January has never been an easy month for me, marking the anniversary of my mother’s suicide (as well as the death of both my grandfathers). After her funeral, the only year when my sister, my father, and I observed her death together was ten years later when we made a trip to visit her grave. All the years before and since we have celebrated alone, each with our own thoughts and feelings. Separated, if not by distance, then by toxic silence.
Every January I would struggle with my emotions. At first chalking them up to the let down after the holiday season, usually a week or so into the month I would realize all the deaths involved were most likely the impetus for my low mood. I would wonder what my sister and father and uncle were thinking and feeling, and when she was alive even my grandmother, but was too afraid to reach out and ask for fear of not being able to express myself, or worse yet, hurting them with my questions by bringing up pain which they perhaps did not wish to remember.
Instead of calling them or visiting, I would mark the occasion alone, lighting the traditional candle, saying some prayers, and reminiscing. Some years I would read the sympathy cards we received, or go through her letters to me. Other years I would look at family photos and reminisce on the wonderful fun we had. Every year I wished I had a recording of her voice – it was the first “memory” of her I lost. Some years I still do these things, some years the pull is not as strong.
Old habits are hard to rid oneself of. Although I still find it difficult to discuss my mother, and particularly her death, with my family, Ruth’s persistence and courage in choosing to unlock our silence has helped immensely. I usually still spend the day alone, but now I don’t dread January like I used to. Because we all know we can talk to each other, I now have a choice and know if I need to reach out people are there for me. 2020 marks the first time in many years that I have been excited for the new year, and Ruth’s projects (her documentary and work in breaking the family silence) are the main reasons for this.
Will it ever be easy or feel natural to talk to my family at will and with ease about my mother’s life and death? That is hard to say. I am by nature a fairly private person emotionally, and years of silence are hard to break. Slowly the walls are coming down, and hopefully sooner rather than later, this will feel as natural as discussing any other topic of import.
I hope my sister’s documentary and work will help inspire other families to break the toxic silence which often surrounds suicide. It has meant so much to me, and I believe to all of our family.
Note from Ruth: If you have been affected by suicide, please consider donating in honor of a lost loved one to help The Silent Goldens raise the $15,000 still needed to finish filming the interviews. Just click the donate button above for a secure link! Thank you!!!!