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  • BY M KYLE HOLLINGSWORTH

I Lost a Loved One to Suicide and Here Is What I Have Learned

I’m Kyle and I know more than my fair share about loss and the choice people make to end their lives.

 

On Valentine’s Day of 1975, my mother committed suicide. I was eight years old. It changed the course of my life. The loss of a parent, to suicide, is devastating for a child. There is no other way to say it. When the person who literally gave us life takes theirs, it’s a pain like no other. The years of hoping and praying for her return, combined with feeling alone and lost in the world, I would not wish on anyone. It’s been a long and challenging road and yet, here I am. Living.

 

But my mother’s death was only the first experience I had with suicide. In my junior year a boy in our high school committed suicide over a breakup with his girlfriend. Many years later, I lost my father as well, at his own hands, after years of struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. My high school boyfriend only two years ago took his own life because after having COVID, he experienced untreatable and continuing symptoms that took away the quality of his life. One of my Los Angeles community friends took his life in the wake of his wife’s passing several years ago. Another friend, because she felt she could not go on and struggled with clinical depression and bipolar disorder. Several years ago, one of my dear friends jumped from the roof of a building in Hollywood, because of a drug overdose. And finally, a friend chose assisted suicide as a means of taking power over her own death.

 

There are so many reasons, so many scenarios, and no two are alike.

 

What I am clear about is that the reasons for choosing suicide vary greatly, and each impact everyone differently. Much as we might hope to, we will never truly understand the mind and heart of someone who makes this choice.

 

What we can do however, is to learn from each other about how to cope with the loss, and share our own stories, to help each other know that we are not alone in this experience. We can try to understand and forgive. And we can learn to watch for signals, to be there for those we love when they are struggling, and to share in our healing with each other.

 

What I have learned and what I truly believe in the wake of all the losses I have experienced, is this:

 

Suicide is not always a selfish or cowardly act, as some might say. I know that it wasn’t the case for the people I mention above. Each of these people were in deep pain and could not see another way out.

 

It’s incredibly important when we know someone is struggling, to offer our support, to share resources, and to be there. However, sometimes, there is nothing we can do to prevent the act of suicide. And carrying guilt as if we are somehow responsible can suck the life out of us. It did for me for many years, until I chose to surrender to the truth: that my mother was gone, that she suffered greatly and made a choice, and that I could choose to forgive her. So, I did.

 

I chose to forgive my father for destroying himself. I forgive everyone I know who has left in this way, because I understand that I cannot know their mind, nor their suffering. And, as much pain as this kind of loss leaves behind, at some point, we must forgive in order to set our own selves free.

 

Every person on this planet is dealing with something that no one knows about. We all have struggles, challenges, and pain, whether it’s mental, emotional, physical, or a combination of all. While we never want suicide to be the choice a person makes in most cases, it does happen, and in most cases, the people they love never know it’s coming. Sometimes, there are no signs.

 

I learned that I had to let go of judgement and anger towards my mother, my father, my friends, so that I could heal the pain of these losses. I understood that I could choose to accept that they were unable to make another choice, that it wasn’t my fault, and that there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. That’s big and it’s the key to moving forward.


woman walking by water with Her Nation Magazine
Every person on this planet is dealing with something that no one knows about. We all have struggles, challenges, and pain, whether it’s mental, emotional, physical, or a combination of all.

 And above all, it takes time to heal from the impact of a loved one’s suicide. Everyone’s grieving journey is unique, and we must give ourselves space and grace to process the loss.

 

My mother’s suicide marked me for life, yes. I’ve worked to heal from that loss for decades, and now, find that I am at peace with it, and no longer traumatized when sharing my story. That’s why I have a private, Facebook community and host a podcast, both called Courageous AF, where I share my own story of survival and healing. I launched the podcast this year, on the anniversary of mama’s death, as a means to further my own healing, and to be a lighthouse for others dealing with loss and trauma.

 

I am learning every day more and more about the power of forgiveness, and self-compassion, and healing, as I talk with others who have lost loved ones in this way. There is no doubt that those of us left behind are heart broken. And we must learn to live with the absence of someone we truly love, while releasing guilt, shame, and judgement of them and of ourselves.  

 

Finding a way to channel our grief when we are able, to find ways to help others and to be a source of safety for those we love when they are in pain, is salve to our broken heart.

 

And it’s not easy.

 

But what do I know for sure, through all these experiences? Love lives on. I still talk to my mother. I love her. I talk to my dad. I talk to my inner child, the one who was there that day, and I tell her she’s going to be ok. It’s a journey, not a destination, to live with the loss of someone in our lives who we love with all our heart.

 

Compassion and understanding, and above all, forgiveness, makes the incredible weight of grief a bit easier to bear. There are many resources out there for those of us processing the loss of someone to suicide. I encourage you to use them, to find support, talk through the emotions that come up, and to give yourself grace and love as you navigate that grief.

 

Life goes on, as they say and loving oneself is the most important starting point.

 

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Kyle Hollingsworth with Her Nation Magazine
Kyle Hollingsworth

Meet the expert:

Kyle Hollingsworth is an artist, a creative guide, a survivor of multiple traumas, a

podcast host, mentor, and inspirational speaker on healing, creativity, and living our most courageous life. After decades of pain and suffering, she was able to turn her own life around, and has gained invaluable knowledge as a coach, healer, and inspirational guide for anyone wanting to break free of old stories, release themselves from trauma, and live a fully expressed life.


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