One year with suicide

 This post is best read with a mug of something warm such as coffee, cocoa or hot tea.  Also hot apple cider, if available is a great choice.  

 In Michigan the leaves are changing bold and beautiful hues and falling to the ground.  Fall has always been my favorite season, but this particular fall day lacks beauty for me.  You see, today marks the one year anniversary of my Mom’s death.  One year ago today she took her life.
Last year on October 13th I was just getting into bed after staying up too late when I heard my cell phone ring.  It was my brother, and after a glance at the clock I realized that time in Michigan was midnight thirty.  My heart sank and I braced myself for a blow, because calls after midnight rarely bring good news.  My husband took the call and after he hung up the phone he gently filled me in.  Earlier that evening my mother had taken her life on the same train tracks that my sister had her accident years before.  I didn’t burst into hysterics or tears, instead I sunk into shock.  I couldn’t believe that all the hope I had been grasping so desperately had shattered on the tile floor of our bathroom.  There was no coming back from her depression.  It had finally defeated her spirit.  She had been so mentally and emotionally unavailable for years, and now she had faded out of my life completely.
I wanted to write about what it feels like to spend one year processing and grieving suicide.  I know a lot of people tell me that they can’t imagine what it would be like to have your mother take her life.  Well I think that if I could sum it all up into one word it would be this: confusing.  After 365 days of living with suicide I am still confused.  I know that the body, mind and soul of a person are unbreakably connected.  When the mind is very sick it has the power to take down the other two.  When the body is sick it can take down mind and soul down as well. However, I have seen enough optimistic cancer patients to lead me to believe that the worst place to get seriously sick, is in the mind.
My mother struggled with depression for about 30 years, and it eventually took her life.  Some days I view her death as a struggle with terminal depression, a disease of the mind.  Other days I wonder what was inevitable because of her diagnosis and what she could have fought through.  But every day I wonder who my Mom really was underneath that thick gray crust of pain and sadness.  Toward the end of her life she was usually a warm body and a blank stare, existing in a world I couldn’t seem to reach.  I listen to stories and glean pieces of the person God made her to be, she was bright and fun loving, a warm hearted and servant minded person.  She felt other people’s pain like it was her own and she was the star of the school play.  I miss her even though I hardly knew her at all.  Mostly I am frustrated that I missed out on her.  That my life was spent watching her blow away like dandelion fluff, piece by piece drifting somewhere unknown.
I can honestly say I was angry at her, for all her failures as my Mom, and for being locked behind a wall I couldn’t penetrate no matter what I did.  I kept reaching for her just like my own baby son reaches up for my face.  As much as you hate to admit it, You always need you mom, and she couldn’t be mine anymore, even though she was sitting right across from me.  I won’t ever fully understand that, it’s utterly terrible grieving someone who is still alive.
I don’t know why some people die of physical illness, some people die of mental illness and some people die in sudden tragic accidents.  I do know that one out of every one person on the earth will die and that even though my moments on earth seem endless, they are anything but.
I try to remember the good memories of my Mom, but most of them happened years ago.  When she was alive, the idea of being like her terrified me, so I rejected everything in hopes of avoiding her fate.  Well now I am confident that I can avoid her fate while at the same time being her daughter.  I am now brave enough to talk about some parts of her that I carry on in this life.
1)  When Noelle was born she came to visit and kissed her right on the lips.  I thought that was weird, but now I smooch those little lips whenever I want to, because I am mom, and I can.
2)  She always left her coffee cup in the bathroom because she finished her last mug while she was doing her makeup.  I do that too.
3)  My mom’s favorite season was fall, mine is too.  She would drive us around town just to find beautiful trees to fuss over, as a kid I didn’t get it, but I have every intention of subjecting my kids to that as well.
4)  She wore the diamonds my dad gave her when he proposed, I am now brave enough to wear them too. They are a symbol of all the beautiful intentions they had when they started our family, and that’s a part of all of this that I want to carry into the future.
Suicide is messy and inexplicably selfish, I doubt she had too much control over it, as far gone as she was.  It is a terribly confusing thing and difficult legacy to leave your children.  All that being said, I am my Mother’s daughter and I have every intention to fight like hell against metal illness.  I will love autumn with reckless abandon. And every morning I will leave a mostly empty coffee cup on my bathroom counter before I get out there and live life to the very fullest with every intention to leave an amazing legacy in my wake.
  • Lisa

    What an amazing post. I am 5 months post the death of my brother to suicide. I work in a psych ward with suicidal and very sick depressed folks. I am sorry for your loss.

  • Mark Allman


    It has been almost 2 and a half years since that February in 2008 that my father shot himself. It is something I do not think one gets over but just get better at dealing with it. At the time my father had already tried to kill himself at least two other times and try as we might my brothers and sisters and I could not pull him out of the darkness he was in and felt he could not get out of. He was going to jump in front of a semi truck one day and a couple of older ladies stopped to see if he needed any help and that stopped him. I am thankful he did not involve someone else like that in his suicide. I talked with him everyday and sometimes more. He could not understand why his life was not great since he was a Christian no matter how I tried to dispel that misunderstanding of what being a follower of Christ meant. He got to where he could not deal with all of the apparent bad stuff that was happening to him even though he brought some of it on himself. I had talked with him the night before he killed himself about the Super Bowl that had just ended and it was a good conversation. The next morning I attempted to call him and he did not answer. I still wonder if he saw my call and did not take it. A couple hours later I got a call and knew it bad.

    I was mad at him for killing himself and the destruction he left behind in many peoples lives. I think it so selfish but I realize the demons he was fighting did not let him see this. Even now I can go through being mad, and being hurt and wondering if I could have done something more. My sisters had the roughest time dealing with it. I told them no matter what we would have done the outcome was going to end up the same and that we should feel no guilt over his suicide.

    Sometimes I find myself thinking I need answers to all my whys but I realize I really don’t. I don’t have to know the whys to continue to trust in the one who knows the whys and why nots. My sister said and it was so true. “We sorrow with Hope” I still do.

    • leannepenny

      Mark, thank you so much for sharing your story here with me. May you and your sisters continue to hope and heal. You’re right when you say that the Whys are a trap, they’re impossible to avoid 100% of the time but we are certainly better off w/o em.

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