Surviving a loss by suicide: A mother and daughters story of mental health struggles and healing after a loss by suicide

Tracy-2

It will be 6 years this October, since I found my mother’s lifeless body in her home in her stair well. I had been here before with her, but she was always okay. This time was different. This time she didn’t’ come to the door, this time she didn’t go to the hospital, this would be her third and final suicide attempt.

It was a sunny, bright crisp fall day. A day that would be hard to associate with such loss and despair. I remember feeling numb and in shock. I started to recount my steps and the days leading up to her death. I had last seen her 10 days before with my three children who were 7,9 and 11 at the time. I had brought her Tim Hortons coffee (her favourite) and our new golden retriever puppy to visit.

My mom adored animals. I think it was easier for her to connect with them then humans. Humans hadn’t always been kind to her. We had a great visit and I gave her a big hug and told her I loved her as I left. I wouldn’t know it at the time, but it would be the last time I would see her alive. I will always be grateful for the voice in my head that encouraged me to go and see her that day.

A few months prior to that visit we had a big fight and I told her I was done. I couldn’t do it anymore. She had bailed again on coming to see my youngest daughters school play. There was no reason why she couldn’t come, she just cancelled at the last minute and it was a pattern. It was one thing to disappoint me but when it came to my kids, something fired in me and it turned to rage. For so many years I was so ANGRY with my mom that she wasn’t the parent I needed her to be and I was desperate to reach her. My hurt and suffering came out as anger and I’d only realize through my own counselling journey that anger is the easiest emotion we show and it usually masks a much deeper emotion. In my case it was hurt, and a longing for the mother and family I so desperately desired and needed.

I would realize through my own healing that my mom did the best she could with what she had to offer and what she was capable of. Looking back on her life, she had a lot of her own suffering. She was put up for adoption at an early age, got pregnant at a young age of 19, was a single parent, would suffer from an eating disorder and alcoholism. She would have 3 unsuccessful marriages, a brain aneurysm at age 30, which would force her to learn how to read and write again. The aneurysm would cause her to suffer from uncontrolled seizures and paranoid delusions. Despite all of this she had an amazing sense of humour, was extremely strong, independent, determined, kind and loving.

As I’ve reflected on her life, I see that she likely had undiagnosed mental health issues for years. Sadly back then we weren’t having the same conversations about mental health as we are now. There weren’t supports for family members struggling to understand how to cope and or help someone with mental health challenges.

Looking back on her life, I realize that when she withdrew from the family or would cancel on commitments, was when she was suffering the most. I couldn’t see it at the time. I would take it all personally and get angry. My anger would push her further away but I was just desperate to reach her.

The day she died was the day my anger melted away. I had nothing to long for anymore. The hope of getting what I needed from my mom was gone. For many years I grew up being the parent. I had to take care of her, that was my job and I resented that at times. I wondered why I WASN’T ENOUGH to make her want to live? I desperately wanted to BE ENOUGH.

My own grief and healing journey has taught me that I was ENOUGH, but that my mom’s suffering was too great and this wasn’t about me. I couldn’t have done anything differently to make her want to live. I miss her dearly but I am at peace knowing that her suffering is over and that she is at peace.

As I reflect on my mom’s life there was a lot of joy. We had so many good times together.

I remember in the psychiatric ward after her second suicide attempt my mom would share with me that the best year of her life was in 2001 when she had trained for 3 months and biked the Cabot Trail with me and my clients. It was a magical trip for her and I realize why it was the best year. There was a goal, a challenge, and an amazing group of people that she was able to connect with and achieve this incredible feat together.

I also saw how I used exercise as a way to stay somewhat grounded throughout this journey with my mom. Exercise in nature was always my happy place.

For quite a few years I have wondered how I could give back, how I could make a difference with people suffering mental health challenges like my mom. I wasn’t able to help her but I could help others. I really feel that humans need connection, we need a purpose and exercise can help people get connected with others along with providing the necessary natural endorphins.

As I start to recreate my own fitness business due to COVID I plan to offer exercise programs for people with depression and anxiety. I truly feel that the power of connection and exercise can truly change a person’s life. I know it saved me and it made for the best year of my Mom’s life too. I can’t thank Silken and the staff and volunteers at Unsinkable enough for the opportunity to share my story and tell my Mom’s Story, a story she never had the opportunity to tell.

Tracy Beardsley

Can Fit Pro Personal Training Specialist

TJ Fit Inc

www.tjfit.ca

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