Although I have only lost one parent, it is one of the reasons I am here as a “Teen With Experience” and I hope that this article will help out you who has come to read it.
In saying that, the fact that you are reading this suggests you have recently lost a parent to suicide and I offer you my deepest condolences and also a promise. Between you, me, and the screen you are reading this on, this isn’t the end of the world.
Or you may just be scared that you might lose a parent to suicide, and if that is the case, I am really sorry that you have these fears and I suggest you urgently tell another adult or even just a healthcare professional as soon as you can.
You may have already had the talk on what the stages of grief are and how best to deal with the emotions you are feeling at this stage. I am not here to write down the stages of grief and tell you what is going to happen to you while you come to acceptance of the loss. Especially as the list and steps and talks didn’t help me in the slightest. I am here to be honest with you on what it is like to lose a parent to suicide- keeping in mind, this is from my experience and everyone will be different. This is just some things that may go through your head and some things you may feel.
To be honest, you might feel absolutely nothing. An overwhelming, devastating nothingness that feels soul consuming and you are in a well of nothingness. It is a shock mechanism, you are in shock and it can last for a couple days. Words may not make sense, a weird and disorienting kind of tunnel vision may take over and you will feel lost in your sea of nothingness. This may also make you feel empty, you may cry a lot or very little, you may stop talking or start to talk lots about nothing. This is okay. It sucks, and there might be a voice in your head saying you need to feel something again and this could lead to a very dangerous path that you must try to avoid at all costs. The voice I had in my head when I felt nothing was very quiet, but it kept telling me to feel nothing for as long as possible because it knew that when I started to feel again, that all I would feel was an overwhelming pain. The pain that comes with your entire universe being knocked off its axis and the fact that I will need to get used to how my universe now spins.
Do not, under any circumstance, try to jolt yourself into feeling something. Don’t do drugs, don’t self-harm, and don’t be drastic. Even though it may feel like you can’t think or feel, you can and don’t you dare hurt yourself. It is not the answer.
The small voice in my head was right; there was pain after the nothingness, and a lot of it. My mum was gone, and there was literally nothing I could do about it. There was no way to drown out this overwhelming sense of loss and pain. Someone had cut out my heart and left it on all four corners of the universe. I would lie in my bed and scream into my pillow until my throat was hoarse, and it wasn’t until I could no longer scream would I realise that my dad was sitting on my bed, or my brother was lying on my back crying. I thought that screaming out my pain was going to work, and when that didn’t I tried to cry. I couldn’t. Scream if you have to, it doesn’t matter who hears you. Lie down and scream, if someone asks you why just tell them the truth. You wanted to. Your thoughts were too loud and you wanted to be louder. Or maybe you just wanted to be heard, there’s no right or wrong reason. If you can’t verbalise or write how you feel, but it is pent up inside you in one big ball then just let it out. Screaming is safe. If someone tells you to shut up, you don’t have to listen. This is how you are dealing with this moment, this overwhelming moment.
One thing that I wish someone had told me was, it’s okay if you can’t cry; there is nothing that says you have to cry at this loss. Especially when one of the things you will come to feel is anger. Anger doesn’t make you want to cry, it makes you want to punch a wall, tear your hair out, destroy anything nice or pretty. Destroy anything that makes you think of them. I wanted to watch the world burn, I wanted to see mass destruction of absolutely everything, how dare the world continue to exist when my mum no longer was. How dare this planet hold beauty, when I could no longer hear my mum’s laugh which was one of the most beautiful things in the world. The universe now owed me, it took her away from me and now it must pay. Be angry, and cry tears of anguish. I would write horrible, nasty, angry letters to my mum and then set them on fire out the back with a cigarette lighter. The satisfaction I felt was a really nice reprieve to the anger. It is not going to upset your parent that you’ve lost if you are angry at them, they would have known that this was going to happen.
It took me a while to direct my feelings at the reason I felt so angry. It took me a while to be angry at my mum for killing herself. Before that, there was guilt and anger at myself. Although a natural response to the circumstance, this is one of the few things I would say isn’t okay to feel. Only because it isn’t your fault in any way, shape or form. Whether hindsight has permitted you to find a million and one ways to prevent the suicide, or you just keep telling yourself that if you had just been a better child they wouldn’t have done it, this is wrong.
If your parent had cancer and this cancer had a 70% chance of survival, and your parent died anyway, that is not your fault. You couldn’t have cured them; you couldn’t change what was going to happen to them. Mental illness can be a fatal illness, whether you saw it coming or not. Heaps of people will tell you that it wasn’t your fault; I am telling you that it wasn’t your fault that they are gone, and you probably won’t believe it for a long time. You just have to hear it, and we are right. The death of this loved one, no matter what you believe in this moment, was not your fault. I cannot stress this enough, and I long for the day when you believe this.
There are so many different things that you can and will feel, do and think during this time of grief, and there is a lot of things that you will read and hear over this period of time. However, there is one thing that I feel isn’t touched on enough. This is a feeling that made me feel so guilty, I couldn’t believe I felt this. I cried when I realised I felt this strong and even devastating feeling. I felt relief.
I was relieved that she was gone. Not even because “She is in a better place now and her suffering has ended. She is happy again.” I was relieved that she was gone. I still feel sheer guilt at this, but it really is okay to feel. You can miss them, and feel relief that they are no longer with you. Someone doesn’t just decide one morning that they are going to commit suicide. There is planning, decision making, preparing. There’s also suffering, and lots of it, long before someone chooses to end their own life. The horrible truth of this, is that they often make the lives of those closest to them hard, by distancing themselves, by not eating, not working, eating too much, sleeping all the time. They can project on you, making you feel horrible. A parent with a mental illness, any mental illness, is not easy to live with. They seem to forget how to be the parent you need. When they go… it’s over. It’s okay to be relieved that it is over. I miss my mum every day, and I love her, but I am relieved that she is gone. I wish with all my might that it could have been another way, but I am who I am today because of the things she did and the things that she didn’t.
Losing a parent is hard no matter what and losing a parent because they chose when they would die just adds another element and another line of questioning that can torment you. No matter what you feel, it is okay. As you will have heard before, it is okay to not be okay.
Three years ago, I was fifteen. I was an A grade student set for university level entrance exams in my senior year with a final grade in the 90%
Three years ago I was in year ten of high school in Western Australia. I had good friends, I knew what I wanted to be and who I could be.
Three years ago my mum committed suicide.
Two years ago, I wanted to die.
One year ago, I dropped out of high school.
Today, I woke up. I missed my mum, I put her necklace on, I had a coffee and I counted out in my head the reasons I am happy to be where I am.
I noticed the moon that was still up in the sky, I smelt a rose in the garden next to my bedroom, I answered my emails, kept up my snapchat streaks, brushed my hair. I existed.
You see, when it feels like it’s the end of the world, it isn’t really.
“I don’t pay attention to the world ending. It has ended for me many times and began again in the morning.”
Written by: Raegan Lei