The Guilt of Surviving Suicide

My first blog 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?

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33 thoughts on “The Guilt of Surviving Suicide”

  1. 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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  2. 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

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  3. 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.

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  4. 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.

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  5. 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.

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  6. 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.

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  7. 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).

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  8. 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.

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  9. 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!

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  10. 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.

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  11. 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.

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  12. 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.

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  13. 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

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  14. 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.

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