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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.


12/20/2013 at 4:39 PM
My mother killed herself over 2 weeks ago at the beginning of December 2013. The pain and guilt I am going through is unbearable. The stigma of depression did not allow her to accept she had depression. She stopped taking care of herself and it is hard to accept since there is treatment she still did not try. The emotional pain she was going through was unbearable. This stigma must be broken and people need to start talking about it. I miss my mom so much and the pain is terrible. I am 32 and never imagined I would loose my mom so soon especially to suicide. How does one get over the guilt? Do we ever?
12/14/2013 at 7:07 PM
The best way to describe it, is as if a cancer patient is very sick and just needs the pain and suffering to end. That sometimes medicine will help but in some cases there isn't any quick fix prescription drug that can cure the ups and downs. The constant thoughts that your a failure to others even when these people care and love you, theres still an empty dark hole that just cant be filled. I know this personally because Iam one of those such individuals. I get my heart stomped on by so many, at least that's how it is in my eyes. Even when others could easily turn the other cheek, I have feelings on a much deeper level. I hurt and am saddened more then anything else. I do get angry but more often then not I'm sad and miserable alot of the time. My husband of 16 years and I are divorcing and my depression has gotten worse. Yes, I have seeked help, medicine and therapy but I can't bare this pain anymore. I'm also a mother and have an 11 year old daughter. Thing is I need support. I just feel like I can't maintain or run my life on my own. Taking care of myself just isn't in the cards. I'm just done feeling this way. I know my daughter will be better off without me. Her father is a good dad but I can't bare the pain in my chest and thoughts of wanting to end my life. I just feel like all this heartache and misery I've felt for years can finally go away if I end my life.
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