We wanted to get away. My fiancée Kyle’s family was embroiled in a mess. His parents had recently separated after having divorced and remarried one time already. Kyle was a bit of a pawn between his parents which was taking its toll on his state of mind. It felt good to be getting away.
When we returned, his dad picked us up at the airport. The plan had always been for his mom to pick us up. When Kyle asked where his mom was, his dad said she wasn’t able to make it and not to be concerned.
On the way to my house his dad told us that no one had been able to reach his mom since the day before. She had been depressed and upset and my mom had been out to visit with her and offer encouragement over the weekend. So, she hadn’t been missing, right? I mean I couldn’t imagine what he meant when he said she wasn’t anywhere to be found. But Kyle knew. She had attempted suicide at least one other time when he was a young boy, but I had never heard that story.
He went to her house as soon as he could. The door was locked and no answer when he rang the bell. Instinctually, he ran full speed down toward the pond on their property, now iced over from the winter’s cold. Peeking out of the broken ice was the tail end of his mother’s car and nothing would ever be the same again.
By the time I am got there with my parents, the paramedics were there. But it was too late. She was gone. Almost thirty years have passed and I still cannot find the words to express the magnitude of the shock and horror that filled the cold air that night and so many thereafter.
His mother believed the lie that everyone would be better off without her. She told my mom, though my mom did all that she could to convince her otherwise. But nothing could have been further from the truth. Everything unraveled after she died. Everything.
Kyle was plagued with monumental guilt that he wasn’t there for her. He could not forgive himself. He sort of dropped out of life after that. He dropped out of college, our relationship, and escaped through alcohol. It was a tragic chapter to follow what his mom had imagined would make everyone “better off.”
It wasn’t my parent who committed suicide so I could empathize only so much. But let me tell you, I was profoundly impacted by it. I racked my brain to remember conversations with her and things she had said. Were there clues that I missed? Should I have been more encouraging? Should I have offered her more hope than I did? Should I have never suggested we leave town when things were such a mess?
My safe little world was shattered. I couldn’t imagine that someone would actually choose to die. I mean sure, I knew people did it but my only experience was through the news of people who killed themselves to avoid public humiliation or the consequence of crime. I was horrified to find that someone in my world, whom I loved, would just leave the world by choice. I struggled with fear in ways I never had before. Nothing seemed safe or trustworthy anymore. If this was possible, what else might happen?
Now, with the gift of time, I can look back on the loss and understand that her mind was fogged over by deep depression. I know that the world still has a lot of light in it apart from the darkness in the belief anyone would be better off if a suicide takes place. This lie that so many believe is both mind blowing and devastating. To truly believe this is beyond sorrowful, but the real tragedy is that the opposite is actually true. When you leave someone with the shards of agony that comes from your suicide, you aren’t giving them something to make their life better, you are taking something from them. It’s not just your life you’re taking, you’re taking part of theirs. The depressed person often leaves with the primary belief that they are doing everyone a favor. But they are actually taking away any sense of normalcy and calm in a person’s life and it may take years to rebuild if it ever does.
Now I pay resolute attention when someone tells me they feel helpless. I lean way in and pray for the cloud over their mind to lift. For the lie that their life has no value to be exposed…that taking it will not make anything better for anyone, including them.
Thank you, Melinda, for your incredible story of being impacted by a loved one’s suicide. There is such wisdom and healing in your words that we can all benefit from.
To read more from Melinda, you can find her at her blog, melindamattson.com