The Guilt of Surviving Suicide

My first blog post comes on the anniversary week 1996 of my mother’s passing.

Terri was one tough lady. Always spoke her mind. She was a small town girl from Swan River Mb. She spent time in foster homes. She married young, had three wonderful boys ( and the grey hair to prove it ). Divorced, worked slinging beer at a biker bar, got her G.E.D. and completed a secretary course at the community college. She loved sports, competed in archery, played baseball, curled and bowled. She followed hockey, baseball, curling, football and the Olympics. A true Manitoban, she liked her bingo. She loved her family.

Our relationship with our parents changes as the stages of our lives change. They start as our care givers and protectors. My mother at the end, was a friend.

We talked often, I had the opportunity to share lunch with her from time to time. She would listen to my ideas of job prospects, and dreams of how I saw them developing into some kind of successful future. She always smiled and gave me encouragement even when the plans changed the next month. We talked about future grandchildren and dreams. She missed out on two amazing dreams that came true.

We shared a love for the Blue Jays. If we weren’t watching together, we would be on the phone talking about a play or player. After she was gone and even now, I still reach for the phone to talk about a trade or a game, or because it’s one week till season starts. I wonder what she would think about this years line up.

My mother had been sick for many years. She had had a number of surgeries, some that had not gone so well. As a resolute, her doctor told her that they would not do anymore unless there was no other choice, she had too many finger prints inside. She had epilepsy that had haunted her for as long as I can remember and was one of the factors in her depression. I remember as a child seeing her being put into hand cuffs on the living room floor because they didn’t know how else to protect someone who was having a seizure. She lost her drivers license because of the epilepsy, several times over the years. This was very hard on her. She dealt with migraines that would shut her down. Her doctor suggested that she was depressed and she being stubborn, got upset and ignored him. She, I found out later, had been spending time at the casinos and not winning. She had started to build up some debt.

In the weeks leading up to her suicide she made a comment to me that I didn’t respond to. She told me that she was worth more dead then alive.

I heard this same statement a second time a few years later from a friend, this time I did say something. We talked about what it would be like for his wife and children to survive with the loss of their husband and father. I wouldn’t presume to think that our conversation changed his mind but I like to think that it was enough to open it to other possibilities. I am happy to say he is still with us today.

Our son has autism and deals with depression on a daily basis, and suicide is a conversation that is common in our home. Letting our children known that they matter and they are important to us and their future, is a discussion we will never end.

The Sunday before her passing, I was curling with my step father and my mother came to watch. She hadn’t been feeling well lately and hadn’t left the apartment in awhile. I don’t remember the last time she came to watch a game, she didn’t go often since she couldn’t play any more. She was dressed up with her makeup on too. We sat and talked for a short while and after I gave her a kiss and said good bye.

The next day, with a glass of Crown Royal and the same medication that helped her with her epilepsy, she left us.

She left post-it notes on the backs of the things in the apartment that she wanted each of her kids to have. She also wrote us letters. She had a plan.

Not responding to my mother and not staying longer at the rink has been with me all these years.

She could have stayed longer.

Is it fair to ask those we love that are in so much pain to stay for us so we can avoid the pain of their loss?

Is it fair to ask the ones we love to fight, to survive, to be a warrior. 

I am surviving with a brain injury,  I am surviving depression,  every day after today is a bounce. 

Is it fair to let the ones we love to miss out on tomorrow,  ask them to stay.

62 thoughts on “The Guilt of Surviving Suicide

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  1. Blair, I am sorry to say that I didn’t know this about your Mom and I do know you…I went to school with you. Though at the time I was fighting my own epilepsy demon from the age of 12, ages 12-42 were a blur for me (then my medication was changed, not had a seizure since!).
    When looking back on your Mom’s seizures I can give you some insight, you feel like everyone thinks you are nuts…simple as that.
    My own brother took his life in 2018 and my step-son in 2020…I love them still, but I do’t forgive them for the pain they have caused others that I love, perhaps that is yet to come.
    Stay strong my friend.

    1. I am sorry for your loss. Having fought back from the darkness, I understand the hopelessness felt and not able to see a path out. Good to hear you are managing your epilepsy.

  2. My Mom didn’t go by suicide, but she did leave us suddenly, and the family shit that happened after, really pushed me to the edge. I just wanted that pain to end, I had a plan, just hadn’t pulled the trigger, on it just yet. And then, on a really bad day, 5 days b4 her one year death anniversary, I got my distraction that backburner’ed those feelings until I was stronger. I got my brain tumor diagnosis…

    I’m 2 years post-op, they didn’t get it all, so if I decide to check out again, my expiry date’s been bumped up, I don’t have to wait as long… That sounds morbid, but sometimes I feel that way, most times I’m actively fighting it, I asked for help & got some, but still a ways to go…maybe once this CoViD stuff is over, or the family estate issues have been finalized, or my brain injury goes away & I accept my new normal….or…

    This August will be 4 years, and it’s been my goal to hike to the base of Black Tusk to spread some of her ashes. Last year, I over-trained & tore my meniscus, so kinda tentative but still pushing, planning, training, keeps my depression cloud at bay, and I recognize it there, waiting for me to fall down again…

    It’s hard, I can always choose to check out, but not yet, not yet…

    1. There is always another tomorrow to experience. I have had to meniscus surgeries and I have a 40k hike I’m eyeing up this summer. i think I will have to do mine in stages. Best of luck on your hike, I hope you get there.

  3. Thank you for sharing your powerful story. Suicide is such a layered and complicated topic.So many times the signs are missed and sometimes the signs are really hard to read. Survivor’s guilt is also strong because you always think about what more could you have done.

  4. Thank you for sharing this story. Communication has to be open so people know what to look for and how to respond. You bring forth so may emotions in your writing and sharing. Wonderfully Written.

  5. This is such a heart breaking story. I am so sorry, I can only imagine the day to day pains. You are a strong person. I’ll keep you in prayers.

  6. This is so heartbreaking. Sometimes I also think I’m worth more dead than alive, it can be so hard to struggle like that. You sound like such a strong person.

    1. Lisa our value to those around us is greater then we can imagine sometimes. When things are at there darkest it can be difficult to see the light. Trust in yourself, trust in those closest to you. No ones value is greater dead then alive. Stay Strong, You Matter.

  7. I am extremely sorry for your loss. I pray to god may you have strength to endure the pain.

  8. So sorry for your loss. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you went through and still go through with the loss of your mother. I also can’t imagine the pain she went through all those years. She endured a lot and it sounds like she loved you and your brothers a lot. I’ve never lost anyone to suicide and I’m not sure if this is comforting but I truly feel like no matter how much time we spend with someone, losing them will always makes us feel guilty and like we could’ve spent more time. I’m sure your mom had many amazing memories of you and your family and always cherished them.

  9. I am so sorry for your loss! This is such a heart shattering read. It’s never selfish to wish your loved ones stayed a little more, but she is in a better place now!

  10. This is really a sad yet inspiring one, we can never really tell who suffers from what and who. this is a motivational article, thankyou for sharing this story

  11. This is such an inspiration, I got a great read with this article, everyone should read this too

  12. This such an inspiring story, everyone should get a read of this, it’ll surely move their heart

  13. I’m so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I believe that by sharing your story you are helping others.

  14. I am so sorry for your loss. I know it’s hard to get over the signs you feel like you could’ve seen. But it is entirely not your fault.

  15. Thanks for sharing your story, cuz i have been in this situation before, I am so sorry that you lost your mom in this way. You have my prayers.

  16. Such a powerful read. I hope you never have felt guilty or felt in anyway you could have done something to prevent it. People make choices that give us scares. You are a strong person.

  17. Wow I am so sorry for your loss. But thank you for sharing your story. You are helping so many people through times like these and I find you so inspiring and brave. Keeping you in my thoughts

  18. I am so sorry to hear that you went through this tragedy. it is not easy to survive suicide. Thank you for telling your story, it will help a lot of people.

  19. Man. sometimes its really so hard to see anybody and what state are they currently even if you check them out from time to time.

  20. I couldn’t imagine going through what you have. I’m in tears just thinking about how hard that is. I have had people close to me pass away, and it’s always painful thinking of those last moments together. I hope your blog has given you some comfort-I’m sure it has helped many others in your situation. Thanks for sharing such a personal story.

  21. What a heartbreaking story! I am so sorry that you lost your mom in this way. It is never selfish to wish our loved ones were still here.

  22. Wow!! This is so very hard to talk about I’m sure, but I love how real you are. It really is so hard to be okay with losing someone even though it may be best for them.

  23. I try to understand the people who is a suicidal state, that why I try to reach them out and help by listening to them, let them engage in something that would help them. Its a case to case basis and very sensitive

  24. Foremost thank you for your courage to share this touching story with us. Human pain is often difficult to reveal but it is a catharsis and an eye opener for us readers too. The only thing I can offer are my prayers for your family and your Mom and deepest condolences during this difficult time.

  25. Suicide is always hardest on the people left behind. I taught a whole series to other nurses about looking for signs of suicide in patients. You always feel guilty you didn’t see it coming. Honestly though in those most determined, they make sure people don’t see, because they don’t want to be stopped. Her health and depression do not torment her any more. Peace.

  26. This is a beautifully written post and I am most definitely feeling sad after reading this. I am so sorry about your mom and hope for wonderful things to come for you. Your mom sounded like a wonderful woman!

  27. This post is so full of raw emotions. Suicide is a topic that is so hard to talk about mainly because of the many unanswered questions that loved ones may have.

  28. This story is so deep and powerful. I’m so sorry for your loss. It is not easy opening up and talking about it. You are strong! I thank you for sharing this post with us! I believe your mom is in a better place now.

  29. Listening to your mom’s journey was heartbreaking to me. I can imagine it is not easy for everyone in your family. I am glad you share it. Hope she is in a better place now.

  30. We learn a lot of lessons when we go through grief. I love how you are willing to share your hard story, not just with us but with your family in your on-going conversations. We learn to live with the loss, but there’s still a hole in the heart!

  31. Although it may seem unfair to think of our feelings, it doesn’t hurt to let them know the impact they have on our lives. I am sorry for your loss. Reading this reminds me to cherish our loved ones and always find time to show it.

  32. Wow. What an incredibly powerful post. I have never had to deal with suicide before but I can only imagine how it effects those left behind. Thoughts and prayers to you!

  33. I just buried my parents a few days ago. Yes, both of them. While it was not suicide, I too long for a few more conversations and have a some regrets about not spending more time together and taking pictures at our last visit. We just never know when it will be the last time we see or hear a loved one(s).

  34. I’m so sorry for the loss of your mom. It takes a great toll on the survivor’s life, and I imagine even greater for those people who suffer from depression. Thank you for sharing your story.

  35. Powerful piece. I can relate to a lot of this because I have someone close to me who struggles with depression and sometimes threatens to kill himself. I beg him not to, and then I ask myself, “Am I being selfish?” But I think I also have a perspective that he does not when he is in the depths of depression. I can see all he is capable of, all those (besides me) who will be deeply hurt if he is gone, and I can also see the full picture: the days when he is not depressed but inspired and productive and feeling optimistic about life. I point all of this out to him whenever he talks about killing himself and try to make him understand the best that I can, which can be challenging.

  36. I lost my grandfather to suicide in 2008. We hit the 10 year mark October 5th & it still hurts. Thank you for sharing this. It's way more common than we think & there's not a lot of support for the people left behind.

  37. This was courageous of you to share your personal story. We may learn lessons from this too. I appreciate you shared it with us. Stay strong!

  38. Thank you for sharing this… I appreciate your openness on this tough topic. It's not always easy to talk about these challenging topics, but that is sometimes the best thing to do.

  39. It is so sad this subject is raised here. I just hope people will never suffer from depression and even think of commuting suicide. It is however always for the better to survive

  40. oh my gosh! i've had my best friend taken away from us because of suicide. we didn't know what was going through her head and why she did it. it is really unfair sometimes but we can just hope and pray that they find the answers and the peace they are looking for. sorry for your loss.

  41. I love that you shared the connection between you and your mother, and how tough it's been for you to be a parent of a boy with autism. I can't imagine what it would be like to have to discuss suicide with your child as often as you do, but it's wonderful how you show your children how much they matter and how it's not worth considering. – Dana Brillante Peller

  42. I couldn't stop the tears from flowing at the end! No matter what,I don't think we are being selfish wanting our loved ones with us. I am sorry about your mom! She does sound like a super woman. She's in a better place!

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