I never expected to have anything to do with the word suicide other than to read about it happening out there somewhere, far from me. But one day it came right into my home.
I was seventeen and at college the snowy evening I got a phone call from my father telling me that my mother had died that afternoon in the garage with the car running. She had killed herself and been cremated before I knew she was dead. We didn’t have a funeral. That’s what the shame and secrecy did years ago. I had no words. Opened my mouth and closed it again, over and over, like a fish trying to breathe. I was beyond devastated.
I was now one of them– people who have a suicide in their family or close to them. The millions of Americans who have lost someone to suicide and crossed that line that separated them from us. It never occurred to me that suicide could happen in a family like ours. But it happens in every kind of family, every hour of every day of every month of every year.
You will never hear the word suicide the same way again. You may not be able to talk to anyone in your family or close to the person who died about it. In time, if we work at it, we thaw and words can come out. Don’t censor your feelings, at least to yourself. There are support groups, web sites, helplines and people who will listen and support you.
Don’t worry if you feel sad, angry, numb, fearful, alone, disappointed, judgmental, separate. Anything goes. It is a new road, and even though you are not alone on it, you have to travel it yourself. There are many resources now. People talking about their experiences and sharing hope.
The shock of having my mother die by suicide took a long time to move out of me. How would I grow up without a mother? I replayed conversations, comments, jokes, everything that had to do with my mother over and over in my head. But I couldn’t change the ending. I had to learn to have my feelings about it and do what I could to feel better, which included crying, shouting, writing, reading, drawing, therapy. I also learned whom to trust to talk about it, and how to ask for help.
I have come to an acceptance about it. I learned that it was not my fault. Now I also know that most suicides are the result of undiagnosed depression. Years later, in the way that happens with suicides, I found out that my mother was halfway out of the car when they found her– trying to get out. I had to talk about it all over again, and that’s okay. I have made a short film, “After a Suicide,” which is on YouTube. I am also producing a full-length documentary on suicide.
There will always be questions. We don’t get over it. But for today I have integrated the loss and have a full and peaceful life. Please remember that no matter how it feels, you are not alone with your loss. Reach out so you can get help and work through the loss. You can reclaim your life. It really does get better. You can do this, one day at a time.
Permission to use article on website and in newsletter – granted via email 2/16/2016
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