- Death & Loss of Life
How I Dealt With Sudden Death
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How I coped with my mother's death
We all have deaths that happen in our own families whether it is caused by illness, normal death, tragedy, typhoons, stroke or heart attack, people who are shot by guns, wars or self inflicted deaths like suicide. It is hard to imagine how everyone feels losing someone they love in life. But natural deaths are easier to cope with than unnatural deaths I think because at least you have time to say your goodbyes to them but with sudden death it is unexpected to happen. We hear about people being killed by landslides due to storms, people being killed by tsunamis and earthquakes, people being killed due to wars, people being gunned down and so on. And these deaths are also sudden deaths that no family is prepared for them but has to be dealt with. No one is prepared to say their last words or goodbyes. Suicide is the worst I think when someone you love dearly takes their own life. You don't expect it would happen but it had.
Let me tell you a story of my mother who took her own life which left me and the family devastated for life and how I dealt with it. I was the eldest in the family of six children, four boys and two girls. In my culture, if you are the eldest, you automatically assume responsibility when your mother dies or your father dies come to that. Two weeks before my mother committed suicide, I graduated as a midwife. My father and mother came to my graduation day and they were both very proud and happy that I have finished my two-year course midwifery and I will be able to get a job and will be able to help them in return. That was my plan. I was very happy that at least I can start earning money for a change instead of spending it for school fees. But due to my mother's sudden death, my plans and dreams were short-lived. I began to worry about how would I cope doing what my mother used to do everything for us. But no time to worry, I just got on with it. It was hard work but I had to do it. Looking down at my innocent young siblings, my heart bled for them. I was not prepared for that situation at all. I had to forget all about my dreams and future plans because my family needs me most. My father just got on as well with the day to day job to provide for us and drowned his sorrows in his work.
I must say I did not want to write this for profit as it is so personal to me but I wrote it in the hope of saving someone's life if they plan to take their own life and in the hope of leaving some tips for people to cope when one of their loved ones die thru sudden death. Because with situations like this, it can either take someone into a negative place or positive place. With my mother's death, I could have gone into depression myself because as I said earlier, I just finished my midwifery course which I was ready to go and practice and this happens. I was being pulled into two directions. I wanted to just go away and leave my siblings, grandfather and dad but I could not do that. I do care about them so much. Instead of focusing on my future plans, I decided to take good care of my family. I thought at the time, when my sister grows up a little then that is the time I am going to leave them and find a job. When my sister was seven years old, my father suggested that I should go abroad and work. I did not like to go away from them but again I had no choice, it was the only way I could earn some money for us. Of course by then I have forgotten what I learnt in midwifery so I decided to try my luck working abroad.
My mother's cause of death was Suicide
My mother was always low in mood most of the time because she got asthma and she knew that she has to take asthma pills for life. Her asthma is so bad sometimes that she is gasping for breath at nights. She always said that, it would be better if she is dead because she thought she is a burden to the family especially to my father who was our sole breadwinner at the time. My mother also worked in the farm and took care of us at the same time. I didn't take any notice of what she was saying because I thought she was bluffing. But I was wrong, I should have listened more to my mother when she mentioned about killing herself. I thought at the time mother knows best and she won't do anything stupid, but I was wrong. My mother has low self esteem and always think that she is not a good mother. But to me, she is the best mother I ever had. She did loved us in her own way. She even thought my father was having an affair but I know my father is not doing anything like that to upset us. Clearly my mother is depressed or have mental illness that no one in our family knows about it until she killed herself. I wish I knew more about depression or mental illness in those days, maybe I could have saved her life. Her asthma was also bad at that time, she was coughing badly and even has become breathless. She drank the rat poison that they kept for the farm one evening when our father was at work, it was at night time. My mother was taken to the nearest clinic in our village but did not make it. The rat poison was so strong that it killed her quickly. I can't forget her last words as they were taking her to the hospital, she said to me "Goodbye Linda, promise me you will look after your brothers and sister". I did not have any choice. My grandfather(mother's father) who was blind came up on the second floor of our house to say goodbye to his daughter before they took her to the clinic. We were all devastated. I was very upset because it meant I won't be practicing what I have just finished. I have to look after my young siblings including my blind grandfather and my father too. I never imagined that I could cope but having no choice, I had to face it. I love my family and I always put them first even now. My father has just been cleared of colon cancer last year and I am pleased with the result but I nearly lost him too last year. Luckily my father survived it but my brother died of stomach cancer last year as well. My brother got diagnosed late with stomach cancer. He was too scared to go to the doctor. I persuaded him but it was too late. I wish my brother went to the doctor earlier like my father. Maybe he will be here now. My father had both chemotherapy and radiotherapy in 2015 and was given cancer drugs since his operation but since last year the doctor said no need for him to take cancer drugs anymore because he is cured and cancer free which was such a relief. I still worry about my father but he is a strong person so he will be with us for a while I hope.
How I coped after my mother's death
How I managed the following days and months that followed, I did not know. My father went back to work and I looked after everyone in the house, my blind grandfather, my younger brothers and three-year old sister. I cleaned the house, did the laundry, cooked our meals, feed our animals like chickens, dogs and pigs, and even go to the farm to tend to my mother's sweet potatoes that she planted before she died, carrying my sister on my back. My brothers were attending primary school at the time so I had to prepare their packed lunches every morning and helped them with their home works. I asked my brothers to help me, like fetch water from the well because in our village, we don't have water taps like we have here. We had to fetch water to cook our food. Then I realised why my mother used to get uptight and distressed because my younger siblings don't listen to her sometimes. I had to grow up so quick. It was hard to be a mother and a sister to them as well. Somehow I managed to do what my mother used to do but it was very hard indeed. That is why I did not have time to grieve over my mother's death. I was too busy looking after all my loved ones but I did it with all my love for my family. I still miss my mother though but we have a loving step-mother who looks like our mother and she loves us all. They really look like twins but not identical. My father remarried after a few years had passed and she is a wonderful loving step-mother who loves us unconditionally. My stepmother got asthma too but she is not suicidal like my mother.
Tips on how to deal with sudden death
My tips on how to deal with sudden death:
- Accept the situation and deal with it
- Focus on what needs to be done now and what to do next
- Accept that things will never be the same and some changes have to be made
- Change your future plans if needed – it was not easy for me but I had to give up my future plans for myself
- Be strong and help the young ones cope without having a mother
- Be willing to accept help from other people when you can't handle everything
- Be willing to sacrifice your career for your family
- Learn to live and let go. Not easy but as time goes by, it gets easier.
- Talk to other people and ask for guidance on how to cope if you are overwhelmed.
- Try and grieve if you can, it's okay to be sad because of what happened. Have a good cry when you feel like crying. It is a part of the grieving process. It helps lighten your mood.
- Talk to a trusted friend who can understand what you are going through.
Lessons learnt from my mother's sudden death
I now understand what my mother was going thru when she killed herself. I think she was very depressed at the time but I did not know the meaning of depression in those days. I wish that I know a lot more about mental illness or depression then maybe I could have saved her but there are things we only learn after something happens. I only understood the meaning of depression when I experienced it myself but because of what happened to my mother, I was determined to live and find ways to get out of depression. Also if I hear anyone saying they are depressed, they should be listened to. If we can't help them, maybe we can find others who can help them. A lot of people suffer with depression due to different reasons but they are not getting enough help they need. I think mental illness is a disease that should not be ignored because people who can not cope with it often end up killing themselves.
How to deal with sudden death poll
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How to deal with sudden death
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How to deal with sudden deaths
That was exactly how I felt when our mother took her own life. Until now I have not got over it but I have accepted that she was gone and will never be back.
© 2015 Linda Bryen