A letter to my mother

Every year in New Zealand about 500 people end their own life. In a few months, I will be 29 – the same age my mother was when she committed suicide. 

I was only two. My mother was sick. She never saw me write my name for the first time, run my first cross country, or ride my first bike. She will never see me walk down the aisle and she will never hold her own grandchildren.

The first time I visited her grave on my own was when I was 25. I didn’t harbour resentment towards her. It was just that she didn’t feel like my mum. It felt like someone else’s mum had died all those years ago. Thanks to my incredible father, I have been blessed with a beautiful step-mum and brother, who I consider my own blood.

Now I am nearly 29, I know. I understand, I think. I know that the pain can be too much for people. I know that people can get so sick they can’t bear the thought of facing the day. I know that they think people wouldn’t notice if they were gone.

I wouldn’t know what to say to someone who is thinking of committing suicide. I do not profess to be an expert. But I will say this, as a victim of suicide.

You will be missed. People will grow up yearning to hear of stories about you because they never got to know you. People will spend hours and days and weeks wondering what they could have said and done differently to stop you doing what you did and people will wonder if what you did was an accident – a cry for help that you didn’t intend on following through with. People will be angry, upset, sad, distraught, heart-broken. They will grieve and they will eventually start to heal but they will never forget. You will scar them for life.

Mum, I don’t know much about you. And it’s no-one’s fault but my own – I have never asked. I do know you liked netball and didn’t like your photo taken. You listened to the Sex Pistols. I know you were a sensitive person who worked in medicine and wrote poetry and shopped in thrift stores and wore jewellery. I have lost some of it as it has been handed to me over the years. I am sorry.

I lose things. I left a saxophone on the bus once when I was 12. I didn’t play the saxophone for long because our dog yelped every time I played. Or perhaps I was bad; I can’t remember. You weren’t there to see. Now I like 90s hip hop and drum and bass. I like Beatnik novels and I have a dry of sense humour. I am an extrovert. I wear no jewellery but enjoy wearing a tailored suit in winter and nothing but a bikini on a long summer’s day. I could never go to med school because blood terrifies me. I take selfies.

I look back on my short life so far with content. Sometimes it’s been hard. There have been challenges and I have gotten stressed. But I do know that I haven’t reached the depths of despair that you did. For that, I am thankful. I reached a certain age and realised that you didn’t just leave me here as a toddler – you thought had to go. I forgive you. I love you and I am sorry that life took you so soon and that you couldn’t beat the demons. They are in all of us. It’s not a sign of weakness – some of our demons are stronger than other’s.

There are about five hundred people in New Zealand who are going to commit suicide in the next 12 months, and many more contemplating suicide or even attempting it. I don’t know how many of them would ever read this. But I’ll leave you with this.

Don’t do it today. Not now. Just wait. Walk in the rain by yourself. Play your favourite song and dance in front of the mirror with all your curtains drawn. Drive to the east coast of the North Island and feel the white sand between your toes and touch the water and swim. Dunk your head under – even if just for a moment. Dry yourself with a towel washed in fabric conditioner. Tell one friend you miss them. Think about what hurts, and write it down. Many of the world’s greatest writers crawled out from the deepest lows. Take a nap. Pat a dog. Please, please, whatever you do – just wait. The storm will pass, the clouds will clear – and one day you’ll open your eyes, and be thankful that you’re still here.

11 thoughts on “A letter to my mother”

  1. My mum committed suicide when I was in my twenties, but I hadn’t seen her since I was 3, so this is such a similar view and experience that I have had. Thanks for using it to send a message of hope to other people who might be suffering.

  2. Beautiful written. It’s nice to hear others’ stories as I’ve found that those of us who have lost someone to suicide still grieve in silence.

    My dad committed suicide when I was 9. As I get older (30 now), one of the deepest feelings of loss is not having been able to get to know him.

  3. My dad committed suicide when I was 12. Pain of not knowing why is always with me. Today I turn 47. One year older than he was.

  4. Someone at my ex-workplace committed suicide in the workplace last year. Someone else’s husband committed suicide just a couple of months ago. Lots of people have left where I worked without a new job lined up first. I am (or ‘was’ perhaps) the latest to join the list of people from my work that has done that. I know others who have also left, but lucky for them, they managed to find a new job first; whilst there are others who are actively looking now. One branch manager left after only one year there. That’s not an uncommon example.
    Sometimes, in some workplaces, some people are brought to suddenly leaving ‘on a whim’ when they realise they cannot face it there any longer, or even suicide in some cases, because of the unreasonable expectations and/or bad treatment they receive over a period of time. And then we are told that “It was your choice to leave!”

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