By Jeenie Gordon:
Coping with death by suicide of your own child is a grief incredibly difficult for any mother to bear. Here’s how one mother, Mary copes.
This article is an excerpt from Too Soon to Say Goodbye, Healing and Hope for Victims and Survivors of Suicide, used by permission from New Hope Publishers. Jeenie Gordon, contributing author to that book (and many others) is a licensed marriage and family therapist.
One Sunday after coming home from church, I listened to my voice mail from my close friend, Mary, of twenty-five years.
“Jeenie,” sobbed Mary, “Paulette took her own life.”
Here are Mary’s words. “Five months ago my eldest daughter, Paulette, took her own life. She had attempted this several times in the last twelve years but this time she accomplished her goal.
“It began when she was diagnosed with a mental illness (schizoid affective disorder). She was hospitalized many times during those years. Medications were adjusted and new ones introduced. One negative side effect of these psychotropic drugs was weight gain. During treatment she gained more than 125 pounds, which contributed to her depression.
“There were times in her life when the medications seemed to work and she’d feel better. I treasure the memories of those moments. We went shopping together and stopped at our favorite coffee shop. I know she felt my love as we sat and talked. I kissed the top of her head and said, “Paulette, I love you.”
“I also find peace in knowing that in fifth grade Paulette accepted Christ as her Savior. During her long illness, her faith brought her through many trying times.
“Shortly after my daughter’s death, thoughts of her constantly filled my mind. Several times I asked myself, “Do you believe that Christ died for you? Yes. “Do you believe in eternal life?” Yes. “Do you believe Paulette is safe in the arms of our Lord?” Of course I do. These conversations with myself gave me solace. Many times, I could almost hear her say, “Mom, I’m O.K. Enjoy your life.”
“Several things have comforted me during with their lives has helped. As one of my friends, whose son died from suicide said, “You get through it, but you never get over it.” Another friend wrote, “No more dark days for Paulette, only happy days with Jesus.”
“Every few days after she died, God seemed to give me insight into her death.
“I am comforted as I look at the pictures of Paulette – pictures of happy times. My favorite is one taken a year ago when she visited us in Oregon. Barefooted and holding a soda, she had a beautiful serene look on her face as she sat among other family members. As I look at this picture, I kiss it and whisper, I love you, Paulette.
“Not everyone grieves the same way. I have never been embarrassed in front of others if the tears fall. They are tears of love for my sweet daughter.
“Those same memories give me courage to move on with my life. I have set some new goals in my life. Ten years ago I wrote a book. Paulette was the only one who read it in its entirety. I have started a writers group where I live and now am working on the rewrite of that book. This has kept me focused and I can almost hear Paulette saying, “Go for it, Mom.”
At Paulette’s memorial service, Mary requested that I read a special rendition of Psalm 23:
The Lord is my Shepherd – that’s relationship.
I shall not want – that’s supply.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures – that’s rest
He leadeth me beside the still waters – that’s refreshment.
He restoreth my soul – that’s healing.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness – that’s guidance.
For His name’s sake – that’s purpose.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – that’s testing.
I will fear no evil – that’s protection.
For Thou art with me – that’s faithfulness.
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me – that’s discipline.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies – that’s hope.
Thou anointest my head with oil – that’s consecration.
My cup runneth over – that’s abundance.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life – that’s blessing.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord – that’s security.
Forever – that’s eternity.
Coping with death by suicide of a loved one will be different for everyone, including every mother who loses a child this way. In addition to the Bible, one helpful handbook to walk through the grieving process is SOS, a handbook for family members who have lost loved ones. You can find that on our Helpful Resources page and download to read. It does address mental illness, and how difficult it can sometimes be to understand the thought processes of those who take their lives. It also addresses struggles unique to parents.