The truth is I used to hate the word suicide. I used to think it was a cop-out for putting in the hard work. I thought it was a word people threw out when they didn’t want to deal with the consequences of their actions. It was a threat I’d heard too many times to believe. I used to say there was no forgiveness for something that selfish. There was no grace for that kind of end.
Three years ago, however, I realized how wrong I was. I witnessed the kind of pain it takes to push someone to that word, to that attempt. I saw the kind of brokenness that keeps closing in, covering every glimpse of light in a life. I watched hopelessness become a reality. I saw the most important person in my life begin to lose the battle.
I watched doctors try to medicate her. I saw her ripped apart by the evil things in this world. I listened to her say there was nowhere to go, no one to understand; she believed no one could ever possibly overcome her kind of pain. I heard her sobs of loneliness even though I was right there. I heard her desire for love that I couldn’t alone fill. I saw her will to fight, and then I saw her strength disappear.
I wish I had been able to save her. I wish I had been able to love her back. I wish I could have made her see no one else can play her part. Despite my own fight, that day, that most painful day, came. She was gone.
I wasn’t angry. I didn’t blame her. I didn’t think of her as selfish. I didn’t think of her as a coward. Instead, I just missed her. I just wished the world had taken her in its arms sooner. I wished we all wouldn’t have been too busy, too tired, or too afraid to put in the hard work. I wished we had been able to pour into her, to make her believe she mattered, and to find the people who could help her. I wished we had validated her and tried harder to see life through her eyes. I wished suicide wasn’t part of our story.
But here I am, more than two years later, putting this word to paper for the first time since that day.
There is a part of me that believed it wouldn’t be real as long as I didn’t say the word. That part of me said to keep moving; it wanted me to say she died of cancer. Cancer doesn’t often bring the judgment that losing someone to suicide does. Cancer isn’t a choice; there’s no one to blame. You can’t be held responsible for cancer. Cancer doesn’t mean the image of perfection that was falsely built up around you comes shattering down thanks to the rumors of a small town. I let that part of me allow the shame that led to her suicide live on in me. In a way, I convinced myself to be ashamed of her story.
But today I am taking a stand against that part of me because even though I didn’t choose suicide, it is part of my story now. It is part of my journey, and I will not continue to be ashamed of my mother’s story. Instead I am ashamed that we as a society run away from this word, as if we don’t all have a role to play in its existence. I am ashamed that we don’t fight harder to protect those battling the reality of mental health issues. I am ashamed that we don’t choose love.
So, as I continue with this journey, I hope I can use our story to bring light into other people’s darkness. I hope I can show others that they are not alone. I hope I can inspire others to pour out love, grace, and compassion. And I hope that the world will see that suicide doesn’t have to be part of anyone else’s story.