Dear Dr. Christina,
I am writing you this letter because I feel my life has ended. You see, my only daughter who was just 16 years old killed herself. She was my life! This empty rawness has taken over my life, and I too do not see myself having any purpose now. She was sick and had to have an operation in which the doctors had to remove her large intestine. She was left to live with a hole in her abdomen where she had to wear a bag that would fill up with liquid waste. Her life seemed to have ended when she got it. She felt like no one would ever love her since she had to wear this bag so her bowel movements could be eliminated through this hole in her tummy. It was embarrassing for her, and I felt helpless while trying to support her. I tried to tell her that she would be okay. I decided to give her a 16th birthday party and invited all of her classmates. In our culture, it is like a debut. She got to dress up like a princess. That’s what I wanted for her. I wanted her to know how special she was. During the party, I finally saw a smile on her face while she was dancing with a very handsome young man. It was the first time in a very long time! She glowed and looked so beautiful. At the end of the dance, he turned to her and gave her a kiss. This was her first kiss ever! I saw her blush, and I was so happy for her – I was glowing! Then, all of a sudden, as a result of what I guess was caused by the heat of the day and her dancing and moving around, the liquid waste poured out all over him, her dress and onto the floor. The bag must have come off. I was so scared for her. The young man was so repulsed, he pushed her off him. She fell to the floor, as she lost her footing with all the mess. I was shocked and concerned as I saw her turn red from being so embarrassed. She ran inside the house before I could get to her and locked herself in her room. I tried to get everything cleaned up as the guests left. I wanted to give my daughter time to regain her composure. When I got to my daughter’s room, she did not answer, so I unlocked the door and found her medication bottle empty, and that she had hung herself. I feel so guilty. I feel like I did all the wrong things, and now I lost the one thing I cared so deeply about, my baby girl. I am a single mom, and I feel like I should have realized my daughter was in trouble. Please help me. How can I live with myself?
I cannot begin to express to you my condolences for such a great loss. The death of a child, whether the child is one-hour old or 80 years old, is devastating. There is never a greater loss than the loss of a child.
I can feel your pain in your letter, as well as all the unspoken words and questions of why. Unfortunately, we may never know, but, as times goes on, the pain hopefully will lessen to the point where talking to a grief counselor, psychologist, clergy person or even a close friend may help you. You need to know that you did not do anything wrong. Had you known something was wrong, I’m sure you would have gladly taken on the problem to try to correct it.
There are many questions as to why she had to undergo such a traumatic surgery, especially at such a young age, and why there wasn’t any help provided or recommended by the doctors so she could talk to someone before and after the surgery. Maybe that could have helped your daughter understand her body changes and empowered her to talk with other people her age so they could understand what was going on. This would have been up to the medical providers to tell you what was available—you would have never known that and most likely wouldn’t have thought of it on your own. Sure, after this tragedy, we could try to second-guess ourselves as to whether we did or didn’t do the right thing, but the reality is that, at the time of her surgery, the idea of saving her life was foremost in everyone’s mind. Sure, we could say, “I should have gotten a second or third opinion,” but that is like being a backseat driver.
When a child dies, especially in this particular way, it’s natural for you to want to take on all of the guilt feelings, but you did nothing wrong. At the time of her surgery, all you wanted was for your daughter to be safe and healthy. The decisions you made were based on what the doctors told you in order to save her life. I do not claim to know exactly how you feel, but I would like to share with you that my father committed suicide. As one of those who was left behind, like you, with all of those unanswered questions, I too felt his actions prevented me from totally understanding why and why now. I kept asking myself: “Why did this happen now?”
Like you, the experience also left me with guilty feelings and wondering what could I have done differently. I could not figure out why I did not pick up on any hints that this was going to happen. These thoughts continued to bombard me for many years and made me blame myself for why he ended his life. Having no answers could have driven me crazy, but I chose not to let it. I had to dig deep down to respect what I couldn’t understand and let the questions go unanswered while I loved him still.
For you and the loss of your daughter, I can only imagine the depth of your pain and how alone you must be feeling. You had sixteen beautiful years with your daughter. Try to remember her during the times she smiled and laughed. You did your very best to help save her life so she could enjoy it and live it. You’re not to blame for her choice to end her life, whether it was an impulsive act or an intentional one. The truth is, you will never know why she chose to do it at that moment. Again, I suggest that you seek out someone to talk to, perhaps a clergy person, psychologist, a group that deals with grief and loss, or a good friend whom you feel comfortable enough to shed your tears with. Maybe you could plan to go outside of your home and take a walk in nature. Let Mother Nature comfort you and remind you of all that is beautiful and still here for you to look at and appreciate. Perhaps you might find fulfillment in working for a cause that you believe in; or you may choose to start a program in the name of your daughter for yourself and others in an effort to try to prevent this from happening to another child. This might be an education program at the hospital for children and/or adults who have tragically lost a portion of their body that has influenced their body image so they can learn to live confident and happy lives.
There is so much you can do when you are ready to utilize the hurt that is inside you to empower you to help yourself and others. This will enable you to memorialize your daughter’s life by giving your own life meaning as you help others.
Toni, you are not alone. The fact that you have written this courageous letter to me is so brave, and all those who will read it here will be with you in thoughts and spirit.
I thank you for sharing your story, and I hope I was able to provide you with some strength to continue your journey. Please write again.
My heart and spirit goes out to you. I hope you will surpass your grief and find the strength and determination to find peace and tranquility.
My sincerest condolences for your great loss and my thoughts are with you,
- Posted By: doctorc
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