When I Was 17, My Mother Shot Herself In The HeadOne 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.