The Decade After Suicide by: Melissa d’Arabian

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Today we have the privilege of hearing from Melissa d’Arabian. Melissa is well known for having her own show on Food Network and shares with us her journey since her mom’s suicide. You can find more about Melissa HERE.

 

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Photo courtesy of Melissa d’Arabian

 

One spring evening in 1989, I called home from college with a simple request: I needed my mom’s credit card number for a GMAT prep course. But I didn’t get it. I didn’t even get my mom.

Instead, an unfamiliar male voice answered: “Hello?” He was an officer with the Montgomery County, Md., Police Department. We had a short conversation, but I still remember it vividly 25 years later. My mother had died by suicide.

Losing my mom crushed me logistically, financially, and emotionally. But losing my mom to suicide almost crushed my spirit. I was 20 when she died, and it plunged me into a decade-long crisis of faith.

My 20s were a mess. But the only way out is through, and sometimes the other side is so glorious you’re grateful for whatever got you there. That’s how I feel about that season of my life.

Here are some of the lessons that decade taught me:

Happiness is an inside job. Of course, that’s both good and bad news. Good news: I don’t need a new car to make me happy. Bad news: A new car won’t make me happier. Second, I believe I have more value than I can always see. I remind myself not to compare my insides with others’ outsides, or, as a friend puts it, my blooper reel with others’ sizzle reels.

Mostly, I emerged empathetic. My anger at my mom for leaving me morphed into imperfect understanding. For years, I’d seen her as the perpetrator, but I grew to see her as her suicide’s victim.

Those years of reflection gave me another gift. Mom was found on April 13, but she had died on April 12. The death certificate said April 12, while the police report and tombstone said April 13. So the anniversary of her death always lingered over 48 difficult hours—a black hole of loss, a sense that the world was diminished without my mom’s warm hugs, goofy wit, and wise advice.

One year, I decided to start commemorating the two-day anniversary by creating something to contribute to the world. It takes surprisingly little effort to comfort me on these days. Making brownies for a neighbor or writing an overdue note to a relative soothes my sense of imbalance.

In 2004, my husband and I were struggling to get pregnant. When I finally got the coveted two lines on the pregnancy test, I met with my doctor, and he told me what I already knew: I had become a mom sometime between April 12 and April 13.

The most important job I have today is being a mentor to my four young daughters. My children know that my mother died, but they don’t know the details; someday soon, I will have that conversation.

Being a mom doesn’t make me miss my own any less—it makes me wish she were here even more. She would have adored her many grandchildren. I live a few houses away from my sister and her five kids, so I imagine Mom might have moved here, too, and been a part of our never-ending cycle of birthday gatherings. And my Food Network career? She would have been so jazzed, probably asking weekly if I ever run into Brad Pitt. (Nope.)

Without my suicide season, I wouldn’t be the mom I am today—or the wife, the woman, the friend. Most days, I like who I see in the mirror. I am pretty sure my mom does, too.

 

This article originally appeared on Parade.com as Lessons of Loss: Melissa d’Arabian Reflects on What She Learned From Her Mother’s Suicide.

14 Responses

  1. Vicki nimmo
    | Reply

    Thank you

  2. Kate
    | Reply

    Redeeming.

  3. kellynickerson
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story and speaking on such an important subject. I am just so sorry for you loss of your mom. You write with such honesty and grace.

  4. Andrea Stunz
    | Reply

    Beauty from ashes… She wears her scars well. Thank you for sharing this, Brandy and Melissa. What a gift.

  5. Wendy
    | Reply

    Thank you. It is great you can see genuine positives from your loss. I look forward to when I can too.

  6. Mary Curry
    | Reply

    Dearest Melissa

    I’m weeping as I write this. I had no idea of your jouney. I’m so sorry sweetie. You were just a baby.

    My future daughter-in-law’s daughter committed suicide three years ago. We walk together in our grief as I list my son to cancer when he was 17.

    The Lord has given me a heart for ministering to those who grieve.

    While we shouldn’t stay stuck in our grief sometimes the scab comes off the wound for a bit and we loose our footing.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I love and admire you even more.

    Phil 4:13

    • brandylidbeck
      | Reply

      Thank you for sharing, Mary. I love that you have a heart for those grieving. I love that! My condolences to your future daughter-in-law as well.

  7. Melissa
    | Reply

    Mary, thank you for your beautiful words of truth. I’m sending hugs to your daughter-in-law and family as well. And yes…Phil 4 is one of my all-time fav books too. xo Melissa

  8. Patty Kenney
    | Reply

    Oh Melissa,
    There is so little that can be said to comfort the devastating loss of your mother and friend no doubt. God had other plans for you, plans that included your purposeful pain to support and encourage others who are now walking your path. Beloved girl, thank you for not giving up on life and for walking on when I’m sure darkness blocked so much of the light. I love you for your persistence, and for providing your beautiful girls an inspiring Mom to model their own lives after.

    Your Mom left this universe on an early exit, but she left herself most of all. She left her love in your heart which cannot leave you ever, unless you choose to leave it. It is there living and loving through you every moment of everyday. So very proud of your journey up the steep mountain which never consumed you during your climb to your clearest and highest path to yourself. You didn’t abandon yourself, a gift your entire family thank you for, as well as those who marvel with respect and gratitude for your amazing courage to live towards your highest and His. I love you….what a testimony!!
    Patty Kenney
    ( I hate it when you make me cry like this Melissa.?)

  9. Linda Hlasta
    | Reply

    What a beautifully written reflection of growth. God has a plan for us all, but we often can’t see what it is or ehy we have to go through such pain. Thank you Melissa for being who you are and sharing how you got there. You are such a good example to your girls as someone to emulate.

    I remember when you were on Food Network Star talking about losing your mom and I was crying for you. I lost my mom, not to suicide, but to cancer when I was about the same age as you were. I too often wish my mom were still with me. She would love her grandchildren and now great grandchildren to pieces.

    Stay positive always, it is a joy to see.

  10. Colleen Swift
    | Reply

    Melissa, Your mom is my cousin, thru my Dad, Clint. I have short memories of Cassie as my parents split and I lost touch with Dad’s side of the family. My last visit with Cassie was, I believe, in the late ’80’s when she came out to Belmont to visit Click and Gramma Johnson. I brought my kids to meet my beautiful and super intelligent cousin. I had previously told them of all her accomplishments! ( and how I had snuck into her clothes when I was 11 & she lived with us in Tucson AZ). I was so sorry to hear of her passing and to think of what anguish she must have gone through to get to that point in her distinguished life. I am sorry you lost your mom and that David and Finis lost their sister. It’s a void that can’t be filled. I am glad that you were able to work through everything and come out even stronger and become the loving mother and wife that you are. She would be so proud of you! I enjoy reading all of your posts and am happy for you and your success.

  11. Linda
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing !! I saw you shortly after the loss of our son. It was at the Out of Darkness Overnight in Washington D.C. I loved your speech. I go to a suicide group which has helped so much. I now want to help others’ !!!

  12. Gina
    | Reply

    I lost my mom in my 30’s but she had been ill since my early 20’s and had totally forgotten me very early on. It seems so unreal that I will end up living the majority of my life without her and sometimes I’m furious and other times I’m just painfully sad. I am raising two daughters and hope that at the very least I will be able to be in there lives as long as possible. Grief is life long as it turns out but its effect is really unpredictable. I’m sorry for you loss and proud of your accomplishments. She loved you and she was in pain. You are making her proud everyday.

  13. Julie Brainard
    | Reply

    Melissa, thank you for taking the painful but beautiful step into using your experience to minister to others. It is so redemptive and honors the Lord who brings life from death. I have been in dark places in battles with mental illness, and knowing I am not alone has often been a lifeline. Thank you for offering hope to those who sometimes lose it.

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