A Letter to My 10-Year-Old Self, Who Lost Her Mother to Suicide
I get it. I get the pain and devastation. I understand the betrayal and despair. The sadness and anger are overwhelming. I get it. You are angry, Brandy! So angry! But I’ve learned a few things over the past 24 years, and one of them is that anger is a secondary emotion. That means the anger is on the surface, reacting to every feeling in an attempt to hide the real emotion underneath. Hiding the primary emotion. Sadness. Brokenness. Sorrow.
You are going to hide the hurt for several years, pretending you are not the least bit affected by her actions. But you are. You are incredibly affected. To say that you are not is a lie to yourself. You should be affected, Brandy. She was your mom. Moms do not kill themselves. A mom does not plan for her 10-year-old daughter to find her lifeless body in such a traumatic fashion. Moms do not leave a brief note saying “goodbye and be good.” Moms don’t do that, Brandy. But your mom did. It’s OK to be devastated. Your story is not as it should be and it is one worth mourning. It is a story that holds a lot of pain and unfathomable grief. A tale of unthinkable shock and anguish. Your feelings deserve an outlet. Your voice begs to be heard. Your heart demands to be understood.
Currently, you have none of these. I promise you, though; one day you will have all of them. You will be able to tell your story without uncontrollable anger rising to the surface. You will convey sadness without crying. And, if you do cry, it will be OK. You will no longer be angry about crying. You won’t apologize for your tears. You can weep if you need to and all will be as it should. One day you won’t hate your mom with every fiber in your soul. You will empathize with her pain and hopelessness. One day you will give yourself permission to feel your feelings and it will be freeing. I can’t wait for you to get to that point in your life. It’s still a couple of decades away.
There are lies you believe about yourself that simply are not true and those need to be revealed. Your mom’s choice to end her life does not define you. It does not speak to your value. It does not make you less than. It was her choice, not yours. Her choice to die does not mean you are unworthy or unlovable. It doesn’t make you or your mom a “freak.” Your mom killing herself says nothing about you.
Brandy, she was not a coward like you want to believe in all your anger. She was hopeless, firmly believing it would never, ever, ever get better. She was not selfish, trying to take the easy way out. She was lost and scared. It is not an excuse to condone her actions, it just gives you a glimpse into her desperation. She was living in a dark, dark world and could not see the light. She was hurting.
Brandy, you are allowed to feel how you do, but I encourage you to talk and feel and cry much more than you are comfortable with. Don’t stuff it, don’t ignore it, just feel it. Feel it all. There will be times when life is rough and horribly unfair. You won’t bake Christmas cookies with your mom anymore; you will visit her gravesite and bring her flowers instead. While other students are making Mother’s Day crafts, you will read a book. Your dad will date several women over the years and none will be anything like your mom. Nobody ever will be like her. And for that, I am so sorry. All of this is so hard, Brandy. It is. It really is. I get it. I get all of it. I want you to know I hear everything you are saying and all the things you are not. I know the pain you are hiding. The embarrassment, the shame, the self-hate. I know all about those. They consume you! One day, they won’t. Things will get easier as life goes on but never will you forget the complete devastation of losing your mom.
Be good to yourself and gentle too. I love you. You don’t love yourself but one day you will. Your mom took her life, but she didn’t take yours! And, you have a great life in store, I promise! Be patient and be kind to yourself and you will get through this. I love you.
This post originally appeared on The Gift of Second.
If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.