“I wish I could take the pain away
If you can make it through the night, there’s a brighter day
Everything will be alright if you hold on
It’s a struggle every day, gotta roll on
And there’s no way I can pay you back
But my plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated.”
— 2Pac, Dear Mama
I’ve been so busy this week that October 17th passed almost like a normal day. Almost.
The 17th usually hits me hard. Grief, anger, blame, guilt. Then, a desire to get “through” it.
This year, I made it to the 22nd before I woke up crying.
But this time I wasn’t crying for me. I was crying for you.
Trauma freezes people in time.
Part of me will always be that eight-year-old in 1996 who just found out his mom committed suicide.
For years, I was angry at you. How could you do this to yourself? To us?
But now I’m 35, just one year younger than you were when you died.
Now, I just want to talk to you.
I have so many questions. Do you regret what you did? How could we have helped you? What’s the best way to remember you? I don’t want to remember you this way.
A recurring pain of losing a parent early is that you grieve again with every happy moment they miss.
I miss the life you didn’t live. All the birthdays, every big moment in our lives, the ups and downs, even the pictures on the walls, are all missing you.
I wish I could get a few more days with you to get to know you better.
Would we be friends now, like me and Dad?
I’ve always looked up to you. You were one of the smartest people in the world.
I wish I could learn from you. The good and the bad.
What drove you? What was your greatest ambition in life? What made you the happiest?
How did it fall apart so quickly? Was it just one bad episode, or would you have struggled with it for life?
I feel like I have all the good and bad of you and dad in me, and it’s my job to pick the best of both.
But more than anything, I want you to know that everything turned out okay.
Looking back, I can see the weight of the world on your shoulders. An immigrant with two young kids struggling to succeed in a new career and a new world, with our family in India needing help too.
Don’t worry, mama. It’s all great now, actually. Just wish you were here.
You would be so proud to see the man Samir has become. Your little four year old boy just got married.
And I wish I could see the smile on your face when you hold my kids Kai and Ajay; your grandkids.
Kai is a big boy now. Dad says he’s just like me at that age.
At that age. Loaded words in my mind.
When you died, I tried to grow up right away. I thought I had to be tough, take care of our family.
But I would never expect Kai to bear that burden. I would just hold him, love him, care for him.
In my love for my kids, I found more love for my grieving eight-year-old self.
And when I freed myself from this pain, all I wanted was the same for you.
I don’t know how you took care of us and kept fighting your own battles, all without showing it.
Now I wish I could be there for you as my adult self, to care for you when you needed it.
I hope you found the peace you were searching for your whole life.
Know that I will always love you and carry you with me.
And I always wish you were still here.
When I lived in San Francisco, I read a story about The Jumpers, the 26 people who have attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived. The bridge is 225 feet high, so after a four-second fall, jumpers hit the water at 75mph. Over 98% of jumpers die, but something amazing happens to the survivors. Every single jumper who survived has said they realized in that four-second fall that they actually wanted to live. They each had life-changing experiences during that fall, many saw God, and none ever attempted suicide again.
Sometimes I wonder how our lives would be different if the doctors had saved my mom’s life on October 17, 1996. Would she have woken up the next day a completely different person? How could we have saved her earlier?
There’s one more striking part of the testimony of The Jumpers. In the moments leading to their attempts, these survivors all tried to talk to strangers before they jumped. They were calling out for help, but most people didn’t try to listen.
We all need space to talk, and more importantly, for someone to hear us.
This new culture of sharing our traumas has its critics, but I still don’t think we do it enough.
I still have the diary I kept in 1996 after my mom died. All of the entries are written as letters to my mom. On November 7, 1996, three weeks after her suicide, I wrote to her, “Should I feel sad or should I feel happy all the time, or both?”
Just imagining my eight-year-old self writing those words makes me cry.
Let your feelings out. Joy, sadness, fear, and anger are all normal human emotions.
I knew when I woke up today that I shouldn’t force myself to do anything else.
My mind wanted to write this letter so I did.
It definitely helped me. I hope it helped you too.
If you or anyone you know is struggling, please call 988, the new Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You or your friend do not need to be suicidal to call. I’ve called this number to help a friend in a crisis and a 20-minute call made a huge difference for both of us. The woman who answered was an angel who went out of her way to listen and help. A call to 988 now can prevent a call to 911 later.