This is such a difficult topic to discuss. Not everyone has the courage to talk about suicide. But I am so thankful that Maya has chosen to share her story here on Motherhood Unadorned. I think it is so valuable to learn the perspectives of survivors who are intimate with the struggle and aftermath of mental illness and suicide. We can learn so much from their experiences and hopefully save lifes armed with the knowledge we have gained. Thank you so much Maya for honoring us with your story.
In September of 2006, things were happening as they should. I was a senior in college, working on graduate school applications and planning my upcoming wedding. My brother was on a mission trip, my sister starting another year of high school.
It was a Friday. My ﬁancée, Mark, and I were driving to my motherʼs house for a weekend of wedding catering and cake testing appointments. My mother called me when we were about halfway home, uncharacteristically anxious for me to get there. Upon arrival, Mom ushered me into the living room and asked Mark to stay behind to get the bags out of the car. He knew something was up, but I was oblivious.
Sometimes I wish I could capture those last few minutes in a jar, those moments before I learned my father was dead, that heʼd killed himself the night before.
My father had been mentally ill for a long time, longer than I could remember. Heʼd had bouts of being suicidal for a long time, since I was young. I do not judge him for how he died, though the judgments from others have made it such that I rarely discuss his passing (no, he didnʼt die because “he didnʼt try enough to be happy,” as one friend suggested). Hereʼs the thing. While I know many people consider suicide to be selﬁsh, I know my father died out of love.
He believed our family would be better off without him.
He was trying to be selﬂess.
My father and I had our differences. To be honest, his illness, and some of the choices he made, caused stress for our family. He was wrong though. My life is not better without him. In a couple of weeks it will have been 5 years since my father lost his life to suicide. I still have trouble talking about him without choking up. Weeks go by and then all of a sudden my older son will look at me a certain way or Iʼll hear a song on the radio and Iʼll dissolve into tears.
Here are things that my father has missed (and that Iʼve missed having him around for):
- My mother being diagnosed with and beating breast cancer
- Me graduating from college
- My wedding
- My brother graduating from college
- Me graduating from graduate school
- The birth of my ﬁrst son, named after him
- At least two Bob Dylan concerts
- Vacations to visit us in California
- My sister being accepted to one of the most prestigious art schools in the country
- The birth of my second son
- So many other moments
Most of all, Iʼm sorry that my children will never know their grandfather. Iʼm sorry that heʼs missed introducing them to Bob Dylan, Entenmannʼs donuts, and Van Gogh.
Iʼm sorry that he had to suffer with a debilitating mental illness. But suicide eliminated all possibilities, all hope. Its ﬁnality and completeness haunts those who survive for the rest of their lives.