To Mary Kennedy’s four children:
I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes now trying to think of the perfect way to start this letter — the perfect words, the right anecdote, the perfect formula. But sometimes life doesn’t afford us with the perfect instruction manual, does it? I know that now, more than ever, you could use an instruction manual. You’re in shock. Your world has just been ripped out from under you. The unimaginable has happened. You feel alone.
Well, sadly, you’re not alone. I say sadly because I wish you didn’t have to be in this club. I wish I didn’t have to be in this club. I wish no one had to be in this club. It’s a club we didn’t want to join. In fact, we had no choice in our initiation into said club. Instead, this club and a whole new world was thrust upon us as the result of a single, life-defining moment.
The suicide of a parent.
I can only imagine the confusion and sadness you’re going through right now. I can imagine this because I’ve been in this club for some nine years now, and I remember those first few months all too well. You’re trying, as best you can, to wrap your head around something so scary, something so horrific, but it’s nearly impossible to rationally wrap your head around something so irrational and senseless.
And although I won’t pretend to know exactly what you’re going through, I thought I’d offer a few gems of comfort that I wish someone had given to me nine years ago. Here are four things I hope you never forget…
It’s normal to feel numb
My body was running on auto pilot, especially during the first six months, and I’m not sure I was even really feeling anything at all. I just went through the motions, and honestly, I was just going and going and saw no point in stopping, at least at the time. Your emotions are probably so raw right now that your body will only let you experience them in small doses — feeling numb is the body’s way of protecting you. So just trust it. It knows what it’s doing.
It’s not your fault
Even now, I sometimes wonder if things would be different if I had woken up just 30 minutes earlier on that fateful Monday morning, or if there were some obvious signs that we missed. Yet no matter what you said, did or didn’t do, I hope you never feel even an ounce of guilt over your mother’s death. It wasn’t your fault, so never let that all-too-common feeling of guilt swallow you whole. It can be a powerful force, tempting you to fall into its trap.
It’s OK to be angry
In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that it would border on abnormal if you weren’t angry. Never before had I experienced the kind of anger I did after my father died. At first, it was this all-encompassing rage over the fact that he would willingly choose to leave his family. What was he thinking? Didn’t he love us? My anger was also directed at the powerlessness I felt about the whole situation. I didn’t sign up for this. It was never part of the plan. Where am I supposed to go from here? All those feelings? Just know that they are normal — being angry doesn’t mean you hate your mother; it means you hate what she did.
It’s OK to keep asking “Why?” for as long as you need to
I still find myself asking this question every once and awhile, but I never beat myself up over it. I suppose it’s all part of the journey we’re on — a journey together toward reconciling our loved one’s death and integrating it into our lives.
I’ll be be sending you good vibes as you begin your journey of healing, and remember: Your mother will always be with you. xoxo
[Photos via Le Love]