You Are Not To Blame: How To Survive The Suicide Of A Loved One

I live an extraordinary life. A little over a month ago, I moved from my hometown Rochester, New York, to Boston, Massachusetts. The man I moved here to be with is a better man than I could have ever envisioned myself ending up with.

I have a small, but solid group of girlfriends that I trust with my deepest, weirdest thoughts and secrets. My family may not be picture-perfect, but that doesn't mean they aren't perfect to me; I would not trade them for any other family. I live a fulfilling life that I worked hard to attain, and appreciate every minute of it.

You would never know without me telling you that I am a suicide survivor. My biological mother took her life two years ago on the day I walked the stage for my college graduation.

She had no idea that the day she chose to shoot herself in the head was already a monumental day for me; we had been estranged for about 11 years by that time. Nor did she know that the day that I would find out about her suicide would be the following day, Mother’s Day.

My father received the phone call from the police after he had already left my school for home with my family. He refused to let anything ruin my special day, and I will always be grateful for that.

Everything about graduation day seemed like it came straight from a movie. My friends and I started the morning with mimosas, which prepared us for the ceremony that declared us adults by handing us a piece of paper after crossing the stage.

My father, stepmom and two younger sisters finally met my boyfriend for the first time and I couldn't have been more thrilled with how it went.

The day ended with a night full of celebrating, reminiscing and promises of everyone being friends forever. Little did I know that while I was joyously celebrating our big day, there was tragedy occurring that would soon affect my life in ways I never imagined

When I woke up the next morning to a text message from my father, I assumed it would read like a, "Hope you were safe last night!" type of text. Unfortunately, it was the furthest thing from that. Instead, it read, "Call me as soon as you wake up. This is serious.”

I called him immediately. The four words that came out of his mouth would become imprinted in my brain forever: "Your mom is dead." I remember not crying, but instead, questioning him if he was sure over and over again.

I didn't believe him, or maybe I just didn't want to believe him. Either way, it wasn't until after we got off the phone that I started crying, alone, in my boyfriend’s bed while he innocently slept sick on the couch right outside the bedroom door.

I had to call into both of my jobs. Actually, my dad had to call into both of my jobs for me. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone for hours. It was an unrecognizable mixture of emotions. I didn’t want to sit and be alone, but I also didn’t really want to be with anyone.

Sitting alone with my thoughts was tearing me apart. I kept asking myself, why?

It has been over two years now, and I still cannot answer that question. Losing anyone to suicide can affect people differently. For me, I had lost the woman who gave me life, but she wasn’t around for much of it.

Our relationship was rocky from the beginning because, mentally, she wasn’t able to hold a functional relationship with anyone, not even her own daughter.

When I was about 12 years old, she told me that she was going to go have a “real family” with her new husband because I was not good enough for her. Hurt, but still willing to try, I had told her that if she didn’t go to counseling to get help, I did not want her to be around me.

Unfortunately for a sad, hopeful little girl, she decided she would not be told what to do by a child, and took off. I never heard from her or saw her again. Luckily for me, I had a “step” mom who happily and willingly took over that mother role years ago, and I was raised in a healthy, happy home.

Do I blame myself for what happened as many suicide survivors tend to do? Of course I do. I gave my mother an ultimatum, and she spent the rest of her years alone, going through relationship after relationship unable to keep even one.

Before she shot herself, my mother called her mother, and told her that she had no reason to live anymore because she was alone. Maybe if I had tried one or two more times when I was a little bit older, I could have saved her. I could have convinced her that we could work on our relationship, try and start fresh and new.

Honestly, I didn’t want to. I was stubborn and resilient because of all the hurt and pain she had put me through, and because she never tried to fix things herself when she had the chance. However, if I knew it meant I could have saved the life of the person who gave me my life, I would have done anything.

Over time, I have learned not to blame myself as much as I once did. Instead, I try to be thankful for what came from the situation. Since I was my mother’s next of kin and only child (that whole "other child" ordeal never ended up happening), I received all of her life insurance.

I put that money to good use. I paid off the majority of my school loans, bought myself a reliable and adorable yellow Saturn to replace my piece of sh*t Oldsmobile, allowed myself a tiny shopping spree and saved the rest for whatever life may bring, now and in the future.

Some may think it's wrong to happily take her money in exchange of her death. However, the way I have always and will continue to look at it is, she never gave me anything as a child except for empty promises.

This money was her way of apologizing for never following through with those promises. For years she hurt me without even being near me, and it took her ending her life to finally do something that helped me.

I believe that suicide survivors find the ability to move on thanks to one common factor: support. I had, and still have, a group of people who never left my side (literally) while I went through the grieving process.

The day I found out, I went to the house where all my friends tended to gather, and was surrounded by the right amount of hugs, love and words of comfort. They stayed next to me while I slept on their big red couch all afternoon, when they could have been out celebrating our recent accomplishment.

I will always thank them and love them forever for that. My friends that could not be with me showed proper concern and were on standby 24/7 to pick up my calls, day or night.

I know now that my boyfriend is "the one" because his love never swayed as I gained 30 pounds from grief eating, and spent many days angry and confused when all he wanted to do was hold me and let me know he was here for me.

For a long time, I was a sad person. Despite how much support I had, I was still mad at my mom for what she did. The hardest thing for me to accept is that she is never going to come back.

All of my life, I assumed one day my mother would waltz back into my life, and even if we weren’t a family again, I would have some sort of relationship with her. I always pictured my mother at my wedding, tears in her eyes, seeing how beautiful and in love I am. That will never happen now, nor will she ever hold my future child, or get to know how kick-ass my little sisters are and how they’re two of my best friends.

That dream got shattered the day she decided to take her own life. There is no one to blame for that, but her; yet, it still crushed my soul for a very long time.

I wouldn’t say I snapped out of it one day, but instead, gradually realized that all of my emotions and thoughts wouldn’t change what happened, and I didn’t want to become like her. I had a lot of good things going for me, and I refused to allow myself to be brought down by what she had done.

I took charge of my life, dug myself out of the hole of sadness, lost 25 of those 30 pounds, took an internship at a local pool hall, fell in love all over again and kept myself positive about everything life was going to bring my way.

To all my fellow suicide survivors out there: You are not alone. Even if you may feel that way, I promise you, you are not. Even if you feel that no one in your life understands what you are going through, there are those out there who do.

Take advantage of the programs and websites out there that can help guide you on the best path to cope with what is happening. There is no shame in that. Let your friends and family members in. They want to help, even if they may not know the best way to. Let them help you. I know I am glad I did.

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