A Child’s Worst Nightmare

You’ve heard the expression, “a parent’s worst nightmare.” If you’re a parent, you’ve surely had your share of them. The news reports of a family with seven kids whose van gets slammed by an errant vehicle, causing a fiery blaze that kills all of the children yet the parents are left alive. And the child who is abducted, like the last Grey’s Anatomy, who 10 years later as a  teenager breaks free from her captor, only to be scarred by the years of sexual and physical abuse, and who barely recognizes, nor acknowledges her parents. I could go on, but why?

Recently, a woman who I knew, not well, but well enough to consider a friend, hung herself. I don’t know the intimate details of why she felt that life held absolutely no hope for her, but I knew that she must have had reason enough, or she wouldn’t have done it, especially when her children were the ones to have found her. The fact that a beautiful, once vibrant soul, would feel the helplessness and futility to do such a seemingly rash act without the forethought to protect her children, is mind-boggling to me and haunts me daily.

No, it’s not the dead that suffer, it’s the living.

I knew this woman through our children. She coached my daughter in soccer, and I coached hers in basketball. Two similarly built strong, towhead daughters with active athletic moms. We shared stories about our kids and often compared their zest for sports. How would I have known that she was suffering…

She had Lyme Disease, untreated for a long-enough time to have caused irreparable damage. Some days, apparently, she was so debilitated that she couldn’t get out of bed-but that was all here-say. I did not speak to her about her illness. I hardly knew about it personally, but I do know that there were many people who knew her and loved her, as was obvious by the 700+ people who attended her memorial service. I did not attend, having already planned to be out-of-town, as it was school vacation. Who knows how many people would have been there if they could have, or wanted to. It was unfortunate that I had to miss it, but I know that I’d have been a complete mess if I’d attended. I get teary even now every time I think of it – the sadness, the kids, the life that could have been.

I don’t know Lyme disease. I do know that it’s primarily caused by ticks that carry the disease. I don’t know if she even knew that she’d been bitten, but I still imagine the scenario and the randomness of it is unacceptable to me. A once-vibrant woman, beautiful, athletic, energetic, probably out on an activity with her family, gets bitten by a tick, and all life changes thereafter. Is this the definition of what is “meant to be?”

My great-grandfather hung himself. I remember hearing the story as I was growing up, but I know no more than that my own grandfather, the youngest of 13 kids, was the one that found him. What is the impact on a child who finds a parent hanging from a rope, having taken his/her own life-choosing death over those who remain living? How does that define the children who must remember that memory every day?

This is still raw in all of our lives, and I know that my personal feelings are no matter compared to those who were intimately involved with her, yet my life is affected still. My heart goes out to this family, the remaining husband and children, parents, in-laws and friends. I also hope that it can serve as a stark reminder to anyone who knew her who also feels like their life has become hopeless, to get some professional help and work through the pain to get to the other side. Killing oneself may relieve one from immediate pain, but the pain that is left in the wake may be worse than the original pain for those who remain. I am not sitting in judgement, and I wouldn’t deign to imagine her pain – I just can’t imagine doing that to my children.

I have not written a blog entry since February, mostly because my prevailing themes seem either repetitive or depressing. I’m sorry that I can’t be more uplifting, but this is just one of the things that rules my life right now. Life is tough. The future seems bleak a lot of the time as the economy plummets, joblessness is on the rise and the Republicans persist in their war on the middle class. I will work hard on trying to see the positive in life and to try to share more upbeat and inspiring topics in the future.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Melissa Emidy
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 06:37:11

    Melinda, I appreciate your blog post. It’s an important issue to talk about. Suicide has a terrible impact on those left behind. We lost my father in law last January to suicide. My husband and my mother in law both found him, shot, in his basement. The CSI scene that followed was surreal and after everyone left, questions of what didn’t I do to prevent this began.

    It’s so important to continue a relationship with the family and not be afraid to talk about it. There’s so much stigma attached to suicide and I think friends and family are sometimes afraid to talk to those left behind. They don’t know what to say and often can’t relate. That’s ok. Those left behind don’t know what to say or how to relate either and need the support. It’s a longer grieving process than you can imagine and, even a year and a half later, it’s still raw.

    My heart goes out to you and this family. I hope that they too are receiving some professional help. There are groups out there for suicide survivors and children of suicide. I’m happy to share if needed.

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  2. Suz
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 11:59:34

    Melinda,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this very important topic, and I’m sorry for the loss that you feel.
    In regards to your closing paragraph: not all blog posts should be to generate a feeling of well-being. Sometimes, just making the reader THINK, is plenty. You do that with each post and I thank you for your thought provocation – more than you know.
    Suz

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