My first date with Suicide
So we are at the end of Suicide Awareness Week with World Suicide Prevention Day properly poised right in the center. I would like to tell you about my first encounter with Suicide and let’s just see where the road leads us.
It was my mother. I had just turned 14, and I was used to the sort of arguments between my mother
and stepfather that had me packing all or some of our things into boxes and bags and having us looking for a motel to stay at overnight. I cannot say with any amount of genuine accuracy how often this truly happened, it just seemed like it was all the time. Thinking back it was probably three or four times a year. Frequent enough for that even at 14, I recognized the pattern and wouldn’t have thought the last argument as any different than all the others.
I wish I had. Instead, we did the drive all the way to Augusta and back to Belfast, stopping along the way at payphones to try and reach my stepfather. My brother and sister were in the backseat of the car. We found him at a local pub and travelling like fools all the way back to our home. I thought everything was better the next day, it was Friday, May 13th. Yeah a Friday the 13th. I don’t associate them even now with “bad” things but the big deal that gets made out of them just makes a tiny voice pop into my head for a second that says “oh mom died on a Friday the 13th”. It quickly goes away, it’s just there.
Instead, she had me pack everything and asked me if I would mind finishing out the school year in Searsport. I said no, I wouldn’t mind. I now know she was sending me away to my Grandfather’s without her. I still have a picture of her in my mind of her sitting on a lawn chair with a towel draped over her (we’re in Maine and it was May so it was still chilly). She told me that there wasn’t enough room in the truck for all of us and that my Stepfather would bring me and the boxes over and drop me off at my Grandfather’s and she would follow.
When I got there no one was home so I sat outside on the steps with all the boxes on the front steps for a couple hours just waiting. When my Grandfather arrived he helped me bring the boxes inside and we called my mother and she said she would be over later. When we called back again she said she had a Migraine and took something for it and would be over in the morning. I thought nothing of this and just expected to be bringing all the stuff back the following day.
This is when My Grandfather asked me to drive over with him to see if my mother wanted to come over now. I said no I would just stay there. That was around 6pm. He came back and said she was fine, but would be over the next day. The rest of the extended family was “up home” in the County, near the old Base in Limestone so it was just the two of us so I went to bed around 7:30-8pm.
The next thing I remember is him saying “Tachia, Tachia…. (I awoke slightly then and said what) you’re mother’s dead”. I think I said “okay” and started to go back to sleep. I was in the way in room and still half asleep could hear him on the phone and as he spoke I thought he was calling people playing a practical joke, I thought he was laughing and it wasn’t until I heard him blow his nose that I knew he was crying. My Grandfather who’d been in the Navy and worked the cranes down at the docks at Sprague Energy, was bawling.
I sat up in bed, now wide awake and just listened for a minute. My mother could not be dead. That could not be right. I could hear my Grandfather telling people she had taken some pills and Hung herself in our bathroom. My body felt numb and nothing felt the same. I got up and walked out to the kitchen where he was standing and I remember just looking at him (he was a very tall man) finally asking “Is my mom really dead?”. He said yes, he then told me she had overdosed, he did not tell me she had hung herself. He then said “that’s why I wanted you to drive over with me, so you could see if something was wrong”… (that really stayed with me for a very, very long time and probably even now I still wonder at times if I had gone over and not said no if maybe things would have been different, that was A LOT of therapy) He then said that since I was the oldest it would be up to me to arrange the funeral. I needed to pick out clothes and we would go make the arrangements in the morning.
I remember going through all of her clothes and I picked out everything. I chose an outfit for her that she had never gotten to wear to a Christmas Party the year before. I remember when I brought the outfit in the guy at the funeral home said I didn’t need to bring all the stuff I had brought. I brought bras and underwear, socks, shoes.
As we sat there (the funeral guy, my grandfather and myself) we were deciding what was going to go into the paper and I kept asking where my mother was. I needed, I mean Needed to see her. It did not matter if they were telling me she were dead. I needed to see her. So they finally brought me in to the room where she was and I saw her on the steel table with a white sheet draped over her. She had her head in one of those little stirrups. She looked so pale. I just stared at her.
She broke my heart. She had left me there with strangers, I had so much growing up to do and she certainly knew the dysfunctional family she had come from and she left me there with them.
We picked out a casket, I remember it was silver and satin. It seemed so strange to be standing in a room full of caskets and trying to pick one out. How do you know at 14 years old what kind of casket to get for your mother? We’re Catholic so we had a Wake and there’s a place where you can kneel in front of the open casket and I just kneeled there holding her hand. Her hand didn’t feel like her anymore. The texture of her skin had changed. Not only did she feel cold and her hand didn’t move but her skin felt different. I guess maybe I thought if I held her hand long enough or just stared at her long enough maybe none of it would be true, or maybe she would open her eyes.
They put make-up on her hands. I was angry, that they had to use make-up on her hands to make her look “natural”. I was angry that they messed up her hair really bad because she was always very particular about how she had her hair.
She was cremated because I remember her saying at some point she didn’t want to rot in the ground.
I stayed with my Grandfather the rest of the school year. He was really great. He rearranged his schedule at work so he could bring me back and forth to school in Belfast the rest of the year. He came to my 8th grade graduation.
My Grandmother and him had separated the previous year and my mom and him had been pretty close.
The Following summer after my mother had Hung herself in our bathroom, my Grandfather sat in the doorway of the shed and shot himself in the heart.
That following winter I made my first serious attempt and overdosed on Tylenol just before I ran away with a friend to Isleboro in the middle of winter.
So began the relationship with Suicide. No one in my family received treatment until After I became so ill after the birth of my son with Postpartum Psychosis
that I have changed the trajectory of our family history. Never did anyone want to discuss the suicides or even say the names of anyone. It’s like they didn’t exist. Let alone seek therapy.
So, Suicide to Psychosis – yes, eleven years in the making.
Fifteen years after that, Healthy and Healing – yes, with acceptance and therapy.