Dear Frances Beatrix Spade,
You don’t know me and I don’t know you so perhaps it is presumptuous of me to write this letter, but I felt compelled to tell you some things about depression, break ups and suicide. I also felt called to write to you about healing and recovery.
I am not trying to pry or play the part of your therapist. I’m just an outsider looking in and, as such, I’m hoping I can give you some objective information that will help. I’m sure there is so much about your situation that we—the public—can never know about your mom and dad and you, and I respect that.
I will write to you from the little bit of information that I have. I understand that your mom may have suffered from mental illness. I understand that your dad had recently asked your mom for a divorce and that this may have contributed to her ending her life. I also heard about the note your mom left you.
I’m glad your mom wrote to you that her suicide was not your fault. That is absolutely true. It’s actually not even your dad’s fault, (even if your mom wanted him to believe it was). It’s no one’s fault. It’s a tragedy. It’s a permanent answer to a temporary problem. It’s a by-product of hopelessness—a terrible disease in and of itself.
Although it can seem senseless to someone who has never contemplated suicide, we can never know another person’s pain be it physical, mental or emotional. To anyone who has endured great pain for a long time and who can’t see a way out, suicide can feel like a better option than continuing to live.
Your mom’s suicide is not for anyone to judge. Nonetheless, it’s human nature to point fingers when seemingly senseless things like this happen. People will say mean things such as “that was a very selfish act that your mom did” or, “how could she do that to you?” Some might even try to tell you that if your mom really loved you, she would not have done that.
As someone who works with mentally and emotionally distraught people every day, I believe your mom loved you deeply and that her pain was quite separate from you. I believe your mom was grappling with something so great, she deemed that only suicide could remedy it. I believe she didn’t see that she had other choices. That’s not anybody’s fault. Unfortunately, it’s harder to reconcile when it’s nobody’s fault.
Death — especially a sudden and tragic death — is one of the toughest challenges life will put in anyone’s path. It will likely take you and your dad (and other friends and family) a long time to return to a sense of normalcy.
Reaching Out for Help and Support is Crucial
I hope you will give yourself the gift of enough time and space to heal and, if you do nothing else, that you will give yourself the gift of getting adequate support. That might be the single most important step you can take in your healing process. We have become so removed from our heart-to-heart connections with other people and we are never taught that we should ask for help—or even how to—so when life gets challenging, we try to soldier on. This is not the time to soldier on. In fact, that’s the worst thing you could do now.
I urge you to let others help carry you because there will likely be moments when the pain you feel is too heavy to bear. Much like a bridge, if everyone takes a piece of the weight, it becomes manageable. Reach out and be held by those you love and whom love you.
I realize you have the added complication of being in the spotlight but if you can join a suicide support group, I believe that will help you immensely. Knowing that you’re not alone and that many people have survived the loss of a loved one to suicide will no doubt give you strength and faith that you can get on the other side of your pain too. Your healing will likely happen more deeply and more quickly if you walk the path with support. I don’t know why, but we are wired to be interdependent, not independent.
As you will find out yourself someday, break ups are hard. They can hit us at our core. The really messy and painful ones have the power to make us question whether we are indeed lovable and whether we have anything to live for. I’m guessing that’s also part of what happened to your mom.
You will no doubt be angry and sad for many months to come. You have every right to whatever emotions you experience in your grief and you get to grieve for as long as you need to. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t try to rush the process. Try your best to be with the pain until it lessens. One day, it will.
I have dealt with tragic and sudden loss of loved ones myself (albeit not to suicide) and I can tell you from experience that there will come a day when you see the world in color again.
My greatest hope for you is that you will not only survive this tragedy, but that you will transcend it. My hope for you is that you will use this experience to become a stronger, deeper human being and that you will transform your pain into a compassion and a determination to help others heal from their pain.
I’m sorry for what you’re going through and I’m sorry for what you will have to endure as a result of your mom’s actions, but I want you to know that there is life and happiness on the other side of such loss. Please know that there are many strangers like me who are sending healing light and love your way.