What Your Patients are Hearing

The aftermath of a mother’s suicide attempt


A suicide attempt can be devastating for family members. For a son or daughter, the fallout can include feelings of guilt at missing the warning signs and the knowledge that they may have contributed to the despair that might have driven their loved one to trying to end their own lives.

Empty pill bottles and pills PhotoDisk

There also can be the feeling that the attempt to deliberately exit this life is an indication that those left behind are not valued.

As related in a StoryCorps episode, which described the attempted suicide of Linda Kwong and the toll on her daughter Emily, Linda’s longstanding suicidal depression was separate from her love for her family.

The news of the suicide attempt rocked Emily. “I described our family as a table, and you were the most important leg. So you disappearing just knocked the whole thing over,” she says.

Yet, the past had seen Emily distancing herself from Linda, with the reality of her mother’s ongoing darkness. “I thought if I spent too much time with you, I would become like you,” Emily says to Linda during their StoryCorps interview.

In the aftermath of Linda’s suicide attempt, the mother-daughter bond could have been shattered. Instead, in the intervening 5 years, it has been stripped down and rebuilt, with both individuals coming to a better understanding of one another and the pain in their lives.

“I mean, I know it’s not over yet, but seeing you come back from this, I couldn’t be more proud of you,” Emily says to Linda.

“I can’t believe that you can use the word ‘proud,’ but it makes me feel like that bond between us will always be there,” Linda says. “And that means the world to me.”

Click here to listen to their StoryCorps episode, broadcast on NPR.

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