly like to draw them out a bit, like “it seems this problem with so-and-so has been going on for a long time,” or “does your daughter have any idea how you feel about this,” or whatever I can find to work with. Then once they know I am listening, I might also help them along the road they are so afraid of – by separating it out. I might say, “I can see how you want to get away from this situation, and I can see how taking your own life might even start to seem reasonable under these conditions. It sounds to me, though, like you understand what’s going on but without knowing it’s hard to decide whether you should invest more in the relationship or draw back,” or whatever.

Many times crisis intervention (which is what I was doing) is nothing more than letting the person know that somebody – maybe for the first time in their lives – is really listening to them and really does care. Funny thing that a telephone stranger can play this role, but you might be surprised at how people can open up in short order. It helps to know that you aren’t carrying the burden alone; by understanding them they see you as helping you carry their cross.

Alan


#3

Do not be afraid that you have accidentally tweaked a “secret button” or something. The Holy Spirit often works through events such as that.

Given that one does not attempt suicide spontaneously. Studies have shown that it is thought about and planned for a long time. But there has to be something that causes one to say that now is the moment.

You are right; one of the biggest common myths about suicide – that if someone is talking about it, then at least they are not doing it. Turns out very few suicide victims did it without telling several people. Inevitably these people say to themselves, “I should have known” or “if I only would have” and other useless mental activity.

Being the person that I am, I cannot stop doing all that I can to help people.

I would say that this is an instance of trying to reconcile a desire to help without knowing the possible outcomes of such help…

Have you considered a position like the one I had – such as a telephone crisis counselor? People who’ve been through a few lumps and really love to help other people are good candidates for such a position.

Alan


#4

I don’t think anything you said caused this man to make this decision. In my limited experience, most people who would try to kill themselves are prone to that type of decision for a long time. The thought process is usually present way before they reach out for help. The same man may have tried to kill himself if he had lost his job instead of getting a divorce. Who knows? The point is, he made that decision, not you. It’s not anyone’s responsibility except his.

I got a divorce a long time ago also. I know how it can feel. Although I never considered suicide, I know how it can feel like your whole world is out of your control and falling in around you. Not much that anyone told me had a huge influence on how I got through it. For me it was a conscious(sp?) decision to get on with life and do the best I could for my first son (the real victim).

I don’t know if anything I can say will make you feel better. It’s kinda funny how you can develop relationships on message boards like these and they can deeply affect you. On another website, one of the guys I regularly talked to announced that his wife had cancer and she was told not to expect to live more than six months. It was devastating to me and the other people on the board. About three months later he told us that she died. I couldn’t believe that I had tears in my eyes for the wife of a man I had never met. I didn’t even know what he or she looked like. I think it’s a credit to you that you can express feelings like this.


#5

When I was suicidal, it was when I lost hope.

I always had love. Faith wavered for a long time. It was when I temporarily lost hope – hope things will ever be better – whose loss made my life seem useless.

Alan


#6

Thank you for the responses.

Though I believe I have not been clear.

The boards I am on are Father Rights/Divorce boards. The main discussions are about the divorce process, what to expect, how to prepare yourself, venting (quit a bit of that), etc…

These are far from crisis sites. Yes, people posting are in a crisis, but it is very rare for anyone to bring up a point about looking to end it all due to the stresses.

I have to disagree with this statement:

“The same man may have tried to kill himself if he had lost his job instead of getting a divorce.”

Of course there is always the possibility, but the numbers say something. Divorced men are 4X more likely to attempt suicide than the male population in this country as a whole.

Yes, there is probably a lot more to the issue, but 4X is a BIG difference.

When you hear what these guys have gone through - emotional trauma, X files a bogus domestic violence claim (a woman’s best weapon in a divorce 95% of DV claims in divorce are later found to be without merit and the woman is never punished - automatically judges will believe it until proved wrong, then some still believe it), not being able to see your children (months and in some cases years) because of these bogus claims, having your children poisoned against you without penalty on the X, loss of primary job due to emotional impact on all this BS, having to work 3 or 4 jobs just to get by because of a child support burden calculated without thought, the courts themselves which view the woman as right unless proven otherwise - then some judges still believe women are right… etc…

One is being attacked from all sides and there is nowhere to turn. Try contacting a state sponsored or private sponsored “divorce help center”. Tell them you are a man going through divorce and would like help. See what type of response you get. Tell them you are a woman and they will send a limo to pick you up.

I am sorry for the rant, but the way the divorce industry works in this country men are pushed to the edge in more ways than anything else. It is little wonder that the suicide rate is so high.


A side note to pira - I really did not know this guy well at all. We had just exchanged a few posts in discussion. What got me was the what if’s as a trigger phrase?

Probably a little overreacting on my part, but I is who I is.

Thank you both again,

Ronin


#7

Yes, you is who you is and I am who I am. You “had to” overreact because in fact you did…

As far as the trigger phrase, it is very unlikely but possible, since we haven’t actually been where you have been.

Even if it was, it is possible that any number of key ingredients could have been needed for this to be “trigger” phrase to work – thus each idea he has been building could in itself be considered the “trigger phrase” just as any run in a 9-8 ball game could be considered the “winning run” so it is really an insult to the first 8 when only the 9th (ranked by the clock, not by its merit) is considered such. Maybe another run batted in two at once, so without that one we not only would have failed to win, but actually lose too.

Still I don’t have too much concern that you said something that might have made the difference. (I’m hedging because I haven’t seen it myself so I will not opine further) It’s just as likely your presence and your contributions will help bring him to complete healing as it is complete despair. For that matter, sometimes the path to healing is through despair, as we completely surrender or wills and say, “God I give up – what I’m doing isn’t working.” Suicidal tendencies can eventually be turned around into reasons for hope, but I won’t go into that now because I haven’t thought it out enough and I’m afraid it will sound like I’m saying suicide can be a good thing – when clearly that is not my intent at all. :whacky:

Alan


#8

“Even if it was, it is possible that any number of key ingredients could have been needed for this to be “trigger” phrase to work…”

An excellent point.

Thank you again Alan.


#9

"Of course there is always the possibility, but the numbers say something. Divorced men are 4X more likely to attempt suicide than the male population in this country as a whole. "

What I meant was that these men committed suicide because they, for some reason or another, were drawn to it as a way out of their situation. What I’m saying is that these men MAY have been more prone to looking for that way out in any number of given situations.

I’m divorced, so are you, why are we still alive? Because we possess the constitution to not give up. Suicide never crossed my mind. Why? Something in me was trained to push on no matter what. Be it my religious background, military background, or my father’s guidance as a child. I don’t know. All I know is that people who commit suicide make a decision to do so. They choose death over whatever it is they perceive as too difficult. People in the same situation do not chose death because they have stronger constitutions. When someone kills themselves, it’s their fault, no one elses. The “trigger” is an excuse to make it easier for them to do it. Right up to the final decision, they are looking for an easier way out. If they’re gonna do it, they’re gonna do it. Whether you said something or not. On the other hand, if they don’t really want to die, and choose this as a way to get attention, they chose poorly.


#10

I sponsor people in a 12 Step group. Experience has taught me that when they start sharing with me about their lives, they are sharing with me their perceptions about their lives. It takes some sober time and some step work before they are able to see their lives a little clearer.

I don’t mean to sound as though I am casting aspertions on your experience in this case, but is it also possible that this man is mentally ill and the information he was giving you about himself was not complete or accurate to begin with? It is always so difficult to judge when dealing with people on a message board, I know. Even on CAF, we take for granted that we are dealing with people who are Catholics or at least Christians - though the occasional person who claims to be agnostic or atheist pops in for debate - but the reality is we have no idea who is on the other end of the computer and whether or not the person is telling us the truth about themselves.

I am sorry you went through this…I know that when a sponsee of mine successfully committed suicide several years ago I was certain it was because I had said something to tip her over the edge. My sponsor told me that nothing I say or do can ‘make’ someone drink or choose to die. All I can do is talk long enough to make the person tired of listening to me and agree to go to a meeting in order to shut me up.


#11

Ronin, I’ve been in your situation before, except I knew the person I was speaking with was considering suicide. In fact, this young man called to tell me he had a knife in his hand. We weren’t even friends, but I guess he just knew he could count on me to listen.

I failed a chemistry test keeping him on the phone until he decided to call someone more qualified for help, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. (He baked cookies for me a couple weeks later to thank me for being there for him. I have no idea where he is or what happened to him…)

This kind of situation just reinforces the need for two things. First, every word that comes out of our mouths must be prayerfully considered. Second, to be attentive to others and be there for them, because you never know what could happen tomorrow…


#12

I have been reading through this discussion and I feel like everyone has missed Ronin’s point altogether. I have seen first hand how men can sometimes be left out in the cold in a divorce. My brother recently went through some really rough times. His wife left him for another woman. He tried to file for divorce and get some kind of custody of his daughter. He worked a full time job and has a family that would offer free and loving babysitting at the drop of a hat. She lived an alternative lifestyle. She moved my brother into the travel trailer in the back yard and her female lover into the bedroom. Even in light of all this, he was never given any extra consideration. I helped him type up what he wanted so I know he wasn’t being unreasonable. He was letting her have the house, the car, the kids’ 4 wheelers, and the countryclub membership. He started off rational but after being heckled and messed around for the better part of year, he went off the deep end. He tried to commit suicide a couple of times and eventually ended up in prison. I am not trying to justify what he did. He moved his travel trailer to my parents house and his wife would go over there to harass him. My parents had to call the police on her a time or two. Nobody ever seemed to take any of her bad actions into account. I know children should have their mother but at what cost. He wanted what was best for his daughter and 4 step children (he talked to their dad about their mom to try to get them into a stable situation). Some people may be “prone” to this kind of behavior but I think there is something to be said for the men who try to save the marriage and children but are continually messed around. A person can only take so much.


#13

ConcernCatholic,

A great big BINGO!!!

Unfortunately that is a situation all to common that gets no media exposure at all. (A fault of mens groups and a tribute to NOW).

The main problem is that the system preys upon weakness. Once he conceded the kids he damned himself into being an ATM for his X in the eyes of the law.

She could do no wrong for to punish her may impact the children and the courts, in their infinite wisdom, could not let anything harm the little darlings… (deep sarcasm intended)


LSK,

To be honest this was something I really never gave any thought about. It is one thing to read the numbers, but then it happens and you are like “… wow…”

Of course, one can never know who is on the other end of a keyboard. But, by his posts he was getting screwed in his divorce (in the normal sense that is - Soon-to-be-X had him arrested and filed a Domestic Violence complaint against him, restraining order, denial of visitation, he has 3 kids 3, 5, 8, “temporary” child support stuck on him, he had to pay her attorney - She did all the “right” things and was obviously well-coached.

At the time I had posted with him he had not seen his kids in 2 months and had only spoken to them three times - She would not let him talk to them despite a court order.

A little more, but I think you get the idea.

He simply did not seem like the type (if there is one)…


You know I see several have posted that suicidal people are death waiting for a reason.

I must disagree. I believe that stress plays a major role in most adult suicides such as this one. The fact that divorced men are always viewed as causing divorce, deadbeats who do not pay child support while driving around in BMW’s, they beat women, etc… and the legal system supports and forments such attitudes, the media… well this is mixed company so I will just curse at my screen versus typing anything…

Given the power that women have in divorce (though I readily admit that sometimes the tables are turned) I honestly wonder why the suicide rate is not higher… then I look at myself.

After my X told me that she wanted a divorce I was shocked. I do not remember much about the next two weeks… pacing and crying, pacing and crying… I did not eat and slept maybe 4 hours total. For the life of me I cannot figure out what I did with my time. I did not go out at all… just paced and cried.

I do remember that thoughts of suicide did not even enter my mind. Then again my X chose not to be a Queen B____ (you can fill in the blanks).

In retrospect, if she had and I was under the same conditions as above I do not know if I would be here typing today… scary thought when put into proper perspective…

Sorry for the novel,

Ronin


#14

[quote=Ronin]****
You know I see several have posted that suicidal people are death waiting for a reason.

I must disagree. I believe that stress plays a major role in most adult suicides such as this one. The fact that divorced men are always viewed as causing divorce, deadbeats who do not pay child support while driving around in BMW’s, they beat women, etc… and the legal system supports and forments such attitudes, the media… well this is mixed company so I will just curse at my screen versus typing anything…

Given the power that women have in divorce (though I readily admit that sometimes the tables are turned) I honestly wonder why the suicide rate is not higher… then I look at myself.

After my X told me that she wanted a divorce I was shocked. I do not remember much about the next two weeks… pacing and crying, pacing and crying… I did not eat and slept maybe 4 hours total. For the life of me I cannot figure out what I did with my time. I did not go out at all… just paced and cried.

I do remember that thoughts of suicide did not even enter my mind. Then again my X chose not to be a Queen B____ (you can fill in the blanks).

In retrospect, if she had and I was under the same conditions as above I do not know if I would be here typing today… scary thought when put into proper perspective…

[/quote]

Ronin,
This is exactly what happened to my brother. He was put through extreme stress and buckled. My brother was never the ‘type’ to try to commit suicide. He was committed several different times. His wife would not spend dime one on the divorce and kept changing her demands. He would give in and then she would change her mind again. After about a year of this, he dropped the divorce altogether. It was kind of funny because the free lawyer from the women’s center came back a week after he had dropped everything and tried to go back to the intitial agreement he had drawn up. Of course, he was no longer paying his lawyer so his wife was sent a nice little letter saying that she would have to hire her own lawyer and do everything herself. I documented all of this for his parole packet and was just amazed at how much she did and got away with. I still haven’t seen my niece. It is a shame that she is living with a same sex couple after having had a loving mom and dad for so many years. My parents have contacted different people to try to see her but for some reason this “woman” that my brother was married to has more rights than anybody else.


#15

You poor guys (and no I am not being sarcastic, sometimes it is hard to read a tone). Your stories are heart wrenching. I know that divorce can be horrible. I have heard awful stories from both women and men, but I gather from your research that men really suffer in ways I am not aware of and my heart goes out to you. What a tragedy.

I also think it is too simple to say that someone who commits suicide is simply a ‘death waiting for a reason’. Depression, even situational depression, can be overwhelming and Satan, the father of all lies, can be very powerful. The urge to live is a powerful force in all of us - so you have to understand how very powerful Satan must be in order to overcome the urge to live. And the illness of depression, the sin of despair, that all of us, at times, have suffered from and allowed to rule our lives can open the door to him …

When I lost my husband and baby to the accident 18 years ago my response to that tragedy was to surrender to alcoholism…others surrender to depression. Either illness can lead to the sin of despair…and that can lead to attempted suicide.

I think you, Ronin, are doing a great service by ministering to other men who are facing the tragedy of divorce. Perhaps by helping them through the maze of the legal system, guided by the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit, you can help them get through it without hating the women they once loved enough to promise to be husbands to until death.

My prayers are with you.


#16

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