An Open Letter to Any Child Who Lost a Parent to Suicide
You will spend countless hours, days, and years asking why. Why you weren’t enough of a reason for them to stay and fight. Why they were able to end things knowing it would so badly hurt their children and family. Why they chose to abandon their pain… and drop it square into your hands. Why your love wasn’t able to tether them in their storm. Why they didn’t do something, anything else to save them from their demons. There will be times that you feel you will drown in all of the unanswered questions.
You will face judgment. Your loss will be trivialized by people who make cruel, blanket statements about those who commit suicide. Every time a celebrity dies this way and the public receives word, you will, if you choose to look, be exposed to an absolute onslaught of ignorant, insensitive, uneducated comments and opinions that will feel like salt in a wide open gash. You may feel like every one of those nasty statements is directly aimed at YOUR loved one. It will be gut wrenching and infuriating. But you don’t have to be drawn into the fray. While it may seem the right thing to do to defend what you know in your heart is right, sometimes you have to leave others to their own misinformation and lack of empathy, and do everything you can to preserve your own peace, which has already been so fundamentally shattered.
Anytime there is word of another suicide, in your personal life or in the public, your wounds that you are so desperately trying to heal will begin to bleed and throb again. You will find yourself consumed once more with the memories and thoughts of them and the horrifying, life altering trauma that their death left in it’s wake. You may find yourself crying for the family even if you don’t know them simply because you can once again feel the pain and shock and know that somewhere they are sitting in a room weeping and overwhelmed in that very agony.
The rollercoaster will get unbearable. The shift from stumbling confusion to abysmal despair to seething anger to teary eyed nostalgia… sometimes all inside of an hour, will cripple you. And while this rollercoaster slows down and the flips and upside downs get farther apart, it will not end. As you grow up and your milestones come along, dances, graduations, engagements, weddings, children, first homes, and everything else that your parent should be there to share proudly with you, you will be slashed with that knife of heartbreak all over again.
You may feel misunderstood, isolated, shunned, flawed, abandoned, broken, and lost, among so many other things. To that I want to say this:
You are not misunderstood. While your loss may be something that many people cannot wrap their heads around, I understand you. I know that sometimes your thoughts and behaviors following this loss may make no sense…but to me that makes sense.
You are not isolated. The isolation is an illusion, a cousin of the despair that took your parent away. There are others out there who see you. I see you.
You are not shunned. While there will be many who will look at you with disgust, disdain, or blank stares when you speak of suicide, you are not a pariah. There is a whole population out there who understands suicide grief and has compassion and empathy for not only you, but your parent and their struggle. My back is not turned in judgment on you OR your parent.
You are not flawed. The long struggle of your parent that ultimately lead to their decision to end their constant mental pain is NOT a reflection of your value as a human. Your parent loved you, and what happened does not say otherwise. You. Matter. And I mean that from my heart.
You have not been abandoned. They did not leave you because there was anything wrong with you, or because of something you did, or did not do. Your parent left because they did not believe there was any other way to slay their own demons. I understand the weight of this burden, and I will send all of my love to give you the strength to carry it until you are ready to try and let it go.
You are not broken. You are not defected. There is a part of your heart that has left with your parent, and pieces of you that will shake and rattle within for years to come. But this, along with everything else that has and will continue to shape you, makes you unique. It makes you a warrior, and a survivor. Even on your worst day…with every breath you take, you are proving you have the grit to get through it. I don’t see you as broken, I see you as a fighter.
You are not lost. Though there will be times you will be sure you won’t find your way out of the storm, and days when you are sure it will never get better, I promise you, if you keep your memories, and keep your HOPE, you will find the path that leads you to peace. My hand is out to you if the waves are too big. But you WILL make it through.
It will take time to even begin to get past HOW they died, before you can even begin to truly grieve the loss itself. And you will obsess and wring your hands and tear yourself apart over it. And it’s normal to do so. Never judge your own grief. Let it exist in all of it’s ugliest forms. It is how you heal. It is how you learn to live again. Coping isn’t graceful or pretty. It is what we do in our worst moments. So don’t criticize yourself for not doing it “right”.
I could go on and on but what I want you to take away more than anything is the fact that this was not your fault. Nothing about this is any reflection of your worth. This juggernaut of pain that took your parent from you was not something you could have killed, saddled, controlled, tamed, or beaten. Because lord knows if that were the case, you wouldn’t be going through this. Your love, as big and beautiful as it is, is not a match for this. But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t feel your love. I am certain that you the light in their heavy darkness. You were their smile in the sadness, their giggles through the tears, and their sanity in the madness.
Keep the memories you have that warm you, and the others….don’t fight them. But in time, let them rest. It will never be ok. 20 years later you will still have days that break your heart. But you can do for them what they were unable to do, and you can survive your pain. People who commit suicide often leave this world believing they are incapable of doing anything good.
Be that that good thing that they did.
Monreal, J. (2018). An Open Letter to Any Child Who Lost a Parent to Suicide. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/an-open-letter-to-children-who-lose-a-parent-to-suicide/