In short, it’s hell.
In the last five years, I have lost two close friends to death by suicide. Couple that with the five immediate family members I have lost in eight years to cancer (with four deaths from both sources occurring in the last two), my life has been in a constant state of mourning.
On the surface, I don’t think people truly understand what this can do to a person.
You laugh, you smile, you go about your day as if it’s just another day, but on the inside you worry intensely about who you are going to lose next.
It’s a fear that everytime the phone rings you are going to be given news that someone else has passed away.
It’s the parnoia you feel when your husband says he is running to the store that is literally across the street from your home and you are still terrified that he won’t come back. And when it’s only amplified by that same store being robbed at gun point a mere hour after he left, you are left in a constant tail spin of “what-if”, instead of just thanking God that everything is okay.
It’s the hell of your life when therapy doesn’t work.
After a loved one dies suicide you are left with more questions, than you will ever have answers to.
It’s wondering if you are even worthy of those answers because, in the end, you know it won’t change anything.
After a loved one dies by suicide,
After a loved one dies by suicide, it’s you mourning, wishing that they were here, wishing that your love and your friendship was enough to keep them going. It’s realizing that it wasn’t and wondering what more you could have done.
2 Strong women, 2 different stories, same ending
They were college educated. They were loved by everyone. They were women who wanted to make an impact on the world.
They were mothers. They were wives. And they died by suicide.
I met both women in 2009 and developed a close friendship with both. Even as the years passed and we each became busy, it was nothing to just drop in on one another and do a random check up to see how each was holding up.
Friend 1 was a single mother who worked hard to provide her daughter with the best life possible. She always said that if she had the strength to leave an abusive marriage, she had the strength to overcome anything.
Friend 2 was a military vet turned scientist. She loved working with kids and often spent time volunteering at shelters and the library helping others.
Both were beautiful women with stories to tell. Both had overcome abuse from romantic partners, sexism in their workplace, the loss of a child.
When I started attending a small non-denominational church that met in an elementary school, both women attended with me. We became active members of our various community groups, we prayed together, we studied the
Friend 1 taught me how to be a survivor, while friend 2 taught me what it really meant to extend grace to others.
Grant forgiveness freely,
Even through their own pain, they inspired me to be a good person. Which is all I think any of us could hope that our presence on this Earth will do.
My legacy and your legacy will be every person who’s life was touched by your BEING here. #SuperSoulSunday— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) December 16, 2012
The Broken Promise
When my first friend committed suicide in 2013 after losing her 8-year-old daughter in 2012, I spent years beating myself up because I didn’t answer the phone that day when she called.
As I replay that day in my head over and over, I know that logically there is nothing I could have done. I was working and in a meeting. In that moment I wouldn’t have been able to answer, however, it doesn’t change the fact that I spent three years blaming myself for something that I couldn’t prevent.
After friend #1’s death, I told myself that I would always be a listening ear to whomever needed it. No matter how big or how small.
Truth be told was a lot to put on myself. People deal with heavy shit, I deal with heavy shit. But when you tell yourself over and over, that you are not going to let anyone down ever again, you hold yourself to a higher standard to where it’s impossible to maintain anything-even your own sanity.
So here we are, Friday, April 5, 2019. 7:15 am I get the message that friend #2 ended her life late Thursday evening.
Now here I am.
I have broken my promise, or at least it feels like I did.
Postpartum depression is a beast. I have dealt with it, I have also dealt with prenatal depression, so I know how difficult it can be to function.
When she first told me around August of last year that she thought she was going through PPD, I immediately urged her to get help. Even though she stated it didn’t feel like “real” depression, she knew something wasn’t right.
Fear of losing her job for kept her from seeking the kind of help she needed (I suggested maybe a daily intensive outpatient) because it would “put her business” out there to her co-workers. On-top having just returned from a
Shame killed her. Fear killed her.
While I truthfully don’t know what more I could have done, I can’t help but feel like it still wasn’t enough. I’m heartbroken. Not because of the act, but because even after everything, she still felt as if she had no one in her corner.— Natasha Brown (@NatashaVBrown) April 5, 2019
Society has not done any better either with helping women who suffer from PPD or PPP.
In 2003 study found 86 percent of pregnant women who expressed “significant depressive symptoms” in obstetric appointments were not receiving any form of treatment.
In January 2016, the U.S. Preventative Task Force issued a long-overdue recommendation that healthcare providers screen for depression during pregnancy.
February 15, I spoke about my friend and her struggles in an IG post. I still mean everything that I wrote in this post. How can she celebrate women like Cardi B, Chrissy Teigen and Khloe Kardashian for talking about PPD, but shame “regular” women who speak about their struggles?
View this post on Instagram
My husband and I were speaking to a friend who recently had a baby about postpartum depression. She has been having a rough time and her husband is at a loss for how to help her. Because of the nature of her job she refuses to seek help because it would put her employment at risk. This breaks my heart as a mother and a woman. I’ve heard the same several times before that I shouldn’t talk about PPD or my struggle with my own mental health because companies shy away from tough topics. The way I see it, if that’s the way they feel, so be it. I’ve been very fortunate to have an excellent support system. But not everyone does. No one should ever have to suffer in silence because their job is at risk. Why should we applaud celebrities like Cardi B of Chrissy Teigen or Khloe Kardashian for speaking out, but we shame and take away opportunity from “regular” women who do the same? We are just as worthy of help as they are, and deserve for our voices to be heard about it just as much as they do. All this says to me is that we are not ready to have this conversation on as large of a scale as I thought. . . . . . #myhonestmotherhood #motherhoodthroughig #wildandfreechildren #readtoyourkids #mumsofinstagram #mumlife #motherhoodinspired #igmotherhood #parenthood_unveiled #motherhoodsimplified #lifeasmama #parenthood_moments #joyfulmamas #memoirsofmotherhood #heaventhroughmylens #Blackmomsblog #breastfeedingmama #postpartumbody #momlifeisthebestlife #justmomlife #designblog #lovingtheordinarymoments #southernblogger #blackgirlswhoblog #melaninmagic #breastfeeding #carolinablogger #honestmotherhood #momstruggles #pumpingmom
It’s an unfair position to put any mother in. Financial/social status does not make someone more or less worthy in determining who deserves to have their story told.
How my life has changed
Having lost a second friend to suicide is hard. Like friend number two, I am 35, with a wonderful husband and a brand new baby. Like friend 1 and 2, I am loved by many, even if I don’t always hear the words.
The realization that I could easily have been friend 1 and 2 is frightening to the nth degree. On the inside, I feel very isolated. On the outside, I feel like it’s my mission to ensure that no other woman is left to suffer in silence because of fear of the stigma that comes with mental illness.
While I’m not striving to be a superhero, I am striving to make sure all mothers receive the support that they need.
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Love of impromptu dance parties, 80’s cartoons, and horizontal life pauses (aka naps); Natasha Brown is a stay at home mom of 4 kids, and wife to one lucky guy! In her spare time, she is co-editor of Grits & Grace, as well as editor for The Mother Hustler Blog and Creative Director for the Mother Hustler podcast.