Suicide Survivors

Judy Raphael Kletter

email Judy

The term SUICIDE SURVIVORS refers to family members and friends who remain alive after a love one ends their life through suicide.

"I am a survivor of suicide, and I have all the scars that go along with it."

I have spent the past 52 years forgetting and remembering one small part of one day of my life that has affected me for my entire life. Memories are tucked away, asleep in your mind waiting for some outside stimuli to awaken them. But what happens to a memory when you have been told over and over it was just a bad dream, yet you really, really know it was not? What happens to your mind, what happens to your life? What happens when the memory does awake and surfaces for a brief time and then returns to sleep, waiting for the next stimuli? This is my story, my life ... and through sharing it it helps me and I hope it can help you.

The day was January 19, 1948, the time was very early morning. I was four years old. I got out of bed to go to the bathroom and discovered my father's body hanging from a rope tied to a pipe over the toilet. He had committed suicide. I remember this very vividly, even though my mother tried to convince me for the rest of my life that I never saw what happened. My mother even went so far as to make imaginary visits to the hospital every week for five months, bringing me a present each time from my father. How could this have been, he was dead, I saw him hanging? My mother was protecting me, and protecting herself from a tragedy she only could deal with by denying its very existence. And, by doing so, denying me the opportunity to grieve and put the tragedy behind me. My young mind could not cope with this confusion, so my response was hostility towards my mother, hostility that must have been so intense, my mother's only recourse was to have me institutionalized.

Most of my past tragedy has been asleep except for brief periods, when my daughters each turned four years old, and when I turned 43, the age my father ended his life. But when my mother died, at age 88, the trauma once again awakened within me and this time I had this inner energy to discover all that I had either forgotten, repressed, did not know and/or did not understand.

Yes, even after all these years I am a survivor of suicide and I have all the scars that go along with it.

I have been driven to tell my story, a story I never shared with anybody until now. The telling all began with my daughters Elisa and Jennifer, age 26 and 24, they never know how their grandfather died. I had never told them for fear that they would consider suicide in a moment of despair. The only way I felt comfortable telling my story was through the written word. Well, the words just kept coming and coming and soon I had a book! I still don't know where the energy came from, but it did (I like to think that my mother was finally guiding me).

Looking for answers about suicide, I became involved with the American Association of Suicidology. They encouraged me to tell my story at their annual conference in Los Angeles in 2000. It was a very emotional experience, but I learned and so did the psychologists, psychiatrists and other survivors-it was an eye-opener few days!

Most importantly this book is dedicated to my mother, whose love, courage and strength-even with her unnecessary denial and repression-lived a long accomplished life dedicated to make me happy.