Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - My grandmother committed suicide. My mother did not talk about this much at all, and I did not ask.
The method used was too simple, the reasons too complicated and the result too permanent.
I don’t think my grandmother knew what it would do to those of us left behind.
Suicide affects us all whether we know the victim or not. This one shaped my life.
My mother, then a high school student about to make a difference in college at a time when women were often ignored, instead was left caring for her two younger siblings and entering what would become an unhappy marriage that left her stranded in Alaska with five children. She met my father and had two more, I the youngest of that duo.
Granted, life was good in our house and my mother was loving and providing, and we siblings have all had wonderful lives, some being more successful than others and others being more respected than some.
Among us there have been suicide attempts, alcoholism, divorces, cocaine addictions, abusive relationships, listlessness and depression.
My mother battled depression.
If you knew my mother, you wouldn’t believe that.
She was outgoing, friendly and the center of attention when the Women of the Moose gathered for events.
She was an organizer for the Cub Scouts and Little League affairs her children participated in and loved Parent/Teacher nights.
She worked long hours and multiple jobs to feed her brood and all with a smile that invited conversation.
Yet deep inside her large brown eyes there was a loneliness.
Though she met and married the man of her dreams, my father, the illness lurked inside her.
She hid it well.
There were times I would find her, head in hands, tears in eyes, rocking in the handmade chair my father had built… not knowing why she was sad.
“Just tired, I guess,” she would say. “Just tired.”
To some degree that has passed onto myself and to my daughter.
We talk about this sometimes — when she isn’t mad at me for being an absent father.
She has taken prescription medication to wage her war; I tried other avenues to battle my feelings when I was her age.
Sometimes we all feel tired, or we feel happy, we feel lost and we feel like we have found our path in life. During the bad times it’s important to know that there is help, in many forms, and people who understand.
In Alaska, that help includes the Alaska Careline 24-hour crisis intervention center, 1-877-266-4357 (HELP).
Other contacts include:
The Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition - 907-463-4251 - https://www.juneausuicideprevention.org.
National Alliance on Mental Illness - 907-463-4251 - https://www.namijuneau.org.