This is a tough topic so if you’re not up for it today, please don’t read on. I’m being called to write about living with a suicidal child for those who are ready… and for my own healing. Opening up about this heart-breaking topic can in some way help others who live with a child who is suicidal. I don’t have any answers. I do have my story.
In the early days I frantically and desperately tried to keep her alive.
The frantic and desperate days leading to my daughter’s first suicide attempt at 12 often come to mind. I was in a constant state of flight or fight trying to keep her alive. It was a continual process of locking up new ways she’d think of to kill herself – medications, then knives, then vitamins, then belts, then scarfs, then blind cords…. and on and on. I wasn’t sleeping for fear she’d get up in the night and do something impulsive. I was in a state of hyper-vigilance watching.. always watching and sensing whether something was off… she’s in the bathroom too long, she’s so agreeable, she’s sleeping too long.
I was desperate to keep her alive as if my own life depended on it… as if my whole world depended on it. I was going to use every last ounce of myself – physically, mentally and spiritually – to save her. I was her mom and I needed to keep her safe. It was my ultimate job and duty to keep her alive. I stopped breathing. I stopped sleeping. I lived in the shadow of the darkest, deepest fear a mother could endure.
But the reality is that I have a suicidal child and she may die.
Somewhere deep down I knew that my frantic attempts may not be enough. But this thought was too much to bear. And when my greatest fear materialized before me with her suicide attempt the reality of my world smacked me across the face, knocking me across the room and into a broken, bloodied heap on the floor. There I laid curled up in a fetal position, afraid to look around me for fear of what I might find.
And I may not be able to save her in the end.
What I found was the heart-wrenching truth of my life. Despite all of my heroic actions, I may not be able to save her in the end.
I may lose her.
She may die.
I may have to face the death of my child by her own hand.
My daughter’s mortality stares me in the face every day and it’s hell.
How do I as a mother accept this? How do I live my life knowing this is a very real possibility?
While living with a suicidal child we often hear them speak words that cut deeply and keep this reality ever present.
I’m ready to go.
There’s nothing here for me.
I never thought I’d live to 15.
There’s no hope. Nothing’s getting better.
How f-ed up am I that I’m 15 and okay with my own death.
I’ve made a little progress on acceptance.
While I keep dangerous items locked up and stay aware, I’m not as hyper-vigilant as I was in the early days. It was an exercise in futility that only served to destroy me. But it’s there…. always. In that pause between when I call to her in the morning and I hear her voice, a panic hits my heart. Everyday. Living with a suicidal child is a pain no parent should ever have to endure.
To be honest, I’m having a really hard time facing it.
I can’t sit with these thoughts for very long. I feel as though I’ll be consumed by this immense fear and completely disintegrate. It’s for my own survival that I can’t let this reality into my being. I know I probably should, and my therapist recommends it because denying it isn’t healthy either. But if I let these thoughts of her death into that fragile part of my soul even a little, the pain becomes utterly unbearable and I’m just not ready to do that.
I hold onto hope and prayers.
So, I’ll just continue taking it one day at a time. I’ll enjoy the present moment with her every day knowing so clearly that it is all I am guaranteed. I look at her some days in awe. I see this beautiful young woman who has so much to offer the world and at the same time, I see so much pain. It breaks my heart and yet I will remain hopeful. I must remain hopeful.
The tribe of parents who have lost their precious children to suicide stand there before me. They look at me with the compassion and understanding only those in the tribe could possibly possess. They are so close sometimes that I can almost touch them. And I know these saints will be there for me if I need them. There’s some comfort in that, I guess.
Her path is ultimately her own.
Tears flow as I write this because I let it in… just a bit. And while my heart is breaking into a million pieces, I will continue to seek the acceptance that will help me cope knowing that it will never take away the pain or change my reality. I go on another day, doing the best I can. I pray and hold on to the hope she can’t muster for herself… with the understanding that I may not be able save her in the end. That her path is ultmiately her own.
Do you need help?
This world can be so very isolating and exhausting so take care of yourself. There are resources out there. This is a great resource article for parents of suicidal kids. Find a support group – in person or online. NAMI has support groups across the U.S. If you don’t have a therapist, schedule an appointment today.
Always feel free to reach out to me. I’m here for any parent who just needs to talk or are looking for resources.
Sending love, healing and peace to all of you.