My Story- Part 2

To see the first part of my story, you can find it HERE.

We were told our mom was in the back bedroom and to go see her.

I paused, noticing how dark the hallway was before moving forward. This is when I heard the sound.

A loud, exhausted moaning. The sound of someone with nothing left. The sound I remember twenty-six years later. The sound of my mom.

I walked slowly down that hallway running my fingers along the faux-wood-paneled walls, scared, with my little sister right behind me.

I stopped once I got to the entryway and saw my mom’s curly brown hair peeking out from under the covers.

“Mommy?” I asked in a meek voice.

She looked over her shoulder and sat up, wiped her tears, and asked for my sister and me to come over to her. We crawled up on the bed and sat on either side of her, cuddled close. Confused.

Wrapped in her arms, my mom told us how our daddy had been very sick for a long time. Sick in his heart and in his head. That he loved us very much and that he was with God now and being taken care of.

Not able to comprehend what my mom was telling me, I sat in silence for a few moments. I knew something was wrong but didn’t understand the severity of it.

My dad had been sick for many years, and in and out of doctor’s appointments, therapists offices and treatment centers. But, nobody knew. Excuses were made. Secrets were kept. Our family carried on as if we were normal. I had no idea we weren’t. My mom carried all of the weight herself.
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We had many wonderful memories, though.  And I hold onto those experiences and memories very tightly.

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Ultimately, he took his life.

Shortly after my mom told me and my sister what had happened that day in my grandparents’ bed,  I asked my mom if I could go play.

My seven-year-old self was just given the worst news of my lifetime, and I wanted to go play.

I walked outside and dug in the dirt trying to comprehend what had just happened. Why my mom was so sad.

Earlier that day while my mom was at work, a sick feeling crept inside her body. Overcome with emotion, she started bawling. Quickly excusing herself from her desk, she made her way to the bathroom to pull herself together. Once it was lunch time, she went straight home only to discover something no one should ever have to discover.

That afternoon she had to be physically carried out of our home.

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We stayed at my grandparents’ house for about a week where meal upon meal showed up as word spread. And once we returned home, the meals continued. I had never eaten more lasagna in my life and our home looked like a flower shop.

Still, I did not understand.

My grandpa, the only one strong enough to drive my mom around, made the funeral arrangements. He decided on pretty much every detail as my mom just nodded her head in agreement, drained.

The funeral was just a few short days after it happened, as that is when the church and the priest, Father Jerry, were available. My mom and Grandpa sat in Father Jerry’s dark office that day making arrangements, and I walked around the book-lined office looking at all of his things. One thing that caught my eye in particular was a little sampler with the words, “May the peace and love of the Lord be with you always” sewn into it.

Father Jerry noticed me eyeing his sampler and told me that a little girl had made it for him, but he thought I could use it more and he gave it to me.

It is something I still have to this day.

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My grandma and grandpa drove my mom, sister, and me to the funeral home the next day for the viewing.

It was quiet, and I didn’t know why we were there. The funeral director took my mom, sister and me down the long hallway and into the room, and that is where we saw him lying in a navy blue and silver-lined casket.

Only the top half of the casket was open and to make sure he was all there, I asked if I could see his legs. A stool was brought over for me to stand on and the bottom half was opened so I could see his whole self. Everything seemed to be okay, but I didn’t understand what I was looking at.

I then asked to touch him. I didn’t believe that that was really him lying there in that casket. When I felt his cold hands, it confirmed my suspicions. He was cold. My daddy was warm. This wasn’t him.

It was in that moment my mind told me that my daddy had just needed a break. That what was in that casket was just a decoy so that he could take a vacation.

The next day was the funeral, and of course, we sat up front during the service. Kind words were spoken of the man he once was, beautiful pictures were displayed, and flowers were in abundance.

Sitting on my mother’s lap before the service began and in front of a jam-packed and quiet room, my three-year-old sister said in a loud voice, “What’s happening, Mommy?”

Her little voice echoing the room.

People gasped in sadness and were overcome with tears by her innocent question.

In that front row sat a wife without a husband, and two little girls without a daddy.

After the funeral, we went to the cemetery and we buried my dad. Three roses from the arrangement my mom had chosen to be from our family were selected from the bunch and given to my sister and me, and the two of us and my mom laid those roses on top of the casket.

Once we were home and there weren’t any more guests staying with us is when I broke down. Freshly bathed and ready for bed, I realized Daddy still wasn’t there to say goodnight. And I cried uncontrollably in my bed. My mom crawled into bed with me and did her best to calm me down as I hysterically let every emotion out of me.

“I want my Daddy!”

I remember thinking it wasn’t fair. Why would God allow for a family to not have their daddy? I also prayed. I prayed to God to take me instead. I thought that every family should have two parents. So at least if I was gone, my sister could at least have her two parents.

This routine went on every night for about a week. The same tears running down my cheeks. The same cries out for my daddy. The same comforts from my mom.

Without knowing what else could be done to comfort me, my mom called my grandma, and she asked to speak to me on the phone.

This is when she prayed with me. No one knows what she said on that phone as she has since passed away, and it was just the two of us speaking, but whatever she said calmed me down. So every night, we spoke, and she calmed me down.

There were a few instances where I tried to make what I initially thought at the viewing to be true. I would see people who looked like my dad from the back and think that they were him. For an instant, my adrenaline would rush through my body and I was hopeful. After I’d get a better look at those people and realize they weren’t him, that they were never him, it really sunk in.

During the next weeks, months, and years, we learned how to be a family of three, to function as a home of only girls.

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And I will say, my mom did the best damn job anyone could have possibly done given the circumstances. She dedicated her life to making my sister and me feel as normal as possible. She didn’t move us from the city we lived in or the home we grew up in and loved. She remained our rock when we crumbled. She maintained our normal lives of school, activities, sports, birthday parties, friends, sleepovers, etc., so that we would feel normal.

She did it all.

And I am so very grateful.

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My mom did re-marry when I was in high school to a man that worked in the same office as she did who is now my step-dad. He knew our story and was very much aware of what had happened, and even knowing everything that came with our family didn’t stop him from pursuing my mom. In fact, he was worried he would be too late and told her that when she was ready, he would like to be the one to take her out. He was worried someone else would get to her first.

And I have always loved that thought so much.

 

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Family Portraits 2002 - 3

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I decided to share my story after so many years because I feel like I am viewing it all differently now being a mother.

I cannot fully comprehend what my mother went through at thirty-one years old.

But what I am understanding more and more is how sadly common this illness is. Depression is nothing to be taken lightly and there is such a stigma attached to it when there shouldn’t be.

As my friend put it, “If your arm is broken, would you not wear a cast for fear of looking weak? If you had anemia, would you worry about being judged for taking an iron supplement? Mental illness is not shameful. It’s an imbalance and it can be successfully treated.”

Many people feel too embarrassed or ashamed to seek help. If this is you, please know the repercussions last a lifetime with those left behind. Please know you are loved. Please know there is someone wanting to speak to you, to hear you.

1-800-273-8255 is the number for the national suicide prevention hotline. It feels so impersonal to just refer people to a phone number. But those people on the other end of the line are real people, people like you and me. And they want to talk to you. They really can help.

And if you are on the side who has been left behind, as I am, please know there are resources for you as well. Get in touch with a grief counselor or a local counseling group; you shouldn’t have to go through this alone. And if you find comfort knowing you are not alone in this journey and are looking for someone to talk to, I would like to be there for you.

I can relate.

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For the Follow Up post, go HERE 

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. It does shape you and doesn’t have to define you! I know this from personal experience as well, though I was not 7, I was a week shy of 32… I am sorry for your loss and that of your family’s. It doesn’t get easier, we just learn a new normal. I am thankful for you sharing a story that I am not yet brave enough to share, even with some of the most important people in my life! ❤️

    • It doesn’t matter the age, it affects us all the same. And you are so right. We have to learn how to function without, and that can be an ugly process. I appreciate your words so very much. And please know, it has taken me 26 years to share it! For me, it has gotten easier with time. Thank you. :)

  2. Those of us who have never dealt with suicide have no idea what those who have go through. God bless you.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for your tremendous loss.

  4. What an inspiring story! My story is similar, and it’s always inspiring to see another person who came out better on the other side.

    • I am so sorry you have a similar story, Abby. I am finding more and more friends with the same one, and it is just so sad. But yes! It IS possible to come out of it shining, even on the gloomiest of days.

  5. Rachelle Flatt says:

    All I can think to say through my tears at this moment is, Thank you for sharing your story It is heartbreaking and so inspiring.

  6. Wow! Thanks for sharing your personal experience with a loved one who has depression. I can’t imagine losing a parent so young. Your mom sounds like an amazingly strong and resilient woman. Depression is so prevalent. No one should feel ashamed to seek treatment.

  7. It’s so brave of you to share this. Absolutely amazing. Much love!

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s often so hard to share these stories because of that stigma, but we need to talk about them in order to break it. Your mom sounds like such an amazing woman — I can’t imagine what that must have been like for her. And for you and your sisters, as well.

  9. So amazing that you shared this!

  10. I’m so sorry for what you and your family went through, but thank you for being brave and sharing your story. Your mom sounds wonderful, as does your step-dad. I can’t imagine losing someone so young, and in such a confusing way. We need to talk about these things though – if we can – because it shouldn’t be a stigma to have mental illness.

    -Lauren

  11. It’s impossible to understand what you and your family have gone through over the years. Thank you for sharing your story. I work as a counsellor and depression is something really close to my heart. Sharing it in the hope that your story reaches those who need it the most.

  12. So heartbreaking…:-( Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for your tremendous loss.

  13. Thank you for sharing your story. It really tugged on my heart. My husband passed on when we were 5 months pregnant with our 6th child. They are mostly raised, I haven’t remarried. My life has been so full and it has been a blessing raising them. I know too how much the older children miss their dad. Thank you for sharing from your view, I am sorry for the place in your heart that has been left empty. <3

  14. Am really sorry for your loss, I actually cried reading, such a malodorous experience

  15. Heart wrenching. I don’t have words, honey, but it must’ve been so hard for all of you, your mother. I’m glad she was able to find love again.

    I too know what it’s like to bury a father and there’s nothing like the loss of your daddy. I buried my dad on my third birthday and I miss him every single day.

    Sending love from Canada <3

  16. That must have been hard to write but thank you for your story. God bless.

  17. I admire your mom so much for making your childhood as “normal” as possible, and as moms ourselves, we now fully understand just how much work that must take as a single parent! Wow, hats off to her. What an angel. And I admire your stepdad for stepping in and loving you three and being a stable father figure. You are lucky to have so many people in your life who love you!! Thank you for sharing your story. xo, Hil

  18. Thanks for sharing your story. You are so brave!!

  19. I can’t even imagine the struggle of something like that. Thanks for sharing your story and giving me just a little more inspiration :)

  20. All I want to do after reading this is give you a big warm hug (if you’re the hugging type, of course). This is a heartbreaking thing to go through, and you, your mom, and your sister are all strong and resilient. Thanks for sharing your story, raising awareness, and working to fight the stigma around mental illness

    • Oh I am totally the hugging type! I hug people I don’t know all the time. In a non-creepy fashion! Thank you so much. I appreciate your thoughtfulness so very much!

  21. Awesome. I had a good time reading this post.

  22. This is so touching. You don’t really see blog posts as personal as this anymore. I love how your words pulled me in and seeing those photos only made my heart broke even more. Huge respect to your mother, she is a very strong woman.

    Yes, I do agree that mental illness is not seen as seriously as other illness and it is wrong. It is very wrong.

    Xoxo
    Yolanda | IreviewUread
    ireviewuread.com

  23. Wow! I don’t even know what to say. Thank you for the transparency. I’m happy to hear that you all have continued to live, grow, and pour love into your children. That has to be a heavy weight to bare. Stay strong!

    • Thank you! I have definitely had my ups and downs, but yes, I have come out stronger. Thank you for the kind words!

  24. Shannon, tears are literally streaming down my cheeks right now. You, your sister and your mother were and still are so very brave. I cannot imagine the depth of the hardship all three of you went through. You are incredible for sharing your story in the hopes of helping others realize that mental health should no longer be a taboo subject nor should it go unchecked and without proper care. Through my screen and from my heart I send a virtual hug to you.

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