There was a moment as soon as I found out that my mom had committed suicide where time stood still. I’ve never experienced anything like the loud ringing in my ears that came seconds after hearing the news. I clenched my ears as hard as I could, trying to drown out the deafening noise that left a migraine for days long after it stopped. For hours that night, I found myself staring at walls, switching between utter brokenness and complete numbness. I went through every stage of grief within minutes and found myself circling right back to denial every time.
I will forever regret ignoring my mom’s phone call the day of her suicide. I probably wouldn’t have known what was going on, let alone been able to change her mind, but just telling her “I love you” one more time might somehow help my grieving process.
Despite the regret of not answering her call, I quickly learned how far adrenaline can carry you in the beginning of grieving. Some part of me thought that the faster I ran, the sooner I would reach the finish line of this whole process. Perhaps I could just bypass it altogether if I stayed busy enough. I quickly realized, though, that no matter how fast I run, reality always catches up.
One of the hardest things to process has been my lack of anger over the entire situation. So many other loved ones seem to be angry, and I believe that they have every right to be. It seems like everyone else wants me to be angry with them though. As if knowing I am angry is easier than knowing I am simply broken. However, even after 5 months and a lot of genuine self-reflection, anger just simply isn’t there. A lot of people keep telling me it’s ok to be angry, but surprisingly, I’ve had to keep telling myself it’s also ok if I’m not.
I used to think suicide is so selfish. I still do, to be honest. But so am I. On my best, happiest, most clear-headed days, I am selfish. In little ways and big ways… intentional and unintentional… I make decisions every day that are all about me. I’m not proud of that, but I know there is grace for me in those moments. So when I am selfish even on a great day, I cannot possibly expect someone to be selfless on the darkest, most desperate day of their life. I cannot be angry that in a very confused and lonely state, she was imperfect. I must have grace for that. And I’ve found that allowing her to be imperfect and selfish during such a vulnerable time has given me a lot of freedom, and it has kept anger from robbing me of my joy.
Please know that I am in no way minimizing suicide at all or saying that loved ones have no right to feel anger and betrayal. The trail of brokenness that this has left behind is immeasurable. The guilt, what if’s and confusion is overwhelming. I simply want to highlight the fact that how my mom passed is not at all what I’m focusing on. It does makes the sting deeper and the list of questions longer, but I get to choose how I remember her.
So I choose laughter. I choose dancing. I choose memories of the mother who made me who I am today, and I am honored to be like her in so many ways. I choose to remember my mom as she was before getting so physically and mentally ill. She was little, but with the biggest personality you could imagine. A woman who lit up every room she entered and made people feel better about themselves by loving them so well.
I know I won’t ever “finish” or be fully done with the grieving process. But I also know there is a day ahead with no more nightmares. No more living in a constant state of nausea. No more “If only’s” or guilt or shame. I have no idea how far away that day is, but I certainly know now that sprinting isn’t going to get me there.
The way my mom left this life does not negate the way in which she lived it. And she lived it beautifully. Mom… You are loved, cherished, forgiven and missed deeply. I hold onto the hope that you are finally free of all pain.
Darnell Young writes over at It’s Only a Tent. Feel free to stop by and see her other posts. It is a great website.