Do you ever cry while doing the dishes?

Yeah, me neither, never. (insert facial expression that screams “yeah right”)

This writing session has been long overdue. Much like the shrapnel of a war vet I once read about in terms of grief, some things need to come to the surface over time, and gosh do they do it at the most inconvenient times. Grief is not considerate of time nor to-do lists.

In the weeks after my mom’s suicide I remember being personally offended that the world would just go on as if all it’s occupants didn’t know my mom had died. I could only picture the scene of someone standing in the middle of Times Square… frozen, as cars and people buzzed by in a blur. I had to choose to stay frozen and be run over by my own feelings, or move.

I have been moving ever since, barely stopping to take a moment and let it soak in. The farthest I will let it go is for a random thought to complete itself inside my mind about missing her, or the days leading up to that night, or how she must have felt.

Or the worst, pictures of that night, standing in the street, the yellow tape, the next morning, deep breaths before I walked in to see what was left to clean up. Hopefully, you don’t get the picture. Every time this happens I quickly shut it down, because I am a mom of a 4 year old, a 2 year old, a puppy, I am a wife and a business owner, a volunteer, and also now the owner of all of her plants, at least the half of them that are still surviving life with me.

Yet even a busy day of chauffeuring kids, cleaning house, running businesses and yelling at a 14-week old lab to stop eating my daughter’s baby dolls cannot always stop the inevitable…the shrapnel.

This writing session is so overdue because the overwhelming feeling I have been having is one I have not wanted to speak of. The one thing I did not want to share.

But what am I if I am not honest? What sort of help am I to others if I pretend I am not facing something that I actually am. I would be no good to anyone if I let this live inside of me and destroy me. I would also not be doing justice to the promise I made to myself, and to my mother, that I would talk about this so that less people feel scared to talk about this.

So here goes…I am sitting alone on my patio at night after putting my kids to bed, Chris is out at his soccer game, and I am about to say, or at least type, the words that I have not spoken since my mother committed suicide 10 months ago tomorrow.

I feel so guilty. I feel like it’s my fault.

I have never struggled so much to type letters onto a screen, through tears in my eyes that are blurring it so I can barely see what I am typing.

I feel so guilty. I feel like it’s my fault. I have always felt, and still feel, like this is largely my fault.

Yet my brain knows this is not actually true, that she faced demons long before I was born that no one could have conquered for her. But my heart, gosh it feels the guilt so strong.

My heart relives every moment, every conversation, that last hug I gave her where she resisted and barely spoke, the times she didn’t pick up and I didn’t just stop by, all the things I could have done differently, said differently.

It takes me back to my childhood when she would become severely depressed, and I was just not able to comprehend what was making her so unhappy. Could I be doing something better to make her more proud, happier, not so sad? I always wanted to be enough to make her want to live.

As a mother now, I realize there is this whole life before and separate from your children that sometimes takes over. It could never trump your love for your children, and it’s scars on your life are not your children’s fault nor does it have anything to do with them. Yet children can’t comprehend this, because we are their entire world, and if we don’t want to be in it they feel like they are the reason why.

To complicate things more, I realize that as a person who has never experienced depression on the level my mother did, I also know that sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. I do not know what it’s like to be at that place, nor will I pretend to. I hope and pray I never find myself there.

Sometimes it hard to be the person who doesn’t understand at all, cannot comprehend. Sometimes I feel like I would have less guilt if I could truly understand how she felt.

In the last several years I was either with my mom, or calling her 3-5 times per day to tell her random things the kids said. I was partially doing it because I wanted so badly for her to be a close part of my life, and there was a time where she wouldn’t even go on a walk with me if I asked. The fact that we got past that was a huge blessing to me. The other reason was because I just wanted to be her friend, be there for her, make sure she was happy.

She would go through periods of depression during which she wouldn’t answer my phone calls, and I would lose sleep, stress eat, think of ways to get her to talk to me.

I think she knew this, and I think that’s why she tried to hide it so much. She kept it to herself because she didn’t want to be a burden on anyone else. I found on her to-do list from a few days before her passing:

“Research mental health facilities I can check into.”

She knew she needed help. She wanted help. She didn’t want to burden us with it.

With that comes a feeling that she did love us, and again immense guilt for not making it more apparent that her struggles were not a burden.

This, this past 10 months of her being gone. This is a burden.

It seems I spent the first 30 years of my life trying to figure out what the secret was to keep her happy, and I’ll spend the next 30 years learning to understand that I could have never held that power.

While doing the dishes a few days ago, our Alexa was playing music and the song Dear Younger Me by MercyMe started playing and he sang:

Dear younger me
It’s not your fault

If you haven’t already connected the pieces, this is where I started crying. I know it wasn’t truly my fault, but letting go of the guilt is something I imagine I’ll be working through for quite some time to come.

There is one thing I know, that I will find a way to turn this darkness to light – there are zero other choices I’ll accept.

If you are someone who finds yourself in the same place as I am, I want you to know that I shared this for you, so that you know you are certainly not alone.

With love & moxie,

P.S. Why the picture of sunflowers? My mom loved them.

Guilt, grief