Suicide. The word is full of shame and mystery. Unfortunately, suicide will touch nearly everyone in one way or another, whether it be a family member, a friend, or even an acquaintance. Suicide is a sad fact in this life.
How does one recover from the suicide of a loved one? That has been my main quest over the last year.
My mother had a long history of mental illness long before I was even born. My mom told me of her history, and although I am not a psychiatrist, after a great deal of research, I truly believe my mom had schizoaffective disorder.
When I was 15, my mom began to act strangely, talking to herself, coming into my room at night and hovering over me while talking to unseen people. She constantly mumbled on and on about my dad wanting to murder me and that he was demon-possessed. I didn’t quite know what to think and my dad was concerned, but didn’t think it was “that bad”. During the weekend, I sat at the kitchen table trying to finish an important essay for school and the entire time my mom paced and mumbled. I could hardly concentrate to finish. My mom disappeared for a few minutes, then reappeared, frantic, and told me I had to go to the church (a block away) so that I would be safe. I refused. “What’s going on?” I asked. I heard my dad on the phone, calling 911. My mom had taken an overdose of Tylenol PM, then directly went and told my dad what she had done.
I headed out the door as the police arrived. My whole life turned on its head.
My mom was hospitalized for about a month and I stayed with family friends during this time. When my mom came home, I knew she was not “cured”. The psychiatrist that treated my mother had a meeting with me and my dad and told us my mom was simply depressed. The doctor told us that we were the cause of her depression, so we should ‘shape up’.
My mom and I reversed roles when she came home. I had to look after her, make sure she took her meds, cook for the family, and my mom became my ‘child’. I resented this situation deeply.
One night after her return, I asked her pointed questions about her past, and she opened up and told me her psychological history.
She married young, had a child, but then her husband had an affair and left her. As a single mother, she couldn’t cope and attempted suicide. She was sent to the state mental hospital, where she had shock therapy. She emerged from the hospital to find her child in the custody of her ex-husband. She had several suicidal attempts after this, followed by numerous hospitalizations.
Around 1970, she found herself pregnant and unmarried. She went to the El Paso Salvation Army unwed mothers home and gave birth to a baby boy she named David. He was put up for adoption, and then my mom again attempted suicide and was hospitalized again.
In 1976, my mom met my dad, retired Air Force, and they were married within a few months. In 1980, I was born. My mom was 41 and my dad was 46.
After my mom’s attempted suicide when I was 15, I tried my best to live a normal life. I married, had children and I was happy and for the first time in many years, I felt that I had a normal life.
In 2006, my husband and I moved in with my parents so that we could sell our home and pay off debt. In the the summer of ’06, my mom began to act strangely, talking to herself, seeing things no one else could see, etc. I convinced her to see a doctor, but the doctor was a complete moron. -He gave her a bunch of anti-depressants and muscle relaxants and sent her home. I tried to get her to go to a better doctor, but by this time she was very paranoid and convinced I was trying to kill her. She quit eating and drinking and sleeping. No doctor would help. The counseling center in our town refused to get involved.
My mom began making crank calls to 911 and police showed up about 5 times in a 3 day period. One day, my mom flew out of the house and I ran after her to make sure she wasn’t going to hurt herself. She told me she was going to the police station in her car. I tried to stop her, but I have two young children to look after. My children come first and I didn’t want to scare them. I let my mom go, but I prayed and hoped she was ok.
About an hour later, I received a frantic call from my mom’s friend saying that my mom had shown up at her door delirious and incoherent. My mom managed to tell her friend that she was “going to the hospital”. Once I got off the phone with my mom’s friend, I called 911 and told them my mom was suicidal and a danger to herself and others. The policeman came to my door to take my statement and description of my mom and her car. The officer told me that could not take my mom into protective custody against her will, even if she was acting in a bizarre manner. The police looked for my mom, but didn’t find her. My mom eventually came back home later that evening.
I felt that my hands were tied. The doctors refused to help, the mental ‘professionals’ wouldn’t ‘interfere’ and the police wouldn’t even take my mom into protective custody. What is there left to do?
A couple days after this incident, my husband and I were awoken around 5 am by our children screaming. My husband ran to their room and found my mom in there. My mom then went and got on the phone. -Calling 911. When the police arrived, they told us that my mom had called to report us for “torturing” our children. The police plainly saw that the kids were fine, but my mom was not. I begged the policeman to take my mom into protective custody, because obviously, she was a danger to herself and others. The policeman refused and said we should just put locks on our doors to protect our kids from my mom. I was at the end of my strength. Those that were supposed to be available to help didn’t care.
The next day, I had my dad call my mom’s doctor and the counseling center. Again, they refused to help. Around 2pm, I put my youngest child down for a nap and got my oldest up from her nap. Around 2:20pm, I heard a loud bang. I ran to check on my kids. My oldest daughter was in the den, my dad was sitting and the kitchen table reading. I asked, “What was that?” We were all in shock. We knew.
I ran and entered the hall to the bedrooms and I was met by the smell of gunpowder. I cautiously turned the corner and found my mom in my dad’s room, laying on the floor. I could see she had shot herself right underneath the sternum. My dad was behind me, and my little 4 year old was right behind him. I pushed my daughter back so she couldn’t see her Nana laying there.
I frantically called 911, my mom was still alive, so my dad applied pressure to the wound and checked her pulse and breathing. I ran and scooped up my 18-month-old who had been sleeping just in the next room and took my kids outside.
That day is a bit of a blur now. My mom was taken to the ER and my pastor and his wife let us go to the church and let our kids play while we waited for word on my mom. Within 45 minutes, the lead detective called me and said. “There are things we need to discuss.” I knew what that meant. I knew my mom was dead.
I arrived back at my dad’s house and the lead detective told me that my dad was not handling things well, so I had to take care of all the arrangements. I was used to being the responsible one, but I didn’t think I could make it through this one.
To this day, I don’t quite know how I made it though to the memorial service. I had to for my kids’ sake. My oldest daughter, who was only 4, was devastated by my mom’s suicide. For months, my daughter would cry in her sleep, and she would ask me why Nana “hit herself in the stomach with a gun”. All I could tell her was that her Nana was sick, but now she’s with God and she’s happy.
My husband and I moved to Hong Kong 5 months after my mom’s death. Moving physically has helped me move on emotionally and deal with my mom’s death. Above all, the Lord has brought me through this and carried me because I know I wouldn’t be here now if the Lord hadn’t rescued me.
“Lord, I seek refuge in You;
let me never be disgraced.
Save me by Your righteousness.
Listen closely to me; rescue me quickly.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a mountain fortress to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress;
You lead and guide me
because of Your name.”