In Michigan the leaves are changing, bold and beautiful hues all falling to the ground. Autumn has always been my favorite season, but this particular fall day lacks beauty for me.You see, today marks the one year anniversary of my Mom’s death.
One year ago today she took her life.
Last year on October 13th I was crawling into my bed in Oklahoma (after staying up late to watch a movie) when I heard my cell phone ring. It was my brother, which confused me because with the time difference it was well after midnight in Michigan. I sucked in air and braced myself for a blow, calls after midnight rarely bring good news. My husband ran for the phone, as I was a slow 30 weeks pregnant. After he hung up the phone he gently filled me in.
Earlier that evening my mother had taken her life on the same train tracks where my sister had a brutal car accident 10 years back.
I didn’t burst into hysterics or tears, I sunk into shock as all the hope I’d so desperately held for my mother’s recovery shattered on the tile floor of our bathroom. There was no coming back from her depression, it had finally defeated her spirit. She had been so mentally and emotionally unavailable for years, and now she had faded from my life completely.
So today, a year later, I want to write about what it feels like to spend one year processing and grieving suicide. Many people tell me that they can’t imagine what it must be like to have your mother take her life.
If I could sum it all up into one word it would be this: confusing.
After 365 days of living with suicide I am still confused. I know that the body, mind and soul of a person are unbreakably connected. I know that when the mind is sick it has the power to take down the other two. That when the body is sick it can take down mind and soul down as well. However, I have seen enough optimistic cancer patients to lead me to believe that the worst place to get seriously sick, is in the mind.
My mother struggled with depression for roughly 30 years, it is a disease that eventually took her life. Some days I view her death as a struggle with terminal depression, a disease of the mind. Still other days I wonder what was inevitable because of her diagnosis and what she could have fought through, done differently.
But not a day goes by where I don’t wonder who my Mom really was underneath that thick, crust of pain and sadness. Near the end of her life she was mostly just a warm body and a blank stare, existing in a world I couldn’t seem to reach. Even now, I listen to stories and glean pieces of the person God created her to be and I struggle when faced with the woman I knew as Mom.
They tell me she used to be bright and fun loving, a warm hearted, servant minded person. She felt other people’s pain like it was her own and she was a vibrant cheerleader, the star of the school play. I miss her even though I hardly knew her at all. But mostly I am frustrated that I missed out on her, the real her. I hate that my life was spent watching her blow away like dandelion fluff,
For a long time I was angry at her, not only for her failures as my Mom, but for being locked behind a wall I couldn’t penetrate. I kept reaching for her just like my own baby son reaches for me, because you always need your mom, don’t you?
But she wasn’t there anymore, even though she was sitting across the room from me. She wasn’t the woman who read me stories and applied my band-aids, that woman was gone.
It’s utterly terrible grieving someone who is still alive.
I don’t know why some people die of physical illness, some of mental illness and some in sudden tragic accidents. I do know that one out of every one person on the earth will die and that even though my moments on earth seem endless, they are anything but.
I try to remember the good memories of my Mom, but most of them happened years ago. When she was alive, the idea of being like her terrified me, so I rejected everything about her in hopes of avoiding her fate. Now, with wisdom and time, I am confident that I can be her child and still avoid suicide. So I dig, searching for the parts of her that I can bring alive in my own life.
Things like this:
1) She would kiss my newborn daughter right on her tiny lips, I thought that was weird, but now I smooch those little lips whenever I want to, because I am mom, and I can.
2) She always left her coffee cup in the bathroom because she finished her last mug while she was doing her makeup. I do that too.
3) My mom’s favorite season was fall, mine is too. She would drive us around town just to find beautiful trees to fuss over, as a kid I didn’t get it, but I have every intention of subjecting my kids to this as well.
4) She wore the diamonds my dad gave her when he proposed, and now they belong to me. They are a symbol of all the beautiful intentions they had when they started our family, and I want to carry this into the future.
Suicide is messy and inexplicably selfish, but I doubt she had much control over it, as far gone as she was, it is painful and life shattering and a confusing legacy to leave your children. All that being said, I am my Mother’s daughter and I have every intention to fight like hell against mental illness.
So I will carry her with me as I leave an empty coffee cup in the bathroom before leaving it to live my life as bravely as I can.
Leanne is a writer, wife, mother and wavering hope ambassador who is passionate about partnering with God in the business of redemption. She lives with her husband and three kidlets in SouthWest Michigan where she writes, cooks, folds laundry and dreams of a day with a few less dishes. Find more of Leanne on her blog right here. On Facebook here, Twitter here and Instagram here.