Friday, May 11, 2012

The Other Side of Mother's Day

I wasn't going to write this, but I just read a friend's post that is propelling me forward.

Last night I went to a Survivors of Suicide meeting.  I haven't been to one in ages, probably not in two years.  But I'd been feeling a bit overwhelmed since receiving the news that an article I've written about spiritual direction and accompaniment through the experience of grief will be published (eventually) in a journal for spiritual directors. 

I was incredibly excited about the news, and then began to realize that the article, along with the presentation I made last fall to nursing students about caring for families in which a child has suddenly died, and my signing up as a Field Advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, marks my entry into a new phase of a Life. I. Did. Not. Want.

Suddenly, or perhaps not so suddenly, I find myself moving into the role of one who speaks out, who communicates the the heartbreak, the anger, and the complete devastation of the experience that looks like Yellowstone Park did the year we visited, after the fires.

I wasn't going to say a word about Mother's Day.  Well, I already did, in a misplaced comment on a beautiful piece that someone else wrote on the topic.  But having done that, my plan was to remain silent.  My own Mother's Day will include some moments of genuine joy, as my family is accompanying me to church and The Lovely Daughter is singing, and some overall struggle, as I pastor one of those give-the-ladies-carnations churches.   I would prefer to ignore the day in church completely, and share a quiet evening with my family; I am wishing that I had thought to take the week-end off even after the vacation week that would have taken us away fell through.

Last night, I was reminded of all the reasons for my mixed feelings.  In our little group, two of us will be missing children, one will be without a sister who was also the mother of two young girls, and one without the husband who was also the father of their three very young children.  "It's Mother's Day and it sucks," said one woman through her tears.

Too harsh?  Too much of a downer?  

Here's why I'm writing:  If you are suffering from depression, do not leave this sort of a week as your legacy to your family.  Just.  Don't. 

To leave people via suicide is to cause almost indescribable harm to those you love most.  If you could have heard the conversation of that group of bewildered and damaged survivors last night, you would know that you must do everything you can to recover your health and your one wild and precious life, as Mary Oliver calls it.

We would do it for you if we could ~ we would do anything to save you ~ but we can't.  The terrible irony is that, in such a dark place, you have to mother yourself a bit.  You have to seek the care you need and deserve as someone's beloved child.  If you can't imagine it any other way, imagine yourself as a beloved and beautiful child of the universe, because you are most surely that person.


  1. Extremely powerful. Thank you for writing the post you didn't want to write. As I've often said, you are an amazing advocate and voice on this, and many other topics.
    Happy Mother's Day, Robin.

  2. The trouble is, when you're that depressed, you usually don't think your loss would mean anything to anyone. In my case the Father of My Children didn't much care, but from somewhere came enough of a sense of responsibility to my young children that I took the first step on a long journey toward healing. They are mostly grown up now and pay very little attention to Mother's Day. I'm glad they have that luxury.

    1. I know, more than merely intellectually, that you lose all sense of your value. I'm glad your children called you back; so often, even children who need their father or mother are not enough to overcome the darkness.

  3. Mother's Day. gulp. tears. chest squeeze. forward.
    Hugs dear friend.

  4. Very powerful--Thinking of you.
    ~~Mary Hill

  5. Thank you for speaking this truth so powerfully.

  6. Thank you for speaking your truth so powerfully.

  7. Robin, thank you for this post and also for the response to Martha. Some of us have been in a very dark place but, thankfully for some reason, we are still here. You and so many others are in my prayers as we move through times when we would prefer to be invisible. God bless.

  8. Thank you for that Robin. I especially resonated with "a new phase of a Life. I. Did. Not. Want."

    What do we do when we find ourselves in the middle of that one?

    I hope that anyone who finds themselves in the middle of one finds your blog, your book and your words.

  9. Thank you Robin for your courage in writing this - you have encouraged me to continue my writing on this subject for tomorrow. -Erin

  10. I have read and reread this post and given that suicide is something I have regularly considered it didn't make easy reading. I know that I often consider that it might be easier for those around me if I wasn't around to make things hard for them. I am stopped only by the belief that my husband would be irretrievably damaged by grief if I did something so stupid.

    I cannot imagine myself a beloved child of the Universe, nor mothering myself - my mothers mothering was pretty grim. But I wouldn't harm my husband for anything....and he tells me everyday that he would be destroyed if I destroyed myself.

    If there is a way to prevent suicide I think it is this understanding.

    Thank you for reinforcing what I learn from my husband.

    1. I wish that I could find more effective ways of reiterating the same thoughts. I, too, have discovered that dark place where you lose sight of the impact your death would have on others, and all I have to offer, not being there now, is the small and sad assurance that suicide does indeed carry with it the power to destroy beloved lives beyond the immediate one lost.

      There is another mother who came here yesterday and left a comment on another post about suicide. If she is reading this, I want to add to her: At seven months the simple courage to survive each day is a major gift. Don't let anyone make any kind of (insert expletive of your choice) remark to you about moving on.

      I'll write more about that later.