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When I Was 17, My Mother Shot Herself In The Head

One month before her 41st birthday, my mother went into the woods near Great Falls, Maryland to shot herself in the head with a handgun she had purchased in Washington, D.C. Three months later, her skull was found by a hunter and his son. Our family dentist identified the skull by her dental records. Her purse was found nearby, and in her wallet was a water damaged photograph of my sister and me at the beach when we were very young. At the time of her death, my sister was 15 and I was 17.

I am now 51, and I still feel like a motherless child. I think that for those who've suffered the loss of a parent, being surrounded by loving and supportive family members can be very healing. Also, having a supportive partner is helpful. I didn't have such a family, and I am single, so friends, community and spiritual beliefs have been helpful in holding me together.

I've often felt my life would have turned out much better if I'd had the support and love of my mother, but the reality is that she was so depressed and dysfunctional that she was only sporadically present for my sister and me when she was alive. In fact, she tried to get rid of us by sending us to live with a father and stepmother who didn't want us either. We were put in the care of housekeepers and I was sent to a boarding school. I have an aunt, my mother's youngest sister, who has attempted suicide, been addicted to drugs and alcohol, had countless dramatic breakdowns and bankruptcies and has caused her two children great distress. As bad as this is, I think the distress of having a mother chronically falling apart hasn't been as traumatic as my mother's actual suicide was to my sister and me.

I am a mother, and I raised my child alone and under tremendous stress after having escaped a severe domestic violence situation when my son was very little. Due to the obvious family of origin issues, the domestic violence and a lack of family, I've experienced extreme depression and many times I've wanted out of this life. As unbearable as my mental anguish has been at times, and as much as I've thought about how much I want to stop the pain by dying, there is one thing that has kept me here, and that is my son.

As a child of a parent who has committed suicide, I've learned firsthand that one does a horrific violence to those they love most when they choose to take their own life. I believe it is like taking your own pain, multiplying it by 100 and then spewing it onto the lives of all those around you. I love my son too much to ever do that to him, no matter how intense my pain. The thought that "they'd be better off without me" is fiction. No one is better off with a suicide to deal with. There is no goodbye, no closure, just the ultimate abandonment, and no heart-felt suicide note can explain away how much you love those you've left behind when you've just finished splattering them with pain, agony and an unresolved ending that they'll spend the rest of their lives trying to heal.
Karental Karental 51-55, F 6 Responses Jan 4, 2011

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Today is the 35th anniversary of my mother's death. I was 16, it was 3 months after her 41st birthday. My mom shot herself too. She was depressed all her life, and tried a few times before she succeeded. We were never close. I lived with my dad and stepmother when it happened. I have an older brother that is suicidal now. I don't know what else to say, except its helpful to say all this to someone that knows what it's like. The glue that holds me together is family, therapy, and meds. Life is ok at the moment, but I feel like its only a matter of time before the other shoe drops. Thank you for sharing your story, so that I could find it, and feel less alone. <3

One thing that might help is to realize that we will all be dead soon enough and to focus on what good you can do while you're here. Perhaps write a book about surviving the suicide of a parent. Your story here is helpful to anyone who feels abandoned by a parent passing. You could do so much good in the world, just imagine what your strength could inspire in others---like sticking it out for their children.<br />
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YOU ARE AWESOME. My hope for you is that you feel how powerful and strong you are in this moment. Do something about all your writing abilities and depth of experience. I feel your pain and you are not alone.

What a hard story to write. I am sorry this happened to you. My mother died of cancer when I was 19 and to me it felt like a suicide because she never took good care of herself. Ever since I knew her, it seemed like she had already given up. She was very over weight, never stood up to my abusive father and never intervened in his angry outbursts on us kids. She was a very sad person, despite my constant adoration and profession of never ending love.<br />
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Debbie is right about losing a parent, or anyone you love. It HURTS so bad. I am 33 years old now and I can't remember a single day I don't miss my mother. My dad died last year of cancer and it doesn't hurt nearly as much. I really felt abandoned by my mother, but since she was always depressed, the abandonment felt like it happened before I was even born. She was never present. She ate her emotions. She stayed married to a child molester and a violent alcoholic, while her 5 kids suffered the consequences of her apparent emotional paralysis.<br />
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We all have our pain her on earth. I really hope that you find solace in the fact that you are never alone. Whether you believe in God or Goddess or just that humans are all there is, you are always surrounded by people who feel your pain. We are connected truly and although we can't see our parents, no one ever leaves entirely. She is alive in your memory. Maybe you could share some stories about her that you remember fondly?<br />
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One memory that I love of my mother is putting make-up on her after she got her first job. Despite her lack of self care, she was still a beautiful woman and she had the bluest eyes and soft pink lips. I loved to brush her long blonde hair and make her feel like a queen.

I admire you for telling your story here. I am not far from you in NJ. My mom died 6 weeks ago. I am your age and she was 87. I would like to tell you that it hurts to loose a parent no matter what.<br />
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My mom had parkinsons, oh how i loved her, I feel empty, etc its sooo hard. I couldn't eat, or anything for a while. She was my rock and she worked her whole life.<br />
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You still feel the pain and i will always too, so despite the fact that she ended her own life, its very painful to feel the loss of someone. I am so sorry this happened to you and i understand.<br />
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I have no one and my mom was like you she raised me alone. I admire you for never wanting to end your life. Your son doesn't deserve that and he will keep you going. <br />
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I may try to get a foster child, dog cat, etc. lol My son is grown and gone. We are not that close he is not an emotional person for some reason so that void will always be there. I always wanted a daughter and don't have one. <br />
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My mom was doing ok with me in Calif, we came back to jersey and she was unable to walk anymore. The nursing home she was in did not take good care of her and I tried to intervene, they insisted she was better off in there. wow I am hurting. <br />
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You are in my thoughts and prayers.<br />
Debbie

You might find comfort in reading “Telling Secrets” by Frederick Buechner. He is a writer and minister who lost his father to suicide when he was 10. It wasn’t until his mother died, 50 years later, that he allowed himself to grieve. I love your analogy; the loved one’s pain is magnified and spewed over the family. That is how it is.

Having just read your story,and having nearly escaped my own death more than once, I would like to recommend to you, if I may..."would have said.com" Hope the address is complete--that's what I got from QFOX13-- a Seattle TV station. It has helped alot of people find closure in circumstances similiar to yours. It seems to me that you have alot of understanding--maybe more than you give yourself credit for. Hang on to those who actually care about you. For me, my friends ARE my family. Peace be with you-------------------------------------------------------Catherine M. Condeff