Suicide grief: What life is like for those left behind
The three graves at the entrance to Margaret Wambui’s compound are a constant reminder of the agony she has undergone.
Then there is the pain of wondering what may have pushed her son to kill his two children before committing suicide. This, she says, is inexplicable.
None of the family members can say they had premonitions of the disaster that befell this family in Mwisho wa Lami village, Mirangine Sub-County, Nyandarua County.
Kelvin, who worked as a boda boda rider hacked his eight and six year-old sons to death then took his own life.
The deaths left Margaret lonely and her compound dead silent; she has no one to cook for and memories of the once vibrant family break her heart.
“Kelvin was a hardworking boda boda operator, many a time operating late into the night, so I became the mother figure in his son’s lives. I was always with them,” Margaret says.
She cooked for them, supervised their homework, bathed them, and she always had someone to send on errands.
Since the deaths, Margaret has contemplated destroying the two-bedroom timber house where Kelvin and his sons lived as it was the scene of the crimes.
Kelvin’s case is one of many similar ones in Nyandarua.
In Mawingu Village, two homes are completely deserted as the husbands killed their wives and then committed suicide.
Mr Justin Ndung’u slashed his wife Monica Muthoni to death before hanging himself while Mr Samuel Kamakia, a retired teacher, locked himself inside his house and used petrol to start a fire in which he and his wife Veronica Wanjiru died.
And at Jua Kali estates in Ol Kalou town, a rental room where two Kenya Medical College students committed suicide is still vacant.
Neighbour Joshua Mbogo says nobody who learns of the suicide agrees to move into the room.
According to Nyandarua County Commissioner Boaz Cherutich, police recorded 43 suicide cases between July 2018 and April.
The most troubling are murder-suicide cases, as they give health experts, social workers, and detectives an impression that the suicides and murders were premeditated.
In all cases, relatives and friends regret ignoring changes in behaviour.
In most of the cases interrogated, the victims resorted to living in isolation, spending long hours in bed and hardly interacting with relatives and friends.
Margaret admits noting Kelvin’s behaviour changes and so do his uncle Josphat Mugo and Mirangine Boda Boda Operators’ Association chairperson Samuel Kang’ethe.
“We realised the change in behaviour two months before the incident. He kept to himself, spending long hours locked up in the house, unlike before when he woke up early to escort the sons to school then go to work,” she says.
Within that period, Margaret forced her son to work in Mirangine town where he operated the boda boda.
“I knew his marriage was troubled. After he was abandoned by the wife, he became unusually calm. It never occurred to me that he was contemplating suicide.”
Margaret is convinced that Kevin spent a good while plotting the deadly mission, going by the manner in which the children were killed.
“He called the sons from the neighbourhood where they were playing with other children, locked them up in the house, butchered them and then hanged himself. I think I should have consulted a counsellor the moment I noticed the behavioural changes.”
At Captain Village where Samuel killed himself and wife, a casual worker says theirs was a rocky marriage.
Regarding the signs, Mr Gitau Njeri says, “He was an early riser. He supervised the workers and jovially interacted with them. But he suddenly changed, waking up later than usual and lacking interest in everything, including the farm activities he cherished.”
He adds that Samuel became aloof, returned home late and either went straight to bed or spent hours in the bedroom.
Justin, who used a hoe to kill his wife, also became quiet.
A relative, Ms Ann Kimotho, says, “He spent most of his time fixing and repairing the fence. He always appeared to be in deep thought and did everything to avoid company.
Nyandarua Health Chief Officer Jorum Muraya says the signs reveal that some of the victims suffer from stress and depression.
He describes such depression as mild madness, and says it is the main cause of homicides and suicides.
Dr Muraya says that other than depression and stress, factors that motivate people to commit suicide and homicide include domestic and internal wrangles.
He says indicators of severe depression include sudden withdrawal, lack of sleep or oversleeping and loss of interest in what was once loved.
“The most important thing is to identify the triggers. These signs can easily be noticed by close friends, confidants and relatives. Such signs should not be ignored by whoever notices them.”