How Do You Do It?
The most frequent question I’m asked regarding my daughter’s suicide is “How do you do it?” Well, as the saying goes, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” You just keep going. You hope you make it through the hard days without crying and you celebrate the good days. You come up with ways to make it. Here are a few of mine.
First, I’ve made it my goal to keep Ana’s spirit alive in our memories. It gives me hope and helps me feel closer to her. Right after her death, I learned to talk about her. I bring her up in conversation and I tell stories about her. I talk about her—not just about the way she died, but also about the way she lived. Example: it brings me peace to talk about the adorable child she was. She had the most darling ways of getting her point across. These “Ana-isms” bring me so much joy. She is so worthy of having us remember the charming, spunky child she was. How fortunate we are to have had her with us as long as we did.
I also talk about her suicide. I attempt to do so in a way that gives other people hope. Mental illness is common and complicated. It can happen to anyone and we all need to help reduce the stigma that leads to others not seeking help. I post things regarding mental health and suicide prevention. I post short positive affirmations, sayings and bits of knowledge and hope. I don’t know if any of these things help anyone else, but I know for certain they help me.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that part of my ability to function is due to having the most supportive, amazing and thoughtful friends and relatives. They have surrounded us with love and compassion. They are irreplaceable and we are forever grateful for each of them.
We are beyond blessed.
Perhaps the force that has taught me the most though, is a group of people I didn’t even know prior to Ana’s death. I have found encouragement and gained insight from these people--my suicide survivor group, Survivor Resources. This is the “club nobody wants to be a member of” so these people “get it”. Because they’re in it. They’ve taught me that no one can tell me how long to grieve—I’m allowed all the time I need. They’ve shown me that grief isn’t linear—that it’s an ongoing process that doesn’t follow a diminishing line. They’ve taught me that it’s ok if somedays I never get out of bed—and that all the days I do are to be celebrated. They’ve shown me it’s not my fault that Ana took her own life—because I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. They’ve encouraged me to smile when I can, and to cry when I have to. These people are the real warriors of suicide loss. We build each other up, hold each other’s hands, hug each other tightly and listen intently. We let each other know that we’re not crazy for having the thoughts we have. We let each other know that we will make it. We validate for each other that we will be different now than we were before, but that we will survive. We confirm that our lives will never be the same and we teach each other to live with that reality.
If you are here and reading this, I know you have had some trauma in your life. You are grieving or you know someone who is. Whatever your specific situation is, I encourage you to talk about it. Share the good and the bad. Reach out to your friends and family. And no matter what your tragedy or life adversity is, I recommend finding some warriors that have experienced the same thing. They “get it”. And that can make all the difference.
Written Originally in October 2019 by Toni Plante
Edited December 7, 2021