What I Would Say

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I’m not trying to minimize your pain. It’s there and it’s very real if you’ve gotten to this point. I’ve been there myself – many times over the years. It hurts, a lot. What stopped me, usually, was hope. I had some hope of things getting better. And they did, for a while, anyway. That’s the way life is. You have ups, you have downs, but there’s always hope that the next day will be brighter. If you’re at the point you can’t see that, well, I’m sorry.

In your brain you think maybe everyone will be better off without you. Well, they won’t.

I’m sure there’s a point my daughter thought that, too. I’m sure she thought she couldn’t fight her addiction. She thought she couldn’t deal with the resulting embarrassment of being an addict and had to think that everyone who was looking at her was seeing an addict. She thought that her family would be better off without her around – without having to spend time worrying about where she was and what was going on; without having to worry about her future; without visiting her at a rehabilitation center or jail; without having to go to meetings; without having to spend time and energy helping her get well. I’m sure she thought she would “go away” and life would go on for all of us.

I’m here to tell you, that’s not how it works.

Life did not “just go on.” Her family was not “better off without her.” Her family is markedly worse off without her.

Her younger brother, 13 years old when she committed suicide, was left unable to understand why it happened. Sure, people tried to explain to him that the drugs made her brain confused and she wasn’t thinking clearly, but he couldn’t comprehend that. All he knew was that she had gone to heaven, just like Nana had a few months before. He saw everyone in his family crying all the time, so he held in his own emotions, not wanting to make them cry. It got so bad, that he ended up sick himself. He had Crohn’s Disease, which he likely had all this time, only the emotional upheaval of losing his sister finally caused it to surface. He lost weight and was less than 100 pounds when it was finally diagnosed. He gets infusions of medication every 8 weeks now that costs $15,000. He’ll probably have to be on that for the rest of his life and there’s the added worry of making sure he has insurance that covers it.

Her sister was due to graduate high school that weekend. What was supposed to be a time of celebration went awry. Instead of celebrating, everyone spent days crying. At the ceremony, she watched her mother walk out because the words about the graduates’ future only served to remind her that the bright future her oldest child once had was gone. Her home was no longer a place of happiness. Everywhere, there seemed to be ghosts. Instead of a future where she sat with her siblings and reminisced about things that happened when they were younger, she now saw a future where she didn’t have the ability to say “Remember when we went to St. Louis and you told me the Arch was the place where Abraham Lincoln discovered America?” Remember the time we went to Chef Mickey’s and I fell asleep at the table? Nope, home wasn’t where she wanted to be at any cost, and now she hardly talks to her family because it just hurts too damn much. No, your sister’s life isn’t better off without her.

Her father, well, he’s just watching everything fall apart and not able to do much about it. He can’t stop what’s happening and he can’t reach the people he cares about. He’s a fixer who doesn’t know how to fix things. He keeps trying things to “make it better” but he’s never really accepted that the world he knew changed at the moment of her death. Life didn’t go on, better off without her around.

And her mother, well, I’m a mess in many ways. You see, I was the one who found her body. The last memory I have of my daughter was opening the bathroom door and finding her hanging by the cord of her straightening iron. I still see that image in my brain. I see her hair hanging and the little trickle of blood from one side of her mouth. I only saw it a second, because I closed the door, shut down, and went to auto-pilot. I knew to call 911. I knew to tell them what happened, but when I said the words “my daughter committed suicide:, well, my life changed more than it had at any other time. I think I probably always suffered from anxiety and depression to some degree, but now it’s worse than I could ever imagine. Add in PTSD from this and, well, it’s awful.

I can’t work anymore. Well, not a regular schedule anyway. I tried. There were too many days when I just didn’t want to see people, especially happy families. Many days I just wanted to stay home and feel miserable, not really doing anything. I had to quit my job and not work for 4 years, then I was lucky to find something from home that was flexible enough that when those bad days happened I could just take my time. I still have a hard time getting out, though. I’ll get the motivation to do something and then anxiety and depression start talking me out of it and just staying in bed seems like the better option. I actually almost didn’t go on a cruise with friends once because the anxiety and pain were so bad. I had third-row seats to Bryan Adams a few years back that I just let go unused.

Does that sound like I’m better off without her?

The future I imagined is gone. I see her friends getting married and having kids and I’m happy for them, but it hurts. You’re forever 22. I mourn for the future that’s not there; for the grandchildren I’m not going to have.

Melinda had a 3.62 GPA in nursing school while she was battling an addiction to opioids. She was more beautiful than I ever was and had so much going for her.

I cry, I sob at sad movies because it lets all the emotion bleed through when I’m usually holding it all in. I don’t have two of my daughters. I don’t have the family around I always thought I would. I don’t have “My Minda” as I always called her. At least once a day I let out a big sigh and say “Oh Minda” because I just miss her so much.

Tell me, does that sound like your family would be better off without you?

Throw that line of thinking away, because it’s not true.

I would give anything to fight the fight with her. I’m her mother. I’ll always feel like I failed her as a parent, no matter what anyone says. I’m telling you that your parents will feel that way too. They will not feel “better off” without you. I’m telling you that your siblings will be haunted for the rest of their lives by the empty space where you should be in their lives. Your family, as you know it, will not exist anymore.

They won’t be better off without you, for the simple reason that they’ll spend too much time just wishing you were there.

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