Losing My Mother to Suicide: Reflections on Grieving & Healing
Suicide: I think my family was never much for processing things or grappling with emotions, so we just carried on.
(If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs)
Was it 2001? Or 2002? What year was it? I must've been 7 years old when my mother died by suicide. She was young, in her early thirties.
I remember coming home to find her unconscious on the floor, my sister making a frantic call to my father who was out of town, uncovering a neatly wrapped bottle of poison in the dustbin, an ambulance, and the grief and the chaos that ensued the next few days.
The end is etched in my mind, but I don't particularly remember my mother's gradual descent into darkness, or my understanding of the events after that. But it changed me, in ways which only now I'm starting to make sense of.
I think my family was never much for processing things or dealing with emotions, so we just carried on.
I vaguely remember this evening. My father and I sitting in the car, waiting to pick up my sister. "Amma is no more. If someone asks, you know what to say, right?" He must've said something along these lines, while tears welled up in my eyes.
This was probably the last time we spoke about her.
After that, the survival of my family was the only priority. We moved cities, dad quit his job, leaving each one of us to fend off feelings of grief-stricken emptiness in a new place.
Most families have a trauma or sadness around which they orbit. My mother's suicide was ours. You couldn't see it, but you always felt it. It was always there, waiting to lurch at the slightest opportunity. But we managed as best we could.
No one really told me to keep my mother's suicide a secret. But I felt like we let go of her death, her memories and our lives before the event, along with her.
My sister and I were told, "We were different, and now our only hope is to study well, be independent." We were also told to lead a normal life, despite a traumatic past.
In most of my interactions with people, it's as if the tragic event never happened in my life.
I understand that a lot of people are not comfortable talking about suicide, and they don't really know the right thing to say.
But is silence the answer? At least not with your family, not with the ones who are suffering equally. It creates this invisible barrier, that you start to think you're living a superficial life, with no deep emotional connect.
Trust me, death is the easy part. The suffering after, adds such a massive load of baggage on you for the rest of your life and creeps up on you, if not dealt with properly.
Nearly 20 years after my mother's death, it added up, I reached a breaking point. I now realise that I lived under the stigma and grief surrounding it. By not acknowledging her life, her death, I felt I was robbed of the ability to grieve my loss properly.
I now know that in order to find a closure to it, I need to first accept that it was tragic, traumatic, and that it changed the course of my life.
Maybe her death fueled my toxic relationships, my tumultuous adolescence, my life choices.
Not that I blame her for my mistakes, but therapy has helped me realise that her suicide is directly related to my trauma and issues, unresolved and exacerbated by my family's silence.
After numerous sessions of therapy, and opening up to my friends and other loss survivors, I'm slowly coming to peace with the fact that I can probably never fully understand why my mom did what she did.
My mother was young, like far too many others, was mostly suffering from depression.
I wish someone had stepped in when she tried to kill herself multiple times, or paid attention to her struggles, and gotten her the help she needed. The help I'm so grateful to have myself.
Reaching out for help was crucial in my understanding of my mom's story, misconceptions about my family, and my choices.
Along with my healing, it's also brought people going through similar issues in my life closer. And instead of suffering in silence, we always have each other, which is extremely comforting.
Maybe, my family will address the elephant in the room some day. Maybe, no one will.
But I'm glad I've come a long way, and I'm healing, and if my story helps anyone in any way, honestly, I think my mom would be proud of me for doing this.
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