*Parts Unknown Indeed*
To quote June Osbourne from Handmaid’s Tale, ‘What the actual fuck?’
And then as soon as I say that I am also struck with the wisdom to be able to answer that question; personal choice—that’s what.
I am so sad, so devastated by another’s choice to leave in this manner. And to leave behind a beautiful daughter as well. My heart is with his ex-wife, his daughter, his girlfriend and all who know and love him.
I know the reasons all too well; the explanations, the stories, the ‘before that explains the after’, but it doesn’t always help because we are left thinking something could have been done if they only reached out.
I can speak for my mother, she didn’t want help. She already had lived a life of reaching out and trying to help herself. She didn’t want to stay anymore. She wanted to end it, to stop the pain, the suffering, the fear, the unknowns, the looping story of her life.
It isn’t so simple as ‘why wasn’t I enough for her to stay?’ We wish their was an overwhelming love for another human being on this planet that would make these individuals choose another course, but as we see over and over again, there is not and one does not always change the other.
My mother’s love for me was strong enough to move mountains, ironically that is why she left because she did not want to be a burden on my life financially, emotionally, physically or energetically—and she was unfortunately during the last years but could I handle it? Yes! But it was her choice if she put that upon me or not.
My point is that it isn’t always so simple for the one who is suffering to call a Suicide Prevention Hotline. Everyone puts that at the end of the articles, and it is important! Don’t get me wrong. Hell, I put it at the end of all my posts, to please reach out to someone, to know you are loved, to call me if you want to talk, to stay connected to community, etc. They all don’t want that though, or if they are struggling with mental illness, which I strongly believe they are all not necessarily, the illness itself will prevent that logical phone call or action of connecting to others or talking about their feelings or thoughts to commit suicide. Also, the medication many are taking also prevents one from thinking of all the alternatives to the act of suicide.
I share this especially because my dear mother, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and Robin Williams all left beautiful daughters, along with many other people who have chosen to kill themselves leaving behind children. We all keep saying ‘How could they? How could they?’ My therapist taught me that it helps to answer those questions that keep banging around in my head and over the years I have been able to answer many, not happily and not well, but I do answer them.
The truncated questions actually cause me more harm than discovering the answers. The questions leave me jagged, lost, disconnected, broken. The answers leave me jagged, lost, disconnected, broken and calmer, contained, clear and connected to something greater than the act of suicide.
How could they? They could because the pain was that bad; that big, that dark and they were tired of it and wanted it to stop. How could they? They could because they believed that somehow we would be okay with it, we would understand it, we would heal from it and move on.
How could they? They could because they are not fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, friends, bosses, in those moments; they are human beings who are living a life that is hard and they don’t want to anymore.
It wasn’t until after my mother’s passing that I really was able to see that she was a human being separate from being my mother. I never saw her as her own person. I saw her as MY person; MY mother, MY confidant, MY healer, MY everything. Once she was gone, a few years after her suicide, I had an epiphany that allowed me to see her as separate from myself; as a human being having her own experience, her own life, her own dreams, wishes, struggles, losses, desires, and yes—personal choices that would affect me that I wouldn’t like but were hers to have and hers alone.
It was a shitty way to realize this and I wish I realized it in my adolescent years so I could have loved her so deep that it might have helped heal some of the cracks of her childhood.
I wish I loved her harder in my teens so that raising an only child as a single parent wouldn’t have been so hard for her.
I wish I was more demonstrative with my love for her in my twenties so that our bond would have been even deeper and she felt honored as a woman and witnessed as a human and not simply a mother.
I wish my thirties would have allowed me to see her as not MY person but A person; a very important person.
I wish at 40 I would have had more capacity to hold her suffering with more grace, selflessness, patience, and generosity so she felt held, nurtured, loved and taken care of as she did for me.
I say all this with definite judgement towards myself, filled with regret, guilt, shame, and a deep wound of a forever song of ‘what if?’ playing in my head like a broken record.
However, and this is a BIG however, I also forgive myself, I know I did a lot, I know what I was capable of as the human I was at all of those stages in my life. I know that I was not her mother and we do sign on for certain roles in this life and I was her daughter. I know there is nothing for me to feel guilty about, I know all the niceties that people will say when reading this. But I will save you the time, knowing it intellectually does not erase the feelings. The facts do not change the experience.
I am blessed with a plethora of self-care in my life so I am in good hands but it doesn’t take away the experience of losing one’s mother to suicide and it doesn’t make it better. It is just a place to go to when it gets too heavy and I am grateful to have it. I wish this for all those affected by the loss of a loved one to suicide; a safe space to let it all out, to cry, to talk, to yell, to say the unthinkable and know that it is all okay.
The one thing I am constantly reminded of is all the clarity I have now is BECAUSE my mother killed herself seven years ago. All the thoughts, dreams, take-backs, do-overs, regrets, perspectives and more, that dance around in my head every single day are only present because seven years ago my mother killed herself.
I can easily sit in judgement with myself now but I have to remember that I only know what I know now because she in fact is gone; because I have this perspective. Her suicide taught me this. Her not being here is how I learned all this.
I would have NEVER thought, or known, any of this then because I was not the woman I am today because seven years ago I had a mother who was breathing, moving, thinking, feeling, dreaming, loving, living and hurting yes; but still breathing.
I never truly thought my mother would ever commit suicide so I didn’t live my days with any of the wisdom I now have. If only, right? That’s not how it works though, those aren’t the rules.
Hindsight is X-ray vision, hindsight is fucked up and plays with your mind. My work now is allowing hindsight to be part of my journey but not the master; just a passenger pointing out a lovely rainbow in the sky that I glance at and see and then move on down the road.
I had no intention of writing anything when I posted this touching image of Anthony and his daughter but the words just flowed out. I have learned to trust that when the words flow they need to be shared, so I share them with you. I trust that they will land wherever they are supposed to, however they are supposed to, whenever they are supposed to. I know this will land on some who know this pain all too well; either side of it. I wish for you to know that it is all okay, it is all normal and it will all continue to shift and change—‘NOTHING is permanent’ has become a life mantra for me. I got through my mother’s suicide with that wisdom as well as my husband’s cancer. Remember that one, it does help.
Ironically the symbol for suicide prevention, as well as my husband’s nickname post colon surgery, is the semi-colon. The semicolon is intended to encourage people to keep going in life. “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence with a period, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life,” according to a statement on Project Suicide.
I know there are many people who can never fathom feeling like ending their life by their own hand. I wish you a life of freedom from that thought, desire, daydream. I admit I have thought of it. I have been darkly depressed in my life, way before my mother killed herself and I have been darkly depressed in my life since she killed herself. Was I ever suicidal? No, absolutely not. Did I not want to go on with the pain, loneliness, heartache, heart break, fear, unknowns? Yes, indeed I did not want to go on, and I did not know how I could go on.
It passed. It took another shape. It shifted. It healed. My mother’s love healed most of my wounds all of my life. The wounds she caused are now healed by me. She taught me how to heal my wounds; even the ones she caused. I was lucky. I got 41 years of a hell-of-a-lot of mothering, some really bad and some really fucking outstanding; most really outstanding actually! Losing her to suicide has caused the greatest of all wounds of course and I will be forever impacted by this. What brings me moments of peace is when I have a whisper in the wind of awareness that she is not here suffering any longer; she is free, she is done with her journey and no longer has to wake up with that dread, fear, heaviness, worry, pain, desire to leave but continue to stay anguish. She no longer has to live in that struggle of wanting out but staying in. That was torture for my mother and in those moments as I feel the whisper of the wind and I get to sense her freedom, I smile. I smile knowing that is over for her and even though I cry as I write this, I am smiling for her because she did what she wanted and I respect her for that.
The one thing that can change around this topic as the world speaks on this for a few moments is, communication. We all need to talk about how we feel. Share our deep waters with others we feel safe with. Encourage others to share as well. Live by example.
I know that my depths have made some uncomfortable in my life but I’m okay with that. I’m okay living my truth so loud that others hear it.
It is time for that uncomfortable feeling to be okay to feel; on both sides on the conversation. We need to stop pretending we are fine when we are not. We need to stop thinking that texting people is a relationship. Checking in with people is not an email or a text. Don’t assume because you haven’t heard from someone that they must be doing okay or because they posted something on social media that all is well. That if they needed something they would reach out. Wrong. It’s the opposite!
If you know someone who has shared enough with you for you to know they are going through something, that’s all you need to know to give yourself permission to be present in their life in the flesh, out loud. If it is someone that lives far from you then pick up the phone and let them hear your voice, Skype with them, look in their eyes. Let them know you see them. Book a trip. Spend some time with them in person.
If it is someone who is struggling with substance abuse, a breakup, financial or career challenges, an illness or aging or any other life change at all, then be extra present in their life.
And when that someone is you, tell someone. If you feel you don’t have anyone or know anyone that will be able to handle you then call a therapist, go to a meeting, call a Hotline, research local support in your area.
We have the saying ‘if you see something, say something’ regarding terrorism now. Well, this applies to life as well. If you see, or know, or even sense that something is off, or someone you know is suffering; say something.
We need to crack the stigma around feelings, suffering, challenges, what some perceive as weakness, and begin to shout them from the rooftops to show our humanity and be an example to others of how it is done.
So many of my mother’s loved ones told me that if they only knew she was going through a hard time they would have helped, reached out or done something to be present for her more.
This is why I live my life out loud and in color. I support you all in doing the same. I send you warm, healing energy and pray your heart is full.
I love you mom.
I love you Kate Spade.
I love you Robin Williams.
I love you Anthony Bourdain.
Love and blessings to you all.