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How I'm Surviving the Pain of My Mother's Death by Suicide

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Me? I’m not a survivor yet – I’m simply trying to survive every day; to survive my mother’s death. Her death by suicide.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in early December 2016, and underwent a mastectomy on her left breast on December 30, 2016. She was undergoing scans and checks before she was slated to start chemotherapy sometime in February or March of 2017. The staff of the Breast Care Clinic – her principal doctor, the surgical team and nurses – successfully completed my mother’s surgery and she recovered speedily.

That is, physically.

Her mastectomy wound recovered very well and she was able to extend her left arm freely, whereas other patients had sometimes experienced limited arm movements and tight muscles. However, what we did not know and did not realize was that she was struggling with immense mental anguish since her diagnosis and throughout her recovery from surgery. Everyone focused too much and had tunnel-vision on her physical treatment, so her mental health was overlooked on everyone’s part – family members and medical professionals alike.

I think my mother had given up hope on life and saw no future for her health and getting well (she had also been getting treatment for thyroid problems, glaucoma, high blood pressure and had long time insomnia and constipation). It was much later, through reading her notebook recording her medication history, that I realized she had been taking antidepressants for 10 months to a year after she was diagnosed and treated for glaucoma (the nerves in her left eye were 50 percent damaged beyond repair). Breast cancer was the final and most fatal setback for my mother — her lymph nodes were affected and had to be entirely removed. With that, her left arm would be forever at risk of infections and in a chronic state of edema. She would never be able to lift anything more than 5kg with her arm and had to do edema-reduction exercises everyday. She was extremely fearful of the impending chemo- and radio-therapies, and I think she just couldn’t function “normally” anymore with all these fears.

My mother took her own life on February 8, 2017; on a day she had a break from consecutive visits to the hospital for scans, checks and consultations (prior to that day, she had to visit the hospital almost every day, which took a toll on her psychologically). She took that step, probably under the belief that she could find an eternal respite from all those torments her mind was subjected to. What she did not realize, was that the torments she was mentally struggling with, were now amplified tenfold and handed down to me, to her husband and to the collateral circle of friends and family around us. An un-erasable milestone in my life; the painful episode that would forever weigh on me; the burden I would carry for the remainder of my lifetime.

When my mother passed, she was two months shy of her 66th birthday. I was right at the midpoint of my mother’s lifespan, at 33 years old. If taking her lifespan as a measure, does it mean I am halfway through my own lifetime?

During most of my waking moments, I know for a fact that my mother is dead. And that she left this world on her own accord (sort of, albeit under a compromised state of mind). However, at odd pockets of time-space, I suddenly get this strange feeling that it was all just a horrible nightmare, which, if I prayed hard enough, if I tried hard enough, if I worked something out hard enough, I would eventually wake up from. Because from all that I knew of my mother, she would not have done this, leaving everything and everyone behind. She would not leave me behind, with all her love for me. She would live until she was 80 and I would lug her everywhere — to places we could go together, as we had always done.

She left me way too early. And I am left behind, totally lost.

There are things we don’t want to happen but have to accept; things we don’t want to know but have to learn; and people we can’t live without but have to let go.

Amidst the chaos and facing the tough road ahead, and in my attempt to comprehend what had been going on and what on earth happened, I kept reminding myself: Who am I to judge anyone’s action? Who am I to judge my mother’s action? Over the past months, I experienced bouts of panic attacks and I had to hold on to positive thoughts to tide myself through these panic episodes. Here they are:

1.  Mum is now with God in His home and she, in her afterlife, has finally regained her perfectly flawless body, good health and eyesight. She will forever be her pretty self, and from Heaven she will watch over me and dad.

2.  Mum was in great pain and was struggling with all her ailments, crushed in despair which only she knew and felt. In her current state of eternal bliss in the home of God, do I really want her to return to me, when it also means that she will have to revert back to her earthly struggles?

3.  Through the small and various miracles that have happened to us over the past few months following Mum’s death, she seemed to be revealing to us that she is, indeed, with God right now. These small occurrences were probably the results of her intercession to God for us. Have faith.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

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Originally published: February 5, 2018
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