You've Lost Your ChildTo Suicide
You’ve Lost Your Child To Suicide
Shock. Pain. Denial. Shock.
Thank goodness for shock.
That moment when I knew my baby girl was gone. I have no words to describe ‘it’. ‘It?’ What is ‘it’? I’ll try to explain.
It’s the most gut-wrenching, horrifying, night terror you can possibly imagine, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t wake up. Even that falls short of this life-shattering moment.
I’m going to speak to those, like me, who have lost a child to suicide. We have a title. Did you know that? We are Suicide Loss Survivors. Make no mistake, we are an unfortunate tribe. We are family brought together by one of the most painful and traumatic deaths that one will ever endure. Do NOT underestimate the effects of suicide. Yet, I’m here to tell you, you will survive.
The first moments of knowing my daughter died of suicide are etched in my mind. I found Hannah. Those moments have become sacred to me.
When I found her lifeless body, I felt she, her spirit, was standing in the room with me. I pleaded with her, demanded she get back into her body. And she pleaded with me to let her go.
The paramedics, the ambulance ride, the moment when the doctor confirmed to us she was dead….all of it is like a dream, a nightmare. The sitting with her lifeless body in the hospital room while the Sheriff stood guard. My quiet pleading for her to wake up. Sitting there stroking her beautiful hair and precious face. There her body laid but my 16-year-old baby girl was gone.
We drove home, my husband and I, in a teary sort of silence. I had a thought that she was finally free. I was mortified by the coldness of that thought. Later, it was that very truth that brought some peace but I rarely shared it with anyone except other suicide loss survivor parents. And when I have, they are so relieved someone was willing to say it.
As we sat numb in our living room alone, a knock broke our trance. It was two neighbors, a mom, and her adult daughter. They had lost a child family member to illness. It wasn’t the same but their concern was obvious. We let them in.
The mom lectured us on how to grieve and how to allow each other the space to grieve in our own way. She explained everyone grieves differently. Some are social grievers and some private. It was the only people that lectured us. It was perfect.
I decided right then that I would honor my way of grieving, period. I would honor it in the name of my precious daughter. And, I did just that.
As well-wishers brought books, articles, cards with advice and visited with words of encouragement, all I heard was, I love you. I love Hannah. I love your family. Everything else was like listening to a foreign language. I felt loved and that’s all that mattered to me. I was alone in this strange twilight zone of tragedy.
The books. So many books! Not one that spoke to the suicide of a child, a daughter. Even if there had been one, I wouldn’t have read it. I wanted to notice, honor, experience the death of my daughter not of someone else’s child. Her life which included her death was sacred to me. Every bit was mine and no one else’s. Yet, I’ve met many parents who have read everything they could find on suicide. Remember, everyone grieves differently.
The planning of a funeral. It’s cruelty. No one should be expected to plan a child’s funeral. Yet, we are. So we did. We were fortunate to have a friend who practically lived with us the first week. She was unassuming, a grandma, and mom of 10. She quietly cleaned up, did our laundry, kept track of gifts, and drove us to the funeral home.
The funeral home. They were so kind and yet I found it a horrid, horrid place.
Going to the funeral home was the first time I left the house. As we drove the 30 minutes to the mortuary, I watched people scurry about as if Hannah didn’t die. I screamed in my head, “STOP! HANNAH IS DEAD!” So much of what I experienced would be considered irrational and yet grief is so powerful, it will have its way with you.
Grief is love in deep, unrelenting sorrow.
It’s the painful side of love. And, it is completely selfish and that’s okay! Hannah was fine. I hurt because I wanted her back. I wanted time to finish my job, to watch her heal, to be with her in the maternity ward as she gave birth to my grandchild. Truth is she was in so much pain, the only way for her to stop it was to end her own life. Or so she believed. I often questioned if she had to remain in pain, would I force that upon her so I could have her back? My final answer was a loving, compassionate no.
The first year is the year of firsts. They warned me it was the hardest. They were right. Some say the second year or third is the hardest. For me, it was the first year. The days turned into weeks and weeks into months. I sat for hours praying, searching for answers. They all came. Every single question I had was answered. Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t know in this life all the why’s. It’s simply not true. Answers may not come as quickly as you’d like but they will come. Don’t give up.
It was clear I was never going to be the same. How could I be? In normal life, every day we change, grow, become better. How could I ever allow my daughter’s suicide not to affect me? Impossible. It was just a matter of how.
The how? I decided to live “#becauseofHannah I will….” Let me explain. Hannah struggled with painful, unresolved thoughts. So, I found ways to resolve my painful unresolved thoughts. Hannah couldn’t be honest with her friends about her suicidal ideation and emotional pain. So, I was honest about my pain. I mourned out loud. I became certified in courses on suicide prevention and taught them to whatever groups would listen and still do. There were many more #BecauseofHannah actions that changed Utah laws and saved lives. I started this nonprofit among so many other things.
This is resilience.
Right now, you probably just want to die. You just want to be with your child. You’re going to want to blame yourself. You’re going to do so many “what if” scenarios. I’m going to ask you to stop and find yourself innocent. Stop and think for a minute. If you could have done something different to change the outcome, wouldn’t you have? We do the very best at the moment with the information we have. We all do. So, when you think “what if”, replace it immediately with “because of”. You can learn from this and take action. What if’s are impossible to accomplish because they ask you to change the past. You can’t. You can only learn from it and change your future. You can empower yourself like you wished your child could have. That’s how you honor them.
I’m always available to talk or text.
I’m deeply sorry for your loss.