Something that very few people know about me is that my grandmother took her own life. While that’s a powerful statement, this story is mostly about my Mom and what it feels like to be a by-product of suicide…
I can’t remember exactly when it was that my Mom told me about my Grandmother. I never even met her because she took her own life using a gun when my Mom was 20 years old.
Instead, I just remember the very vivid feeling of being afraid from that point on that my Mom would ever contemplate the same measures. My Mom didn’t have a very easy life growing up, and while that’s not my story to tell here, it’s an important part of understanding the full picture of what it’s like being left behind because someone chose to resort to that.
When someone chooses to take their own life, it doesn’t just affect that person or the people around them, it affects generations. It doesn’t affect them in the overly idealized ways that we honor celebrities or see in the movies. There are no memoirs, special editions, or immortalized quotes. Instead, everyone around you is stigmatized and people whisper while looking away in pity.
Rather than special services and tweets from celebrities honoring you, your family is left wondering why they weren’t enough. They’re left asking themselves why you didn’t choose them over the hurt. Why didn’t you let someone in? My Mom was left with these questions and permanent emotional scars. Those scars and wounds inevitably get passed on by even the best of family and friend survivors.
How did this affect me, you ask? Rather than my Mom having a proper example of what it looks like to cope, she has spent the rest of her adult life combatting an inevitable fight or flight mentality to safeguard her heart from being hurt so deeply again by someone who should have had an unconditional example of love — to no fault of her own.
On most days, she does incredibly well and it’s an all but forgotten unfortunate event and we only reference the good. But on not-so-great days, I’m reminded of the selfish** choice that someone well-loved made many years before me because of a deep hurt and loneliness that my Mom feels from lack of closure and never being able to answer the question “Why?”. It’s an emptiness that no one this earth can ever fulfill for my Mom, and so sometimes when she gets frustrated with me or my brother for not being ever-present, I have to remind myself that it’s not coming from a bad place.
You’d think that someone like me, who has seen first hand what the vastness of what suicide can do, would never have similar thoughts, but I have. I briefly referenced the times that I’ve thought to myself “maybe they’re better off without me..” in my third-trimester pregnancy post and very openly discuss a decision to take medication and action towards bettering my mental health.
Because of this, I’m innately overly cautious with trying to stay in-tune with my mental health. Rather than this post being interpreted as a slam against those of have chosen such measures, I’d like for you to take away the fact that mental health issues are an ILLNESS.
They are genetic, chemically imbalanced, and non-discriminatory diseases that should be as well looked after as physical ailments that can be seen by the naked eye.
I’m proud to say that I’m not too proud to discuss my experience with depression and anxiety as well. Being able to admit weakness and imperfection is what it means to show strength, not the other way around.
I hope that if this post finds you in a place of isolation, loneliness, or extreme hurt, that you’ll take heart in knowing that I’ve been there too. That it’s not wrong of you to have heavy thoughts, it’s what you do with them that matters.
Finding someone trustworthy that you can open up to and be accountable to you is the first step in becoming a pillar of strength for others that are hurting, too. There is no shame in getting help! You could be the one who saves many.
** Amended to clarify that my intention with this statement was to make the point that suicide shouldn’t be something that’s easily resorted to or easily justified as it only creates more ease and less fight-for-the-betterment in those suffering from mental illness already. Even more so when it’s a parent or someone with dependents that rely on them.