A Good-Bye Letter to a Young Woman

Trigger Warning: This post discusses suicide and depression and may trigger a strong reaction. Thanks to Cristi Comes at Motherhood Unadorned for providing this list of crisis resources:

If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, please call:

 

I didn’t want to write this post. I just avoided thinking about writing this for so long that I don’t remember when we heard the news. A young woman I never got the chance to meet, a former student of my husband’s, died last year. I don’t know her family or whether her death was a suicide. I strongly suspect that she did take her own life. The last news we had about her, before this, was that she had left school to try and get help for severe depression. As an undergraduate, she confided in my husband in fall, 2011, that she was struggling with depression. With her permission, he shared her story with me. He shared my blog with her. Her name was Rachel.

I wrote a letter to Rachel on this blog and on my blog at Psychology Today, and she said that it helped. I have not gone back to look at the comment she left. I just can’t. She seemed to be doing better, my husband reported, at the end of that semester. It’s time to write another letter; if Cristi can fly across the country for the Overnight Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, then I can write this letter.

Dear Rachel,

We miss you. We had so hoped that you would come back to finish college, stronger and healthier. We had hoped that you would come to visit us, and meet our son. I had hoped to get a chance to tell you, in person, that it would get better.

But it didn’t get better. You are gone, and the world will never know what you might have done with the rest of your life. There was so much life ahead of you. I am so sorry that you did not believe in the importance of that life. I am glad that I told you that I believed in you. I am angry that you are not here to be told again and again by many people to just keep hanging on.

I’m crying, holding my infant son in my lap, and grieving that we will never see you smile over him. When I look at him, I think, “My God, if I had gone through with the suicide plan I made when I was Rachel’s age, I would never have known this moment.” There was no way, when I wanted to die, for the people who cared about me to reach into my future, pluck this image, and give it to me to hold as a reason to stay. I had to take it on blind faith. It was hard.

I’m so sorry that you did not stay with us. I’m so sorry that life was so hard. I don’t know what happened, but I desperately wish that you had found a way to be here. I want to put my son in your arms as a symbol of the future and make you understand that the darkness that surrounded you made it impossible for you to see your own. It was still there, your future. You had one, and I believe that it was bright. I’m so sorry that you couldn’t see it. I’m angry that you didn’t hold on.

I believe in reincarnation, truly, and I pray for your soul. It comforts me to know that your journey is not over, but I also believe that it will continue to be difficult. Maybe that’s not what we usually say when a young person has died. But I know that you’re still out there, somewhere, and I want to hold you and tell you that giving up is never the way out. I still have hope for a bright future for your dear soul. However long it takes, no matter how many times you forget that you are loved, I know that you will make your way out of the darkness, someday.

I am holding you in the light, in my heart, always. Good-bye, Rachel.

Love,

Anne-Marie

Hamlet's Ophelia, by Millais, behind a line Laertes delivers at Ophelia's funeral
Hamlet’s Ophelia, by Millais, behind a line Laertes delivers at Ophelia’s funeral: “Lay her i’ the earth / And from her fair and unpolluted flesh / May violets spring!”

8 Comments

  1. Cristi Comes said:

    So touching Anne-Marie. I’m glad you wrote the letter. I know it was hard to do but I hope someone who’s struggling reads it an knows there really is a good future out there waiting for them, love and hugs, Cristi

    April 3, 2013
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Wow. It actually did not occur to me that this might help someone else out there… I hope it does! That thought really helps me feel something more useful than helplessness and grief.

      April 3, 2013
      Reply
  2. Bailey said:

    This is lovely. I wish I had someone write me a letter before I had tried to take my life. Luckily, I did see a flash of my future and I called for help, minutes before it was too late. You reaching out is a wonderful thing. Thank you.

    April 3, 2013
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      I’m so glad that you called! Even if someone had written you a letter, YOU would have had to make some kind of call for help. That is work that you did, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I had a wonderful support network that I didn’t know how to use until I was hospitalized.

      April 3, 2013
      Reply
  3. A lovely letter. Thank you for these thoughts and feelings.

    April 3, 2013
    Reply
  4. Anne-Marie said:

    I finally worked up the courage to go back and read the original letter and comment. It helped. But I feel silly for spelling her name incorrectly: Rachael. Honest mistake–I didn’t ever meet her, after all. But for the record, Rachael with two “a”s, you are missed.

    April 3, 2013
    Reply
  5. I’m so sorry, my friend! I have come close. Had plans all figured out a couple of times. God always intervened one way or another. I suppose that it can get loud and dark and scary enough that you can’t hear that still small voice. I think that’s what happens. God is there … offering love … we are just too broken to feel His presence and His love. I’m so glad that you DID hear the whisper! And that you encourage others to hear theirs! =)

    April 4, 2013
    Reply
  6. I’m so sorry, my friend! I have come close. Had plans all figured out a couple of times. God always intervened one way or another. I suppose that it can get loud and dark and scary enough that you can’t hear that still small voice. I think that’s what happens. God is there … offering love … we are just too broken to feel His presence and His love. I’m so glad that you DID hear the whisper! And that you encourage others to hear theirs! =)

    April 4, 2013
    Reply

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