I couldn’t find words

“Where’s your mom?” Seems an easy enough question, right? But tonight at dinner when my 2 1/2 year old asked it I was shocked into silence. I didn’t know what to say.

See, my mom killed herself when I was 11 years old.

When adults ask the same question it’s easy enough to say “she passed away”. Most of them are wise enough to take that answer and leave it at that. But when her young granddaughter asked, I just didn’t have an answer. I couldn’t find the words to explain that life seemed too hard and she gave in to the temporary pain with a permanent solution. I couldn’t find a quick way to tell such a sweet innocent one that one choice made decades ago means that she is short one grandma. I didn’t have an answer for “where is your mom?”

“Dead” isn’t a word she’s learned yet. She’s been to 5 funerals/viewings/memorial services already in her short life, but we haven’t really had to explain what was happening yet. Of those five the worst for me was the one for my cousin who had taken his life. That one was really hard -it was the result of a choice. Three of the others were friends who lost their battle with cancer, and one had simply lived all her years. While each included sorrow, the one for the teenager whose choice brought us together was the hardest for me. She was youngest then, just 2 months old so I was able to tell her all about it and know that she wouldn’t remember, and couldn’t ask questions. Now while she may not remember, she can ask questions. And, she asks lots! So, tonight I was stunned into silence at a simple question.

I know this topic will come up again and that I need to find words. But for tonight I was thankful that 2 year-olds are pretty distractable and we were able to move on to something else.

I’d guess that on that December day long ago when my mom made her decision to take her life she never imagined I’d be sitting at a dinner table over 20 years later struggling over what to say to her granddaughter. Once again, suicide sucks. Please find help if you are struggling. Deciding to take your life may affect generations to come.

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