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What I've Learned From Losing a Parent to Suicide at a Young Age

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“My world turned upside down after discovering my mother had taken her own life.”

Three years ago, my world turned upside down after discovering my mother had taken her own life. Losing her at such a young age changed me and the way I viewed the world around me. At the time I had only been 13 for a month, and my sister just shy of 16, were left to figure out the world without her by our sides. The first year was a blur; everyone around me was lost in the clouds of grief. But I came out on the other side of that year having learned life skills I will forever hold close to me.

People will say they understand, when in reality they have no idea the pain you feel.

Whether it be someone older who has lost a parent or a friend offering support, often times people will say, “I completely understand what you are going through.” While this is an act solely out of empathy and love, it can be frustrating when you feel misunderstood. It took me months to realize the feelings I was experiencing others my age hadn’t, and I began to learn I shouldn’t be angry. Instead, I should be glad because they didn’t and shouldn’t have to face the pain of losing a parent or someone close to them at such a young age.

It hurts to hear others complain about their parents.

People argue with their parents; it is human nature. When you lose a parent, it hurts to hear others say they “hate” their mom or dad, “It’s not fair, they won’t let me go out with my friends,” and the list goes on. On the outside you sit patiently, hearing your peers out while on the inside you are screaming.

Those you meet on your journey will never be forgotten.

When you lose a parent, it feels as though everything around you is changing. You are stuck standing in one place while the rest of the world spins around you, faster and faster until you began to feel so overwhelmed you practically shut down. Meeting new people terrifies me in general, and throw in grieving to the mix and it seems almost impossible, but connection can be one of the most helpful and healing coping skill. Whether it be counselors, teachers or friends, I value the relationships I’ve made and continue to make on the journey of life. It is hard to let others in and gain their trust, which makes connecting a difficult process, but those who stick around are the best. I often find it hard to connect with my peers in high school because once I learned just how precious life is and just how petty teenage problems can be, it can be frustrating to relate. My best friend came into our lives a little over a month after my mom had passed. At the time I was a shy, scared and confused little seventh grader trying to figure out where I belonged, and within months after meeting her we became friends. I am beyond grateful to call her my friend.

Don’t be afraid to talk to the person you lost.

For the longest time I felt disconnected. It wasn’t until I began writing and talking to my mom did that void start to fill. At first the thought of having a full on conversation with someone who is no longer with you seems honestly ridiculous, and to some maybe it is. But there is a connection between you and your loved one that will forever exist, and if I start to talk to her and I wait before you speak again, I can hear her voice there to comfort me. One of my counselors always said she felt my mom’s presence in the room when I came to talk, and 13-year-old me thought that was absolutely ridiculous. It wasn’t until I started seeing little signs throughout my everyday routine that I believed and felt my mom was always near.

She is always with me.

Regardless of where life takes me, I believe my parent will always be looking down on me, keeping a close eye and making sure I am safe and protected. Even though my parent is not by my side, there is a sense of comfort knowing no matter where I go or what I chose to do, she will always be by my side. Little signs can remind me she is always close by such as her favorite song coming on when I least expect it, seeing something that reminds me of them, hearing her voice, or even just feeling her presence.

Mother and Daughter

Just because you are not crying doesn’t mean you don’t miss them.

There are times when you may feel so numb and the situation may seem so surreal, you cannot cry. Even when you feel the strongest urge to let the tears go, nothing comes out, and this can be frustrating, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t sad about losing them. It is completely normal to not cry. Often times this is because of shock and numbness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something that reminds me of my mom or someone mentions something and in my head I tell myself, “You should be crying, people are going to think you are heartless.” In reality, it is hard to accept those raw emotions and allow yourself to feel. There will come a time and a place where you can feel and allow yourself to process those emotions, but that might not be now. At my mother’s visitation, looking around seeing everyone else crying made me feeling so out of place because I honestly couldn’t cry anymore, not because I wasn’t sad. Instead I was devastated to the point where I shut out the pain in an effort to keep existing.

Milestones in life may be painful.

When dealing with grief, your own birthday, not just your loved one’s but yours, can be hard. Special days like these are a reminder that they cannot be here to share these moments with you, and for me, I think about the last birthday I got to spend with my mom before she passed away. It was my 13th birthday, and almost a month before she took her life. As far as holidays go, when you are in the presences of your family it is often very prevalent that your loved one is not physically there. Maybe they were the one who always cooked, said grace before the meals, or just made the holidays a bit more special.

You may find yourself worrying about almost everything.

You now know how quickly life can change, and losing someone can happen when you least expect it. This may make you worry about the people around you and all that could happen. When you call someone and they don’t pick up, you may begin to worry. When your friends seem less talkative than normal, you may start to panic. If plans are made and someone doesn’t show up, you may freak out. Instantly your mind may go to the worst possible scenarios and every little thing that might of happened. Once you are able to reach them, a sense of relief comes over you and you are beyond grateful to hear their voice. I find myself randomly texting my sister and friend asking if they are doing OK because I will get this feeling something isn’t right, even if I’d just talked to them and they were doing fine. Even though you try to tell yourself they are most likely OK and nothing is wrong, you can’t help but jump to the worst-case scenario because you just never know. The fear of losing someone close to you again seems unbearable. It may seem easier to prepare for the worst while still hoping for the best. To some this may seem irrational, but you simply care about those you love and want to protect them.

Always remember to be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to accept your own emotions without pushing them down. You can make it through this, and I believe in you. You matter, and your spirit and hope are what we need more of in this world. Grief doesn’t have a timeline, and only you know what is best. Don’t be afraid to put your needs first and allow yourself to feel.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Originally published: March 6, 2017
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