A Minute to Myself (141)
A Minute to Myself (142)

The Value of a Life

What makes people not value their own lives and at the same time value it so much that they think others can't live without them?

Last week in California a man killed his family (his five children and his wife) and then shot himself after losing his job. In October there was a similar story, also out of California. I’m sure, unfortunately, that there are other cases that I’m not aware of. I guess the thinking that goes on in the minds of these people must be: my family needs me, if I can’t support them, then no one else can support them and they should all die because they need me, and since I can’t support them, then they should die. Um, I’m thinking that this is more narcissism than anything else.

I’m probably not supposed to be angry at people who are so distraught that they murder their families, but I can’t help it. So what, the world revolves around you and if your orbit goes off-kilter you need to take everyone down with you to prove how vital you are? Or are you so claustrophic in your mind that you can’t see a sliver of possibility for your “loved ones” without you being at the center of their universe?

How does a person become so lost that the most important role in his life is one that he violates so dramatically? Is society still too focused on a man’s worth as being reflected in his “being a good provider” that when there is an obstacle in fulfilling that role the man loses his ability to value himself as a person as separate from his paycheck? I know this is a great simplification, but I love to simplify things, after thinking deeply, of course. But if the straw that breaks the camel’s back is losing a job or losing the house, then there is that implicit link between one’s intrinsic worth as a person and one’s extrinsic worth as a provider.

How to rectify that, especially as we continue to ground into this economic morass? Who knows? I don’t write self-help books or sermons. Okay, I’ll take a shot. If you were to think of the things that bring joy to your children’s faces you could find a clue to who you really are and how you are really valued. Maybe it’s the things you buy, in that case, not much help there. But maybe, really, it’s that your children know you are trying to give them what they want—that you want to make them happy. And if you break that down, it could be grounded thus: they are happy when you try to make them happy.

When I get together with friends we often meet in a restaurant or a coffee shop. Not much money is spent, because that is not the key factor, time together is. We get together simply to spend time with someone we enjoy being with, and we tell stories. We tell stories of past meetings, of things we have done since last meeting, and we talk about aches and dreams, and frustrations and joys. The coffee or salmon salad is not the center of attraction, we are. This can be taken as the advice that time spent together is what counts and not what is done. Who needs fancy parks when it brings more angst to get there when the core of the experience is the being together?

Maybe I’m still simplifying too much or am unable to see into the psyche of a man who only values himself by his paycheck and how he provides and what he can give his kids, but you know what, the mind is a gymnast and can change how it views things. There isn’t yes and no, and have and have not, there is part and there is some. Maybe a part of the problem, too, is that people don’t talk to each other. They don’t tell their spouses about the battering that they are taking just trying to survive, or about the relentless thought of failure that accompanies them throughout the day, or about the longing to walk away from the trials placed in one’s path. If only, if only people, especially men, didn’t realize that sharing is not a sign of weakness or failure, but is a sign that you are not an island.

For goodness sakes, don’t people get married and have a family so that they can share their lives with others? Is sharing about controlling it all? I especially detest the notion that a man or woman would not tell his or her family about problems in order to “protect them.” Protect them from acting on concern? Protect them from knowing that your spouse is considering murder and suicide? Protect them from what—their own lives, the reality of their loved ones’ lives? 

While this blog may not be the turn-to source for men contemplating killing themselves and their families, it is my source for thinking about our lives and our society. Trying to be like Atlas holding up the sky so your brood can bask in the sunshine is a pretty tough task even for a Greek God. It seems that the time has really come for the “man as center of the world in his castle” thing to come to an end. Maybe this is sexist, but I can’t help but feeling if these men had just talked to their wives about their FEELINGS they might have come up—together—with a solution that did not involve the end of all their days.

My thoughts go out to all those who are struggling, may they find hope in the future and a place of peace in the present. 



A couple things that may shed light on the most recent California story. (Not that I believe any of them justify what happened) The man and his wife had both been fired for an alleged wrongdoing... I am guessing that added to the despair as they were not only both now jobless but had the extra "handicap" of having been fired "for cause" which would make getting a job in a tough economy that much harder. Further, in the story I read, the wife is the one who suggested killing the whole family (but who knows, because that was the story in the note the HUSBAND wrote... so... we have only his word on that). However, there did seem to be some evidence that the wife had held the children whilst they were being killed.

I suspect that given what I read about the story (there was something about "why have my kids be someone else's burden" or something like that) that He had thought about someone else raising his kids and having them love whoever raised them that he could not come to grips with. So, yes, narcissism had a role. He couldn't stand the thought of someone else succeeding where he had "failed".

Even when I was only a paycheck to my husband and child (and yes, I have EVERY reason to believe that is the ONLY value I had to them), I never thought of killing them. I thought of suicide because survivors benefits would have brought them a comparable income to what I was bringing in working. Of course, they would have lost their maid service...

There are no easy answers. I don't think killing your family and yourself is a solution. The solution I chose (divorce) isn't a solution everyone can or will employ and I've taken my share of derision for the choice I made. But no one had to die and I think the quality of life for all involved has at least remained status quo. (Sorry for the very long comment)


I totally get why both the mom and dad wanted to die. They were most likely going to go to jail for fraud - in addition to losing their jobs. But I don't get killing the children. Yeah, it would've sucked for them to lose their parents in such a way, but as a mom, I can't imagine making the decision to take my kids out of this world.


Hi Laura, I've asked myself the same question: why killing the children? Does not make sense. If you can provide for them, shouldn't you try to find help so that they get a better life not death? I'd die to protect my children, I'd do anything for them. But killing them? That's pure madness, nothing else. Ciao. Antonella


Irrational people do irrational things...

You might be living a perfect example of how "real" communication can become impossible between some people.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

MsDarkstar, thanks for your long comment, it is much appreciated. Perhaps this is just one more indication of how violence has pervaded our society. When all else fails, go for the gun. What's wrong with applying for welfare? So what? You want to tell me that there's more honor in killing your family than asking for help? Regarding the possible misdeeds of the husband and wife, maybe the very impetuous for that was their tough financial situation, so it turned out to be a cycle they dug themselves deeper into rather than out of.

April, I could not for the LIFE of me imagine inflicting any harm on my children. (Other than having given them a psychopath father, that will surely follow me all my days.)

Antonella, lots of explanations but madness is surely a compelling one.

morethananelectrician, that comment took my breathe away (only temporarily, don't worry). Maybe a key difference is the belief in the future: that the present will not extend into the future for as far as the mind can see. Maybe that's what keeps some people still grinding away and others going to the gun rack.


I surely didn't mean anything personal by that...it really doesn't read the way I intended it at all. Hope is indeed the difference.


It's impossible for anyone else to know what these people were thinking and feeling without walking in their shoes - they shouldn't be judged. We should be grateful that we haven't traveled to the very dark place that they were obviously in. I cannot believe that it would have been easy to do what they did.

They must have felt so intensely desperate, alone, let down and deeply depressed to do something like that. Perhaps they had felt like that for a long time, could see no way out and didn't want to inflict the legacy of their suicides onto their children. Maybe they found life too unbearable and didn't want their children to have to suffer as they were doing. It's a pity that nobody realised how they were suffering and helped them before they took such tragic action.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

morethananelectrician, the whole village thing, maybe it's necessary for more than just children--we all need the village.

Splodge! Surely we need to move beyond each family behind the walls of their own homes into a more involved society. How that happens? Maybe starting to really mean it when we ask "how are you?" and not just as a meaningless greeting.


One more thing that struck me... whether or not it is true, this is what the man "heard" and took to heart...

"Lupoe faxed a bitter two-page letter to a local TV news station the morning he killed himself, saying a hospital administrator told him he "should not even have bothered to come to work" and "should have blown (his) brains out.""

Again... I'm not saying at all it was the good or right thing to do... just passing on insight as to some of the "Why?" from the Dad's perspective.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

I read that too and found it immensely upsetting. Who are we if we have no compassion for each other?

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