Why Do I Hang My Head in Shame? by Dianna Matzo

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Every time I think of you, my chin drops toward my chest and my eyes close. Memories, thoughts and emotions rush through my head like a subway train in a tunnel. I strive to keep myself from crying. Again. Tears to add to the buckets I have already cried over the last two and a half years.

Sometimes an alert friend or acquaintance will ask, “What’s wrong? Are you OK?” My body language signals sadness, dejection or feeling an emotion deeply. Bowing one’s head can also be a response to a perceived threat or a sign of submission, as in, “I cannot even look at you.” Or quite simply, a sign of exhaustion. But to me, the expression “to hang one’s head in shame,” resonates with me the most.

“If only…” If only I had understood the depth of your pain and hopelessness. If
only I had stepped outside myself and took the time to really listen.

“What if…?” What if I had flown across the miles and stayed with you until you
felt better? Or what if you had moved in with me like we planned for so long?

“Why…?” Why did you leave us? And by “us”, I mean ME. Did I contribute to
your heart ache?

I wasn’t smart or insightful enough to understand what you were going through. I was too self-centered to step away from my career and take care of you. I made you feel unwelcome when I had to delay the date of your move to my home. I took your isolating behavior as a personal affront. I was defective. I was not enough. And I feel disgrace and shame. Not because of what you did. But because of what I did not do.

11 Responses

  1. janne
    | Reply

    Wow, yes, I can so relate! Last sentence….. 🙁 I have struggled so much with that. 5 years later it’s lighter, that feeling, but I believe it will always sit there, behind the veil. Thank you for sharing. I know I am not alone in how I feel, and you are not alone either…. This is a very hard journey…

  2. Lynne
    | Reply

    We all have regrets sadly. My mother called me the night before she took her life, crying, and asked me to have dinner with her. I was so exhausted from my job that I asked if we could wait one night when I wasn’t so tired. I’ll never know if a yes to dinner would have changed the outcome. All I know is I can’t undo any of it so I have to accept it and try to live my life well. Thank you for sharing your story. Peace to you and our fellow survivors.

  3. Bon Swade
    | Reply

    Coulda will drive a person crazy! We can feel sad about our loved one’s choice but we cannot take ownership of their decision! We didn’t cause it and guilt will drive you to places you don’t want to go. Be grateful for the time you had and know they are at peace!

  4. Kelley A
    | Reply

    I have said many of these same words to myself and have also harbored the shame you describe. I have secretly felt unworthy of my loved ones support and especially unworthy of my sister’s (who died by suicide), unconditional love and support throughout my entire life. But, I am also trying to find acceptance of this tragedy in the form of regret rather than shame as best I can, at least for today. Shame is self punishment and sometimes that feels right, but, maybe deep inside it really isn’t. Regret is allowing me to acknowledge my failures and in my acknowledgement provides me the accountability I also seek. Regret also allows room for self forgiveness because we didn’t know. We were in uncharted territory and didn’t even know it.

    For me every day is still an effort and some days it’s more like a mind battle than an effort but, I think we keep moving through our pain and suffering each day as best we can for that day. Thank you for sharing. – Peace to you.

  5. Tamela Pauls
    | Reply

    First of all I want to tell you that I am so sorry you have suffered such a tremendous loss. It’s a club none of us signed up for. It was dealt to us. Do not feel ashamed of how your sister died. It is neither your fault nor could you of done anything to prevent it. If anyone of us would of prevent our loved ones from dying by suicide, we would of moved heaven and earth to prevent it. It is not our ownership to take responsibility for it.

    I lost my brother 3 years ago. My sister and I were the ones that found him. It has taken every bit of my being to get where I am today with it. I’ve felt the guilt, sadness and yes even shame for how he died. Every Friday evening I would sit and watch the clock till 6 pm and remember when our hell began. I didn’t want the weeks to pass. I wanted time to stand still because as weeks passed, it was just that much long since I had seen him or talked to him.

    In these 3 years I have read almost every book on suicide. The “gift of second” book helped me so much to see the big picture. My brother was terminally depressed. He could not go on. There was nothing anyone could of said and done to change his mind once he decided he didn’t want to live. The day before he died, he asked if he could live with me. He was an alcoholic and had started drinking the month before after being sober for 18 months. I told him no. I didn’t think it would work out. Don’t think that didn’t cause me guilt afterwards. If only I had said yes. It may have worked out for awhile, but I know deep down the newness of it would wear off and he wouldn’t be happy at my house either. If we have never been to the point where you really don’t want to live anymore, I don’t think we can fully understand. In the end, I think he still would of died by suicide, but it would of been in my home.

    Since my brother died, I have lost 3 other siblings. I have to honestly say, I do not think of his death any different then I do my other siblings. I don’t put his suicide in a different category then the other siblings I’ve lost. All my heart knows is they are all gone and I miss them all very much. I still cry every day. I’ve allowed myself to feel the pain, grief, loneliness and sadness when ever I have felt that way. I’ve given myself permission to have bad days and to feel whatever emotions I felt. There is only one way to get through the journey of grief and that is right up the middle of it.

    I no longer watch the clock on Fridays. I no long obsess about the time line leading up to his death. I no long think of the what ifs, could of and should of. If someone asks how each of them died, I tell them. I am no longer ashamed of the way any of them died. It is what it is. I know I have a long way to go, but I look 3 years ago and how far I’ve come.

    So be patient with yourself. Love yourself. Give yourself a break from it all. Each person grieves in their own way and time. You grieve for each loved one different. It is true, it never goes away, but as time goes on it is not quite so raw.

    My love, prayers and thoughts are with you as you journey through this.

    • brandylidbeck
      | Reply

      Tamela, I am so sorry to hear about your brother. I am also encouraged to read that it has gotten a bit easier with time. Also, I appreciate that The Gift of Second book was helpful for you.

  6. Debbie
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts(many of which are mine)! It is difficult to come to terms with such a tragic death. Each of us struggles in our own way to find peace. It will be 5 years this month since my son died and everyday I think of ways that might have changed the outcome. Most days I am able to accept that my thoughts won’t change the past so I try to forgive myself for not knowing what I didn’t know. As the song sung by “The Fray” says, ” I would have stayed up with you all night had I known how to save a life.”

  7. Karen
    | Reply

    Dear Dianna,
    In our deepest loss of our loved one, we all go around in “circles” trying to figure out the one thing that would have changed this tragic outcome. I have not only blamed myself, but others, even the school system. It was exactly 3 years on the 8th since I lost my 18-year old son, Troy, and I cry every day. Dianna, you are not to blame. Please keep telling yourself that. We are all standing with you in love.

  8. Jennifer Townsend
    | Reply

    This totally sums up how I feel too. Thank you I feel better knowing I’m not alone. Although I’m sorry you feel this pain. I try to tell myself I did the best I could because I truly didn’t understand but I have 2 other sons who do blame me and I pray everyday that doesn’t go on forever but it has been almost 4 years. I just try to take it one day at a time and it is not easy.

  9. Ashley
    | Reply

    I lost my father 10 months ago to suicide. His wife was leaving him and taking everything he worked his whole life for. He was a alcoholic and came to stay with me to get better. He went 13 days sober. I came home from Easter shopping to find what would be the worst day of my life. Everyday since then I think why me I was trying to help him. What if I would have stayed home and not went shopping did I not talk or listen enough. Was he mad at me for something. My father raised me he was everything to me. I felt like I failed him somehow. We talked about going to counseling just the day before. He needed help with the alcoholism but his work refused to let him go to a inpatient rehab so it didn’t help any. I know deep inside my heart I did everything I could for him but the fact that he did it at my house just is so hard to live with. I wish I would have known everything about suicide that I do now because there are so many things I would have done and said differently.

  10. sandy
    | Reply

    my granddaughter Lydia 23 took her life on January 20 2016. I found her in the basement. my husband and myself pretty much raised her. life is HELL. I look forward to the day my body gives out

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