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6:12 PM Tue, Nov. 13th

Dear Rhonda & Dr. Cheri: Surviving a mother’s suicide

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

I’m starting my junior year in high school. I have three older siblings. My mother committed suicide.

She was seeing a therapist for more than 10 years. She had lots of problems and she reacted differently to our situations — good and bad. She went to lots of doctors.

Because I was the baby, she held onto me too tightly. I was smothered with her reactions of either being happy or very sad for me.

If I didn’t get a part in a play I wanted to be in or didn’t get an A on a test that I studied hard for, she would smother me with hugs and attention.

But she got mad at me for things that I didn’t care about. I quit playing soccer on a high-ranking team. She wanted me to get a scholarship to college. She kept saying I was a quitter and she sulked for weeks about it. I just wanted to do theater and some other stuff.

She almost didn’t come to a play I was in because she was still sad that I quit soccer. Then she became over-involved in my school theater group. I was embarrassed.

Now I feel guilty about her suicide. I could have been nicer and more understanding. I should have been happy that she wanted to be involved with my life. Lots of kids in theater don’t have caring parents.

I go to a therapist, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling guilty about her. I love her, but she was so messed up.

Signed,

The Last Kid

Dear Daughter,

We are very sad for your great loss. The trauma you’re experiencing from the self-inflicted death by a parent is painful for children or adult children, regardless of problems that were lingering before your mom’s suicide.

We know it’s painful for you to experience this kind of traumatic grieving. Suicide isn’t only an agonizing event to try to understand; it triggers an emotionally complicated and conflicted process.

We’re glad you’re receiving professional help and hope your family will look into it.

Many children feel guilty about their feelings toward a Mom who takes her own life. Professional help may, eventually, open doors to understanding her pain that she couldn’t stand.

A mom’s suicide may generate horror, anger, shame, confusion, and guilt — and be overwhelming. This is common.

In time, you may be able to remember your mom as a loving person, despite her flaws, who couldn’t see another way out.

Strengthening yourself emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually will be empowering choices that enable you to move forward and escape guilt.

Signed,

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Rhonda Orr is the president of Rhonda’s STOP BULLYING Foundation and host of a podcast at BullyingLifeAndStuff.com. Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT, is a crime-victim specialist. Write them at Rhonda@rhondastopbullying.org.