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Coming to terms with my mother's suicide

Tuesday, 09 February 2021 Sandeep

Sandeep blogs about how gradually she is learning to live with her terrible loss.

Warning: this blog mentions suicide.

The morning I lost my mum to suicide is one I will never forget. The shock, the confusion, the anger, the betrayal can never be erased from my memory even if I tried. From that moment on my life changed forever; the motions happened and responsibilities heavily sank in. For a long time after, I was still unable to clarify who I was mourning for, the mother I had, or the mother I always wished I had.

Feelings of failure

Her battle had been a long one, ending in loneliness, despair and fear. For everyone in our closeknit community, she was free spirited, friendly and a picture of beauty adorned in gold jewels and luxury. For her close ones, we battled fiercely with her demons. Her split personalities weighed heavily on us forcing us to change with her. The feeling of failure still hangs heavy in our hearts. We were unable to win against her depression.

Outsiders looked in with curiosity. Each day building up to the funeral came with repeated sighs of pity for the children she had left behind. Curiosity turned into hushed questions – how did you not see any signs? She lived such a good life, what could have made her do this? But then again, no storm gives warnings before it hits to destroy everything in sight and leave an unsettling calm.

I pray I never have to face such demons as she did. I pray I am able to feel the warmth of the love that surrounds me.

So often, I am told I look just like her; that’s where our similarities end. I find myself praying daily I never have to face such demons as she did. I pray I am able to feel the warmth of the love that surrounds me. I pray I am able to be the mother I yearned for her to be. I strive to be everything she wasn’t but life is testing and every so often I find myself echoing her words as if an autopilot switch gets turned on. It is a daily fight with my soul to stay on the path of healing. I cannot fall off. I am slowly learning our lives do not end with our parents passing. Each day does bring a new morning and a new beginning.

Nothing could have prepared me for life without her. How is it possible that one moment in time can cause so much upheaval?

Questions that haunt me

The same questions haunt my soul five years on. When did she decide to end her life? Did she contemplate turning back or calling me? What were her wishes for us? Did she think how I would cope being eight months pregnant and in another country?

Growing up, I recall comfort and joy. I will cherish the carefree and happy memories, Most of them being from my dad, who gave us three siblings a solid direction in life. Mum was for most of the time too absorbed in the angst inside her head. She was very headstrong, very involved in believing she was always right. She didn’t believe in discipline or living a healthy active lifestyle. As I grew into myself, I realized different ways which caused the groundwork for many resentful arguments between us. I knew the life I wanted; full of love and stability. I found that unexpectedly on a trip to the USA, in my husband.

What I didn’t expect was the big impact this would have on my mum. Being over 5,000 miles away became difficult for her to comprehend. Over the years, her yearning for me to visit became stronger, as did my role to ‘manage’ her. The role reversal was something that became natural to me. She was proud of me and slowly our relationship started to flourish. It could have become something I always imagined it to be.

I wish we had more photos and videos to look back at. I wish I had appreciated her a little more.

Today, I wish we had more time. More time to ask questions, learn more stories of her
childhood, envision her dreams, understand her perspective of life. I wish we had more photos and videos to look back at. I wish I had appreciated her a little more; appreciated her just being there. She was there to pick up the phone, she was there to fight my battles, she was there to be Nannima to my children, she was our foodie partner, she was there to hold our house together, she was there for it all. Until she wasn’t.

Relearning to live

I am haunted by the thought that I never really let her know how important she was. Did she know how lost we would be without her? Did she know the ones she fought with most with would be ones picking up the pieces after her for us? Did she know her house would crumble without her? Did she know her children did not have the tools to relearn how to live without her?

A part of my soul died with my mum, but a bigger part of my soul looks forward to my journey as a mother myself

Maybe she does know. Maybe she is watching down on us. I hear time heals, I have hope we are on the way to healing. However I truly feel that when something like this happens, the initial shock leaves you but time only deepens the wounds and somehow you change forever to accommodate those wounds. I was changed forever. I have relearnt how to live around our story. I will never be the same again. A part of my soul died with my mum but a bigger part of my soul looks forward to my journey as a mother myself.

I am learning to accept that a stubborn dull ache is etched into my heart and I will carry it with me for as long as I live. I accept she lost a battle against a disease - depression. A disease you cannot physically see. A disease with depth that is difficult to comprehend. A disease that is often not accepted nor understood in the Indian community. I will heal and encourage those around me to understand this disease. I won't allow myself to carry shame with my story.

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