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An Open Letter to the Parent I Lost to Suicide

17 Dec 2020 — 4 min read

By Jessie Rose

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The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Elects Its New National Board Members

Hi. It’s me.

I want you to know I forgive you. I know that suicide is complex, and that there is nothing to forgive you for. You didn’t ask to feel the way you felt, and your struggles were not something that you asked for. I wish you could have let go of the mountain of blame you laid on yourself for being sick.

I’m crying again. I am crying because of the time I lost with you, and I’m crying because of the time I spent with you when I knew you were in pain. 

I know you don’t want to make me cry. I know you cried enough for both of us.

I think a lot about who you were. Not as a parent, but as a person. What it would have been like to know you before the darkness swallowed you. I wonder what it was like to be your friend, to gossip and laugh with you. I wonder what made you laugh until your cheeks hurt. I wish you were here to tell me about those things.

Losing you at 17 was so hard. I needed and wanted you more than anything. The big days have come and gone without you here. Graduations, weddings, babies, first homes, divorces. Life and time marched on, as they do. But you are frozen in time in my pictures. Smiling with me in your arms by the ocean. Holding my sister as she giggles up at you. Sitting at the kitchen table, midway through a joke I’ll never hear. Everyone says you were really funny. I wish I could remember more of that part of you. I would hold it so tight to my heart.

I hold so tight to the little things I have left of you in my mind. I try to let go of the pain, but no matter how much I let go, it holds onto me. You were supposed to be there. When my own days grew dark, you were supposed to be there. With support and time, I crawled out of the darkness that almost swallowed me, too. People tell me you can see me. They tell me you are always with me. But you aren’t. You’re gone. I know they mean well. But you are gone.

I must have asked a million questions. Or maybe I just asked the same one a million times. How many times can you ask, “Why?” I don’t know. It’s been 19 years. Sometimes I can’t tell how I feel about you. Sometimes I can. Sometimes it’s grief. Sometimes it’s fury. Sometimes it’s pity. Maybe the worst thing I ever felt was nothing. The worst was when, after losing you, I felt what I imagine you felt—like a burden.

Your pain was scary to me. I didn’t know what it was when I was small, but it was always around you. It was always in the air. Some days were better. I wish there had been more of those. I wish it for both of our sake. But you were not a burden. If you hear nothing else of all my whispered and tear-filled words, I hope that thought makes it to you. You were not a burden.

I don’t know anymore which words are heavier: the ones I said, or the ones I’ll never get to say. I don’t know which pain is deeper: the heartbreak of losing you, or the moments I saw you in pain.

I don’t know much, I guess. That whispered word: suicide. Though there’s much we’re learning through research about why people take their lives, some people still feel shame when it comes to mental health and suicide. I used to fight with people, and get really upset when they didn’t understand. More and more people are beginning to understand, as time goes on, but there will always be so many questions I have about you.

One thing will never be in question, though: I love you. Even when I felt like I hated you, I loved you. I love you by the ocean and at the kitchen table and holding my sister and decorating the tree. I love you in your cut-off shorts, I love you when you cried and seemed like a lost child in a grown-up body. I love you for all the times that you didn’t love yourself.

I’m here. I went on without you, because I had to. I spent a long time mistakenly believing that if I didn’t let the grief of your loss consume me, it meant I was forgetting about you. I finally understand that that is not what you would have wanted. I gave myself permission to let go of the worst of it, to the best of my ability, and to walk forward bravely in your absence. I had to. 

I remember. I will always remember. And I will honor you by speaking unapologetically and openly about the very real darkness that took you from me, and has taken so many others.

I will be here, appreciating the pain that allows me to more fully appreciate joy.
I will be here, talking about you in an honest way, whether people like it or not.
I will be here, making the best of a broken heart.
I will be here, doing my best, just like I know you would have wanted.

I’m not crying anymore. I know you didn’t want to make me cry.

 

Love,
Your little girl

Learn about the Healing Conversations program, which gives survivors of suicide loss the opportunity to speak with volunteers, who are themselves loss survivors.

You can find more writing by Jessie Rose at https://wontstaydown.com/.

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