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A Mother's Suicide

Letter to a New Survivor

By Diane Conn, Conndiane@aol.com

I never expected to have anything to do with the word suicide other than to read about it happening out there somewhere, far from me. But one day it came right into my home.

I was seventeen and at college the snowy evening I got a phone call from my father telling me that my mother had died that afternoon in the garage with the car running. She had killed herself and been cremated before I knew she was dead. We didn’t have a funeral. That’s what the shame and secrecy did years ago. I had no words. Opened my mouth and closed it again, over and over, like a fish trying to breathe. I was beyond devastated.

I was now one of them– people who have a suicide in their family or close to them. The millions of Americans who have lost someone to suicide and crossed that line that separated them from us. It never occurred to me that suicide could happen in a family like ours. But it happens in every kind of family, every hour of every day of every month of every year. 

You will never hear the word suicide the same way again. You may not be able to talk to anyone in your family or close to the person who died about it. In time, if we work at it, we thaw and words can come out. Don’t censor your feelings, at least to yourself. There are support groups, web sites, helplines and people who will listen and support you.

Don’t worry if you feel sad, angry, numb, fearful, alone, disappointed, judgemental, separate. Anything goes. It is a new road, and even though you are not alone on it, you have to travel it yourself. There are many resources now. People talking about their experiences and sharing hope.

The shock of having my mother die by suicide took a long time to move out of me. How would I grow up without a mother? I replayed conversations, comments, jokes, everything that had to do with my mother over and over in my head. But I couldn’t change the ending. I had to learn to have my feelings about it and do what I could to feel better, which included crying, shouting, writing, reading, drawing, therapy. I also learned who to trust to talk about it, and how to ask for help. 

I have come to an acceptance about it. I learned that it was not my fault. Now I also know that most suicides are the result of undiagnosed depression. Years later, in the way that happens with suicides, I found out that my mother was halfway out of the car when they found her– trying to get out. I had to talk about it all over again, and that’s okay. I have made a short film, "After a Suicide," which is on YouTube. I am also producing a full-length documentary on suicide.

There will always be questions. We don’t get over it. But for today I have integrated the loss and have a full and peaceful life. Please remember that no matter how it feels, you are not alone with your loss. Reach out so you can get help and work through the loss. You can reclaim your life. It really does get better. You can do this, one day at a time.

Diane Conn's "After a Suicide" documentary.


10/11/2016 at 6:55 PM
My Mom died the same way and was found in about the same position. I was 13. I am now 55 and I see it affecting my relationship with my wife of 31 years.
09/17/2016 at 10:52 PM
I contemplated suicide. I still battle this along with depression. I am young, and I am a mother to a young child. I am truly trying to save my life most days, silently. Nobody knows. I don't want to die. I want other people to understand that suicide isn't always expected by the person who committed suicide. I know that if I fall victim to myself, it will be irrational and through deep hopelessness that is more than I would know what to do with. The greatest thing that makes me want to save myself is my child, like a lot of people who contemplate suicide. Sadly though, my daughter doesn't come to mind in those suicidal moments. Not because of selfishness or lack of love or care toward her. It's because at the moment you feel deep negativity, but you think of nothing, not even yourself. You are stuck, you are shame, you are gone. I feel that the most sad and emotionally stuck beings are the ones that don't even leave a note. I feel this way because there were times that I was so lost that I couldn't even find the strength, words, or thoughts to put them on paper for anybody. Everything felt missing, I was missing. I had a traumatic childhood. Despite me making good decisions, being healthy, and long away from my past, my past trauma came back to haunt me. I was diagnosed with depression at the most unpredictable moment in my life. I was so happy, and a mother, whom adored her child, and life. This made me feel immense guilt, and that only makes things worse. Since I am not yet gone to where I can have a voice for others like me whom face the serious decision to live or to die, the fear of dying from your own hands. I want people to know that most people that consider suicide can contemplate it for a very long time, and it isn't a quick decision because most of us want to fight to live because of you. Without you, we wouldn't contemplate it. It would be a done decision the moment suicide came to our minds. We silently fight for a long time. If it wasn't for my daughter, I wouldn't be here today. She makes me stay and fight, but unfortunately someday I may lose the fight. I wouldn't lose because "she isn't enough" to save me, She is more than enough. I would lose because I'm not healthy enough to save me. I would fall victim to my mental illness, and she would be a victim to my mental illness. I am unfortunate to battle depression and sadly my loved ones are unfortunate, too. If I have it my way, I won't choose suicide. Unfortunately, I don't have it my way, or I would have never had any trauma or illness in the first place. My illness fogs my decisions, and the fog can blind us from the ones we love the most even in the moments they are the closest to us and we need and want them the most. I hope that this can bring some understanding, and I hope that any understanding can bring any amount of closure. Know that it's not your fault. Mental illness is confusing for everybody. It's a misunderstood, and very difficult disease. My worst fear is that I will succeed at suicide, to leave my daughter, my loved ones in heartache. I would want them to know that it isn't their fault, it's not my choice, I'm not healthy, and that my true rational self wouldn't have made that dreadful decision. I am still fighting, I am doing well. I just want people on the other side of the situation to understand, and find peace. I'm sorry for your pain. I wish for you all to find healing. Good days will come. Take care.
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