by Eunice Brock
My beloved daughter, "Sweet Melinda," as we called her, took her life March 14 in Houston at age 53.
She grew up in Chapel Hill and had many friends in Durham where she lived and worked as a nurse for 20 years, at Durham Regional Hospital and also the Health Department.
The day I got the news I screamed "It can't be true!" and now in my despair I know it is true, and yet I expect her to walk in and say, "I love you, Mama," as she said so many times.
I am sharing my experience and feelings because so many of you who are reading this column have experienced the loss of a child, and only we can know what has been taken from us "when the silence of absence deepens." We all live on with the loss one way or another, but it is so hard.
In my search for understanding, I am reading a book, "Healing Through the Dark Emotions: the Wisdom of Grief, Fear and Despair" and will soon read "No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One." I have also attended a suicide support group and am seeing a grief counselor. My counselor says I will never return "to the old normal, but there will be "a new normal."
The day after Melinda died I started whispering to her words that came from a broken heart and am continuing to do so. But I also began writing a letter as if I would be mailing it to her. What follows are excerpts from the letter.
"Oh, Melinda, how desolate I have been since I learned you so quickly took your life with a gun. I realize you were in such despair that you couldn't think there were any options. Your note only said, "I am so sorry. Please forgive me."
"We all know that if you had long planned to take your life, you would have written notes to me and other family members. All your family knew that you were torn between your love and devotion to the husband you married three years ago, on the one hand, and a deep longing to come back to me, family, friends and your sense of place. That profound yearning to return home and the abrupt change in anti-depressant medication led to a deep depression and despair that you couldn't overcome.
"The sad part of your highly sensitive personality that was so giving was that you had nothing left for yourself. The inward torments, despair and profound suffering you felt overcame your life force and you chose death. Our regret forever will be that we failed to realize how monumental your pain was.
"I am sure every mother who has borne a child who has committed suicide feels extra pain and regret for what might have been. At this time I don't know how I am going to bear the grief, but I know you would want me to reach out to others as you have always done and accept their reaching out to me. I will try as much as I can because I hear you telling me to do so, and I know that will help in my healing."
My letter to Melinda continued with my memories of a kind and loving human being who contributed so much love and caring to this world. I spoke of how she was never interested in material things, except to buy hard-backed books that she treasured. Her junior high teacher once wrote me a letter about her unselfish and unmaterialistic nature and her willingness to give to others her possessions.
Melinda's life was grounded in honesty, integrity and love. She understood that the most important thing in life is love. She delighted in times with the family and friends and offered something good into the world every day. She did not articulate her spiritual nature – she just lived it.
I've had many emotional and physical traumas in my 80 years – my mother's death at 16, my near death from sepsis, copperhead bite – to name a few, but this loss has broken my heart and spirit. My daily question is how can I reconcile my heart to its feast of losses? I am trying to gather strength to proceed on my journey, but it is so difficult when my heart remains in grief..
In a future column I will try to write about my journey through grief hopefully to some healing.
Eunice Brock lives in Chapel Hill. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org