Through Their Eyes I See

There is power in understanding the journey of others to help create your own-unknownn

The journey of understanding can be a long intense journey. The main reason it is a lengthy journey is because of the lack of being able to relate to someone else’s situation. It’s hard to understand something that you are not standing in. For this reason, more often than not, you must have some level of empathy and sympathy to reach understanding.

Now, the old saying goes, walk a mile in my shoes. This is sympathy at its finest but, this is not an action that I would suggest. As life is all about balance, you need some level of empathy to go along with that sympathy. It’s one thing to experience something similar on your own journey but, purposefully putting yourself in someone’s situation is not always the answer. Putting on someone else’s shoes may be easy but, walking their journey can be dangerous especially if that journey leads to self-destructive behavior such as suicide.  The act of suicide is very hard to understand but, with patience, understanding and/or empathy with sympathy, you can find understanding. 

Lack of empathy and sympathy for my mother caused my journey to understanding to be one long journey. Initially, I was too young to have the mental capacity to evoke the necessary empathy to understand her mindset or the act of suicide. It wasn’t until I became an adult and heard her story, that I was able to feel some empathy for her. Then, I found myself staring down the same gloomy tunnel of heartbreak, disappointment, and despair. It was then that I was able to feel sympathy along with that empathy to gain my understanding. 

With suicide, each person has different reasons for wanting to or going through with that act of suicide. According to Clinical Psychologist Edwin Sheridman (the leading authority on suicide), there are 10 basic reasons why someone may seek suicide: 

  1. Solution: answer to an insoluble or unbearable dilemma that they fear more than death
  2. Cessation of consciousness: to end the conscious experience
  3. Intolerable psychological pain: excruciating negative emotions that serve as a foundation for self-destructive behavior. 
  4. Frustrated psychological needs: attribute failure or disappointment to their own shortcomings
  5. Feelings of hopelessness/helplessness: pessimistic expectations about the future
  6. Ambivalence: sincere in their desire to die but, simultaneously wish they could find another way out. 
  7. The cognitive state is construction: tunnel vision unable or willing to engage in effective problem-solving behaviors
  8. Escape: a definitive way to escape
  9. Communication on intention: 80% who completed the act of suicide provide verbal or behavioral clues that clearly indicate their lethal intentions. 
  10. Life-long coping patterns: people who refuse to ask for help in the past are likely to increase their sense of isolation.

In reflecting on my mother’s journey, I definitely see Dr. Shredman’s described reasonings in my mother’s actions. I also saw some of them in myself. What made a difference and how I was able to overcome is being able to know her journey and how it left those around her feeling. Also, that fact that what she did had no real effect on the situation. My brother was still born, and My Dad, Glenn, and Jim continued to live their lives. As a matter of fact, they all went on to marry new partners and have more children.  It is my understanding that helps me to know that what she did was not to affect their lives but, to stop the excruciating pain inside her life. 

I have to be honest with you, although I now have the understanding I so desperately needed, this has and will be the hardest journey I will ever share with you. Understanding does not take away the hurt of loss nor does it mean you accept it. I cried all the way through this but, I feel that it is important for me to share because somewhere there is someone out there contemplating suicide. There is also someone out there trying to understand a loved one’s decision or situation. And then, there is someone out there trying to understand themselves. 

-Unless you really understand others, you can hardly attain your own self-understanding-Miyamoto Musashi 

Your Turn To Reflect 

  1. Have you ever experienced a difficult relationship due to a lack of understanding
  2. Have you or someone you know ever contemplated suicide? If so, do you understand how you/they reached that point? 
  3. Have you ever had a hard time understanding your own decisions?

Source: Thomas F. Oltmanns, Robert E. Emery University Of Virginia, and Survivors Of Suicide 

Finding Understanding

-A journey of Understanding

 

To Love from your soul is to give too much-Manosha Gray

 

On my 23rd birthday, I felt as though I had already walked a mile in my mother’s shoes. Guess what? Her shoes didn’t fit me. I kicked them thangs off honey! Instead, I laced up my own boots. When I left the bathroom that day, I was seriously determined to walk my own path. That’s just what I did. In a family full of medical-related careers, I choose to continue in the legal field. I continued this path sometimes skipping, running and even crawling at times (especially with math).

Over the next 10 years, things at home continued to be a hit and miss. Mr. Ex confessed that he didn’t want to work at all (he was serious too). Luckily, that feeling was short lived. He eventually got over that and got a really good job. That lasted about 3 years and then it was back to job shuffling and late night hanging out with friends.

I proudly walked across the stage and received my A.A.S in Paralegal Studies. While looking for a job in my field, I went back for my B.S. in Legal Studies. I got a government job working as a Litigation Paralegal making a decent living. Child, you just don’t know how happy I was to get off government assistance and Section 8. Don’t tell nobody but, I actually cried. Then I made that faithful walk back across the stage for my B.S in Legal Studies.

My roaster was becoming full of accomplishments but, my spirit kept getting lower and lower. Constant ups and downs with Mr. Ex felt like war instead of love. I was so deeply in love with him. Where he ended, I began. I found myself looking to only please him. I secretly felt ashamed of my accomplishments because I did not want to do better than him. He enrolled in some courses but, never had the necessary passion and commitment to make it past the first semester.

 Every time I got a degree, he would tell me that he knows I am going to leave him. He even left my graduation for my B.S early and I never got a chance to celebrate. I truly felt alone and lonely that day.  I didn’t know how to make him feel secure besides to try to help him with his dreams. So, even though I started my business first, when he wanted to start a business, I set mines to the side to help him.

I walked him and his partner through everything to get started. Their business was a floor and janitorial service. Mr. Ex was excellent at getting clients. So, before long he had a roster of clients. However, he didn’t have any employees and for some reason, his partner could not work with him. I stepped up and worked for free. I worked scrubbing floors and carpets on my hands and knees, cleaning bathroom stalls and emptying trash cans at the local jail and daycares.  Meanwhile, my business still had clients calling and many I had to turn away due to working for Mr. Ex’s business.

Then after a few months of being in business, Mr. Ex just stopped working. He just stopped trying period. No working, no bill paying, no nothing. I was left being the only one working. I wanted so desperately for my business to work but, we also needed a steady income so, I got a part-time minimum -wage job. At this point, my self-esteem, self-worth and general outlook on life was very bleak. I felt like a total failure.

One day while organizing my storage closet, I came across my mother’s photo albums. I sat in the hallway looking through her albums. As I opened the last album, which was her scrapbook,  and her letter fell out. I sat the letter  to the side and began to read all the loving remarks she wrote about my Dad. It expressed a deep love that was so pure. Then I read her letter. It expressed a Love twisted into sadness and resentment.

As I let out a long sigh, my eyes unleashed a river of tears. I finally understood. I understood the difference between loving from your heart and loving from your soul. I understood how you could lose yourself in someone else. I understood how your life could feel so worthless in someone else’s hands.  And finally, I understood why she committed suicide as I was sitting there contemplating that very thing. 

As I sat there feeling defeated and emotionally drained, I just began to pray. I asked God to help me let go. To help me find the worth in me again and to help me break the chains that bind my soul to Mr. Ex.’s. After I poured out my heart to God, I wrote this letter to my mother:

 

Dear Mother of Mine,

I may not look like you but, I am definitely your child. We have so many things in common; especially our compacity to love so deep that we get lost in it. You once wrote that you hoped one day I would understand. Mommy trust me I do. You also asked for our forgiveness and I want to let you know that there is nothing to forgive. Instead, I ask that you forgive me for my lack of understanding. I now know that it was not your lack of love for us that allowed you to do what you did but, instead of your lack of love for yourself. I know how it feels to run on E because I’ve been doing it too long. You were drained and had nothing left to give anyone including yourself. Know your death was not in vain. I learned so much from your journey. I am able to understand where I am now and know to fight my way out. I can’t do this alone, so I am going to lean on God for this healing. Stay close by so I can continue to feel your motherly touch.  I love you to the moon and back and now I must learn to love me that way too.

 Love your youngest daughter,

Manosha Gray

I placed that letter in an envelop along with my mother’s letter and I packed it way and I began my journey to heal from the inside out.

 

The Day I turned 23

– A Journey of  Understanding

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Just look at me, 23, knee deep in a marriage with depression trying to set in. “Fight Manosha. Don’t let her story be yours. That’s not what she wanted”, I told myself as I stood staring into the mirror. It was my 23rdbirthday but, I was in no mood to celebrate. Instead, my eyes were red and puffy from crying way too many tears. I was scared too. Crazy huh? Who gets scared of their birthday?! Me that’s who. My life was looking too much like my mother’s life at 22 and it scared the shit out of me.

2 young kids

Husband never around

Rocky relationship

Overwhelming feelings of sadness and loneliness

To top things off, our finances had been in dire striates for quite some time. At one point we were both working and happy. Somewhere in there, me and Mr. Ex had a fallout and he decided to move out. That lasted about a week. We got past it and were back together like nothing ever happened. Looking back now, I’m not even sure what happened to make he want to leave. Once back together we planned our second and final child. At the start of my pregnancy, I was deemed high risk and had to quit my job. After he was born we couldn’t afford a daycare for the boys. It was mutually decided that I would stay home and rear the children, run the house and Mr. Ex would work. Sounds like a good plan, right? It worked for a while.

I stayed home cooking, cleaning, singing ABC’s and 123’s. I made sure to make Mr. Ex’s lunch and literally run his bath water. He would go to work every day and on payday give me money for household supplies and things for the kids. He would even buy me my favorite flowers (circus roses) and random gifts just because. When he got overtime checks, we would go out to eat as a family.

But, somewhere in between the kids and work, we both started to drift off. Mr. Ex started to get burnt out with the repetitive cycle of work, work, pay. He was spending money on the house, kids and me but not much on himself. In turn, he started to hang out more and more with his unmarried, street hustling friends. He started drinking way more than usual. Then the problems started at work. He would be late and call in. He was getting fired left and right to the point where he was constantly changing jobs.

I, on the other hand, started to feel stuck. I had my first job at 13 so sitting still and not having my own money was very hard for me. Especially when Mr. Ex’s birthday and our anniversary would roll around. I would have to get money from him to buy him a gift. Not being able to financially contribute made me feel worthless. Then watching Mr. Ex’s downward spiral made me feel even worst. To compensate, I signed up for food stamps and section eight. No matter how low the workers made me feel, I couldn’t turn down the help because it kept our family afloat.  I carried the stress of my family on my back, so they wouldn’t feel it. I felt like I was to blame, and I felt worthless. I was once told that the man’s job was to lead his family and the woman’s job was to hold up her man. So, I asked, who holds up the woman? The answer, God.  Something had to change and since Mr. Ex seemed to be unmotivated to facilitate that change, it was up to me. I had to hold him up and let God hold me.

Luckily for me, my sister and cousin had decided to go to college. They invited me to join them and I accepted. I had started my Associate’s degree right out of High School but, quit. I was sure this would give me the fulfillment I longed for and my family the stability we needed.

“Okay, Manosha. You got this. Things may be similar but, there’s one huge difference, I  made it to 23 I can pick up where she left off and write a different ending”. I told myself as I wiped my eyes. “Never let them see you sweat”. Then I opened the door and walked out of the bathroom to embrace my 23’s.

In Need Of A Mother

– A Journey of Understanding

That moment you need someone but, they’re in heaven…and so, you cry instead…

-anonymous

I don’t know what I’m doing. What if I drop it or don’t feed it right? How can they trust me to take home such a fragile being? Hell, I never even had a mother, how am I supposed to know how to be a mother? These thoughts just kept swirling through my mind. I was 24 hours into labor awaiting the birth of my first child.

I didn’t have excited feelings of anticipation for motherhood or happiness. Instead, I felt scared, sad and lonely. Mr. Ex was there of course but, she wasn’t. My mother. At that moment, I missed her like never before.

A few weeks before going into labor, I laid across my grandma Phy’s bed confessing my feelings.

“Everyone else has their mother to hold their hand and show them what to do. It’s only going to be me and Mr. Ex. He grew up without a father and I didn’t have a mother. How crazy it that? We’re going to be totally lost”.

“You’ll do just fine. The nurses will make sure you know how to feed, change and bathe the baby before you go home”, she responded.

“Your motherly instincts will kick in”.

I wasn’t too sure of all of that. I just let out a long deep sigh and quiet tears. “I need her. I want her to hold my hand and be there with me grandmommy”, I said. No response but, I knew she understood.

As I lay in my hospital bed deep in thought, and Mr. Ex catching a quick nap, she came strolling in. Grandma Phy! I was elated to see her. She was our only visitor since I had checked in the day before. She instantly took over as the true nurse she was (of course retired at this point). She spoke with the doctor and nurses to find out what was going on. I was admitted and induced the day before due to low amniotic fluids around the baby.  Since this was now 24 hours in, they were ready to break my water and get the show on the road.

Grandma Phy moved around the room like grace. Checking my contractions, holding my hand, placing cool rags on my head and lovingly pushing my hair back out of my face. Just giving me that motherly touch I so craved. After about another 3 hours, the doctor informed us that the baby was giving off stress signals so they wanted to go ahead and give me a C-Section. “ No, no, nope. You not even going to go that route. Give it a little more time. She’s young and needs to have a natural birth”, grandma demanded. “Well we can wait 30 more minutes and then we will have to take the baby”, the doctor responded.

30 minutes later, the doctor was back and what do you know, I was at 10 and ready to push. With Mr. Ex on one side and grandma Phy on the other, three pushes and he was here. My purple baby but, no cry. He was alert and looking around but, no cry. Grandma Phy was full of concern and told the doctor to make him cry. Two tries before we heard his beautiful short yell, no cry. After cutting the umbilical cord, they took him to the cleaning station.

Suddenly, there was a panic among the staff. We were informed that they needed to take the baby to Nicu to clear his lungs. Grandma Phy was disgusted. “They took too long to make him cry. There better not be anything wrong with that baby or they will have a lawsuit up their ass!” (I told ya’ll before, she don’t play). After that, she and Mr. Ex rushed right down to Nicu to see what was going on. I was left in a ball of nerves crying for my mommy.  They returned a short while later to let me know that he was okay so, Grandma Phy headed out. An hour later, the nurse brought me the most perfect little being I had ever seen. As a bonus, he looked just like me!

I instantly fell in love. All fear left and I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of protection and joy. The next few days in the hospital were bliss. I spent the time getting to know my little man and never letting him leave my side. On the day, we were supposed to check out, I noticed my baby had labored breathing. We had changed his milk a few times due to lactose issues but, this was different. I asked the nurse to check him out. After listening to his lungs, she called in a doctor who took him to Nicu to further examine him. He determined from the exam that my baby had amniotic pneumonia and he would have to stay in Nicu for a week on antibiotics to clear it up but, I could go home.

Go home?! Nope, not this lifetime. I was not even going to consider leaving my baby when he needed me, and that is exactly what I told them too. After all, they weren’t even aware of the issue until I brought it to their attention.

So, for a week, Mr. Ex and I stayed at the hospital. We left once that week to go home to shower, eat and then right back to the hospital. We spent most of the week dinning at the vending machines, drinking coffee to stay awake. Eventually, the hospital gave us a room right by the Nicu but, at this point, sleep was only for the weak. I had to be strong for my baby but, by the end of the week, we were like walking zombies. Mr. Ex finally gave in and got some much-needed sleep.

My brain wouldn’t let me sleep. I was right there in Nicu every moment that they would let me. I fed him, changed him and held his little hand while telling him how great his future was going to be. Just doing what I felt a mother should do. Each night I prayed and cried for my mother. I asked the Lord to pass messages to her. I just wanted so badly to know that she was watching over me and sending pointers from heaven.

Finally, it was time to take him home! We were so excited but, when we got home the house was a wreak. I was fine with that because I was in great spirits. I cleaned the house top to bottom, cleaned myself, cuddled my little man to sleep and finally laid down for some much need sleep. Then Bam! 2:30 in the morning, he woke up crying and so did I. He wanted to be fed and I wanted my mommy.

Shadows In The Looking Glass

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear-C.S Lewis

Death and loss of a loved one is painful no doubt. The family and friends are left the difficult task of grieving the loss. Suicide is a death like no other and so is the grieving process. One often feels as though they are left standing in the shadow of their loved one’s actions. They have to fight against the emotional roller-coaster and socially driven stigmas that this shadow cast.  Therefore, they are called survivors. This dark space brings about several feelings and emotions that can last for years or sometimes the bad feelings never fully resolves. For these survivors, the beginning of the healing process is to first acknowledge these feelings and the second is to accept that it is okay to have those feelings.

Confusion & Guilt

Confusion or guilt is usually one of the first feelings that are felt. Confusion was the first feeling that I felt about my mother’s death. I describe these feelings in Painful Truth. This feeling stayed with me for a very long time. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I started to gain some clarity. Others may experience confusion as they did not pick up on any signs of the impending suicide.

Trying to make sense of your loved one’s actions when you didn’t suspect that anything was amidst, can lead to a lot of unanswered questions. Memories of what seemed to be happy moments, now come into question.  Questions with no answers often lead to misplaced responsibility, a.k.a guilt.  The mind becomes filled with the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. A flawed thought process that makes one feel as though their actions or lack thereof caused the suicide.

Anger

In the midst of the feelings of confusion and guilt lies anger. Anger with themselves or their loved one. Not everyone will feel angry but, some may experience this. Like many others, I felt anger towards my mother because of her actions. In Painful Truth, I talked about how I was angry because I could not understand how I was not important enough to stick around for. My anger was also combined with feelings of abandonment and rejection. Her actions made me feel unwanted and in return angry.

Shame & Embarrassment

I grew up in the 80-90’s era. During this time, there was a huge stigma surrounding suicide. Generally, anyone that committed suicide was considered crazy. In the black community, suicide was unheard of. I can’t count how many times I was told: “With all the things already killing the black community, no one would kill themselves”. In the church community, anyone that committed suicide was going straight to hell.  So, it was always easier for me to just say she was murdered as this kept the dirty and shocked looks to a minimum.

I used to be so ashamed and embarrassed to admit that my mother killed herself. The stigmas of the world only pushed belief in the need to keep it as my “secret shame”.  When I was in eighth grade, I attended Catholic school. Since my teacher was a nun, I thought it only appropriate to ask her if my mother was in hell. She told me no one knows what her final words were and if she asked for forgiveness before she died, then she went to heaven. I held on to that kind word for a long time. For some reason, it gave me peace. When I became an adult and was looking to get closer to God, the question popped into my mind again. This time, I asked someone who was helping to guide me along on my spiritual journey. They told me that no matter what she said she went to hell because the act alone was sinful. After that day, that person didn’t help guide me along anywhere, least of all on my spiritual journey.

Society has gotten better about attempting to understand suicide and its effect on the survivors. However, the stigma never fully went away. Judgment and flawed perceptions are still out there. As for me, I still hear whispers when I say how she died but, I feel no shame.

Depression

We can’t talk about the grieving of suicide survivors without talking about sadness. Sadness that goes so deep it can take you into the darkest pit of a well of emotions. Sadness so strong that it can leave you wishing for the fate of your loved one.   It’s funny how the very thing that played a role in the loss of a loved one, can cause you to feel that same hurt and pain. When I could truly understand my mother’s death, it sent me into a depression. It was like I could feel her hurt and pain. As a wife, mother and woman, I could finally understand what she felt. I described her pain in He Said, She Said. I also felt this longing to be with her, to beg for her forgiveness for my shame and anger. For many, these feelings can last for a lifetime. It can even manifest in post-traumatic stress disorder. That is why it is important to express yourself and seek help during this grieving process when necessary. It is also important to know that it’s okay to feel this way.

Your Turn To Reflect

  1. What are some stigmas you have heard in regards to suicide?
  2. Are you a suicide survivor or know someone who is?

 

Source: Serani Psy. D, D.(2013, November 25). Understanding Survivors Of Suicide Loss. Retrieved from http://www.psychologtoday

He Said, She Said

– A Journey of Understanding

People do not die from suicide; they die from sadness-unknown

My grandmother Phy (my father’s mother) is the light of my life. Whenever I want the truth, straight up with no chaser, I can always depend on her to give it to me. So, when I was ready for the raw truth about my mother, I went straight to her.

See, as I said before, I got bits and piece throughout my life. One person told me she was suicidal her entire life (this person did not even know her well). Another person told me my mother did it for attention and another said she simply gave up. None of these explanations sufficed so, I was still left seeking the truth. To this day, I feel like the closest I ever got of the unbiased truth was from grandma Phy but, before I tell you what she said, let me tell you what he said….

His story:

According to my Dad,  it started with a disagreement about their living arrangements. At the time, they were living with my grandmother Mama Lou (my mother’s mother). The living arrangement was very uncomfortable as he did not get along too well with my grandmother or my uncles. They also did not have a lot of privacy. My Dad went and found them a two bedroom apartment but, my Mom refused to move in. At that point, they split up and to his understanding, they were separated. He started a relationship with a lady named Glenn. While in his new relationship, he reconciled with my Mom. He broke things off with Glenn but, she did not just go away. She started making idle threats about exposing their relationship. Then, Glenn found out she was pregnant with my father’s child. This really amped-up things as she then started playing on their phone. This caused my Mom to accuse my Dad of a continued relationship with Glenn so, he got rid of the house phone.

On the night that my mother committed suicide, it came as a total surprise to him. There were no signs. In fact, we all had just come home from the movies. My mother put me and my sister to bed and she decided to stay up to watch the late show. This was not uncommon as she loved the late show so, he went ahead and went to bed. He awoke to a loud bang. He ran into the smoke-filled living room to discover my mother on the couch with his service pistol still in her hand. She was bleeding from her abdomen area but, she was still alive. In a panic, he ran from the apartment and started banging on the neighbor’s doors begging for help. Eventually, he went back to the apartment and held my mother while attempting to encourage her to stay alive between sobs.

When the police came he was arrested. At the police station, he was questioned and had his nails and hands swabbed for gun residue. While he was waiting on the results, my aunt came to the jail. She came to inform him that my mother had passed away. In a rage, he destroyed the cell that he was in. Once the rage was gone and sadness was all that was left, he was released, and no charges were filed.

She said:

Mama Lou remembered things quite differently. According to her, my parents lived with her because my mother was a young mother with two children and a husband that liked to run the streets. My mother needed the help. When my Dad moved out, they were still a couple and were never separated. Eventually, my mother moved into the apartment with my Dad and soon after discovered he was living a double life. She was informed by a man named Jim, that he was living with a woman named Glenn and they even had the nerves to have my mother’s curtains up to their window. My Dad denied that he was cheating let alone living with someone else. My mother had Mama Lou drive her past the apartments. Low and behold, her curtains were at the window.

My mother was upset but, stayed with my Dad. Then the calls started. My mother became very depressed when hearing Glenn was pregnant as she was trying to have a son. According to Mama Lou, my mother would come over every day and just cry for days on end. Mama Lou said she knew my Dad did not physically kill my mother but, he was guilty of killing her spirit.

She said:

The first thing grandma Phy said is that she can only tell me what she knew and observed. My parents met when High School was coming to an end for my Dad. He was two years older than my Mom. At 17, my mother became pregnant with my sister. My Dad had already enlisted in the Marines so, at the demands of Mama Lou, the two were married.

Despite the “shotgun wedding”, they seemed to be in love. They spent the start of their marriage living with Mama Lou because my Dad was in and out of the country with the Marines. When he was stationed in State they lived together. As a matter of fact, they lived together in California where I was born. When I reached the age of 1, my parents moved back home with Mama Lou. Tension rose between the couple when my Dad wanted to move out and my mother wanted to stay so she could get help her girls.

My Mom stayed with her mother and my dad left but, they were never separated. Once my Dad fixed up the place we moved in. During this time my Dad had an affair with Glenn. Glenn became pregnant and constantly called my Mom at home and work to taunt her with the fact that she was having my Dad’s child.

Grandma Phy went on to tell me that she and my Mom were close. My Mom would come to visit and sit and talk with her all the time about what was going on. On the day that she committed suicide, my mother had come to visit her earlier in the day. She was very upset about my father’s indiscretions and stated that she wanted to kill him, herself and since she didn’t want to leave her kids, kill us too.

Well, grandma Phy said she didn’t take my Mom’s threat seriously. She was talking out of her ass and black people just don’t do crazy shit like that. So, she told her if she wanted to kill someone then kill herself. That night that is just what she did. Grandma Phy said she found out from a call from one of her kids while she was at work. In those days grandma Phy was a nurse and just happened to work at the hospital that my Mom was brought to.  Before she could turn around and get to my Mom, Mama Lou ran up and attacked her. Mama Lou was saying that my Dad killed my Mom. Grandma Phy said she was confused and went to find my mom. She said she rushed to where my mother was and watched her die on the operating table.

After unloading her story, she dug in her closet and pulled out several photo albums, a scrapbook, obituary, and my mother’s suicide letter.

Her Story:

The scrapbook was put together by my mother. It had cards she received from my father when he was overseas and pictures of the two of them.

Excerpts from the scrapbook:

“We share our life, our dreams, and our love”

“He cares, I care”

“I love him, He loves me”

“He is everything I ever wanted. He made my life worth living and that’s why I love him”

“Now I and Malcolm are happily married and have a baby on the way and he is in the Marines severing his country”

“We both love each other very much and Dear me and he have a lot more than lovers have and that’s why we are very proud. I love him very much and I’m willing to spend the rest of my life with him”

To protect everyone involved, I have decided not to include her suicide letter. However, I can tell you she did mention Jim, Glenn, and my Dad. She also said that she loved me and my sister very much and that she hoped one day we would understand and forgive her.

Cindy died on March 29, 1984, at the age of 22.

I say:

She died of a broken heart….

No Comparison

– A Journey of Understanding

We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see -Zen Proverb

She was murdered. That was the lie I told everyone when they asked how my mother died. I was too ashamed to admit that she committed suicide. “Black people don’t kill themselves”, “Only crazy people commit suicide”, “If you kill yourself then you’re going straight to hell!” These were the stigmas I grew up around. I was already self-conscious of the fact that I was poor, dark-skinned and lived in an overcrowded house with my grandmother. I didn’t want to give my peers anything else to judge me by. It was only my very closest friends that knew my shameful secret. And it remained that way the majority of my life.

Only hearing bits and pieces of my mother’s life and death, I didn’t really have much to go on. On top of all that, I didn’t even look like her. I had no proof that she even loved me.  All of the photo albums I had seen thus far were filled with pictures of her, my Dad and my older sister (who looks like her twin).  I only had maybe 3 baby pictures of me and no other pictures until I was 5, long after her death. So, I remained bitter towards her and didn’t have any desire to ever go back to the cemetery to see her. She had abandoned me in life so, I had abandoned her in death. It wasn’t until I became engaged did I really start to become interested in her story.

I was 19 when I became pregnant with my first child and got engaged to my longtime crush, Mr. Ex. Mr. Ex’s family was thrilled that we decided to get married. Being a very religious family, they saw it as the only proper thing to do. His mother handled all the arrangements including altering my wedding dress to fit my pregnant belly. Mr. Ex’s sister helped make the brides maids dresses and offered her church for the ceremony. His other sister volunteered to cook the food for the reception.

My family, on the other hand, was not very happy. In fact, my dad tried to talk me out of getting married. “Just because you have a baby together does not mean you have to be married Manosha”, that was his exact words. He even tried to point out attractive women to Mr. Ex saying, “See what you will be missing out on if you get married”. On top of all that he refused to help in any kind of way with my wedding. At one point, I considered having my uncle walk me down the aisle instead of him.

My dad wasn’t the only unsupportive person.  Mama Lou refused to attend the wedding saying “This is Cindy and Malcolm all over again”, (my mother and father). My grandma Phy asked me to take some time and really think about this. “Don’t let his family pressure you into marriage. No one wants to see what happened to your mother happen to you but, if this is really what you want, I will support you”.

I could not understand for the life of me why my family kept comparing my engagement to my parents. The more they kept bringing it up the more curious I got. Regardless, I was determined to get married. Not because I was pregnant but, because I had found my soulmate, and nothing was going to change that.  So, I did what I wanted and got married. Threats in all, everyone showed up even my Mama Lou.

After the wedding, I was sure that all the comparisons would stop. Nope didn’t happen. Son after, Mr. Ex and I attended a dinner at my Mama Lou’s home. “You not going to kill Manosha like Malcolm did Cindy, are you?”  Total shock and embarrassment was my reaction to my grandmother’s question to Mr. Ex. “My dad did not kill my mom she did that to herself!” I shouted. “No not physically he didn’t but figuratively he did Manosha. Trust Mama when I tell you, he crushed her spirit. She loved that man so much till all she could do was worry about where Malcolm was and what he was doing. He didn’t love her as she loved him and that is why she is dead.”

This was the first time I had ever heard Mama Lou speak that much on my mother’s death. That was all she said though. I tried to push her to tell me more but, she told me that was not her job. That my father knew what she was talking about and needed to tell me the truth. That is when my mission started. My mission to find out why my mother killed herself. What made her want to take her own life?

I was on the verge of motherhood myself. I couldn’t imagine anything in the world that would make me abandon the child growing inside of me. I loved my baby so much and I hadn’t even had it yet nor did I know what it was. Was she really just crazy or was there a real story behind the madness? There was only one way to find out and that was to ask the only person who ever bothered to be completely honest with me my entire life. So, I showed up at her door ready to find out the truth and nothing less and to my surprise, she was ready to give it to me.

Painful Truth

– A Journey  of Understanding

Suicide doesn’t take away the pain, it gives it to someone else-unknown

“Let’s go!” I was pumped and excited when my grandma Phy asked me if I wanted to see my mother’s resting place. At 15 years old, I had never been to her grave site, so this was sort of an adventure for me. Sounds strange right? Okay well, let me backtrack some.

My mother committed suicide a few weeks after my sister turned 4. I was 2 at the time. There was so much animosity between the two families that a fight broke out at the wake (we didn’t go to that either). The high level of anger made my father and grandmother Phy decide that it was inappropriate for us to go to the funeral.

For me, it was like she was never here. I didn’t have any memories of any of it. Hell, I didn’t even remember her. To this day I can’t tell you what she sounds like, smelled like or how she was as a mother.

Though-out my life I would hear different tales of a feisty, tough, hardworking woman. I had seen a lot of pictures of her too but, never had I been to her grave site. So, since I never actually seen her gravesite, I secretly thought everyone was lying to me and my mother was not actually dead. Suicide seemed so far-fetched. I had no real proof so, when my grandma Phy asked me I thought, no big deal.

Me, two cousins and my friend from the neighborhood, loaded up in my grandmother’s truck and off to the cemetery we went. Everyone was in good spirits, laughing and joking along the way. It felt like we were just going on another everyday outing.

When we arrived at my mother’s grave site my grandma Phy began to look nervous and spoke very softly (not normal for my outspoken grandmother). “This is where she is”, she said. My cousin and I jumped out the truck and my other cousin stayed in along with my friend. We stood looking at the grass. She didn’t have a headstone and neither did the person to her right or left.

My grandma Phy walked up and pointed to the space with an empty space in the middle, “There”. I gave an awkward chuckle. “This is weird,” I told my cousin. For a moment we all just stood there staring at the ground. “Get back in the car, give her a moment alone with her mother”, grandma Phy told my cousin.

I didn’t know how to feel or what to do as this was my first time at any cemetery. Not knowing what else to do I just started talking, “Hi Cindy. This is Manosha your youngest daughter”. Suddenly it felt like the life was sucked out of me. I fell to my knees and it felt like an emotional load was just dumped on my back.

In saying those words, I suddenly realized it was true. She was really gone and never coming back. Standing at the gravesite talking to my dead mother made it all too real for me. A 15-year-old me lay in the fetal position on my mother’s grave. I sobbed from the pits of my heart and soul.

Gone were the days of imaging that she ran off but, would one day return. The dreams that she would eventually show up to get me was over.  Tearful prayers to find my mother was now void and I was left feeling foolish. She is forever gone and never to return. No more excuses.

For a moment I forgot where I was or who I was with. Grandma Phy’s gentle touch and tears on my arm brought me back to reality. “I’m ready to go”, I said between sobs as I gathered myself from the ground. The car ride home was long and silent.

When we got home I immediately isolated myself and my friend went home. I was lost in thought the remainder of the day. They really weren’t lying all these years. My mother actually killed herself. I couldn’t shake the reality that I now had to face.

My head was full of questions. Did she ever love me? Was I a bad child? Why didn’t she want me? How could she leave me! With each question, I became more and more enraged. Why am I stuck here crying over someone that didn’t love me enough to stick around? Well no more! She gets no more of my tears and I refuse to miss her! I affirmed as I drifted off to sleep.

Grandeur Views

The final steps of the g.l.o.w are the fun, grandeur moments. In these moments, everyone around you can see there is something quite different about you. Your aura gives off a beautiful enigma wrapped in a welcoming glow. This is usually the part when one makes a physical change to symbolize the shedding of the old them. So, go ahead and have some fun with it. Cut your hair, dye it, get a tattoo. Just don’t act too impulsively and do something you will regret.

O: Owning Who You Are

Self -confidence. This word embodies everything there is to own who you are. Removing all stigmas and expectations that others have for you. Going for yours without asking anyone’s permission or apologizing for who you are. Embrace the beautiful you that your journey has transformed you into. It’s time to shed your cyclist and spread your wings.

In Final Say, I had to put on my blinders and have tunnel vision to meet my goals. So many people had plans for my life. None of which adhered to the plans I had. None represented whom I had become. I had to embrace my new-found self-confidence and own who I was and am. When you don’t own who you are, you leave yourself open to others interpretation of who they see you as and how you should live your life. You are not your past or what others have called you to be. Shed your shell of a past and own who you are!

W: Willfully Moving Forward

To willfully move forward you must be deliberate in your actions. You have gained financial control, learned to strive, own who you are, so now it’s time to move forward. Your past is just that, the past. Now it’s time to make decisions and move like the new glowing you that you are. There is no time to act as you did in the past because you have grown beyond that.

In D-Day, I walked into court that day determined to finally end it.  That is just what I did that day. I didn’t give Mr. Ex my energy, attention or emotions like I used to do in the past.  After the hearing, I took a moment to have a final reflection on my past. There was so much hurt, pain and confusion that I allowed into my life. I made so many bad decisions I can’t even begin to count them. No regrets though, just growth.

The g.l.o.w works from the inside out. A pure transformation of your thought process and your views on life. In a sense, the fog over your heart and mind has lifted. You make room for the best form of love there is and that is self-love.

Your Turn To Reflect

    1. Who are you as you subscribe to be?
    2. What new discoveries have you learned about yourself?
    3. How has your way of thinking changed?

GLOW

D Day -The Emotional Rollercoaster

–  A journey of Letting Go

Hopeful

I was so ready to finalize my divorce. The court doors opened and in hobbled Mr. Ex on crutches. It was like seeing the ghost of husband’s past. I know what you’re thinking, and no I did not feel sorry for him. Not one little bit. I know this man. There are only 2 reasons why Mr. Ex was on crutches,

He was faking it to get sympathy from the courts
He did something negligent or reckless to cause his injury
Either way, I just glad that he actually showed up this time.

We had to sit and wait only 10 minutes for the judge to take the bench. Talk about the longest 10 minutes in history or at least that’s what it felt like. My attorney sat to my left and my sister sat to my right. Mr. Ex sat to the left of my attorney. “Just look ahead”, I kept repeating that to myself. I felt like if I made eye contact with him, he would get in my head and I wouldn’t be able to think straight. I needed to stay firm, focused, and strong in my decision to do what I knew was right.

All rise! As we took our seats, I glanced over at Mr. Ex and he was making every ugly face known to man while slowly easing into his seat. Nope, still didn’t feel sorry for him. Neither did my attorney because he dove right in.

Disgusted

The first thing my attorney asked, was why no child supports in 7 months. Now, this is when the B.S started to flow from Mr. Ex’s mouth. According to Mr. Ex, he was currently not working due to a car accident. Being the excellent attorney he is, as he asked more detailed questions, the real story came out, aka reason 2.

Mr. Ex said 4 days ago (yes child he said days) he was sitting in a car at 3 A.M (yes, 3 in the morning) at the gas station (in a known “troubled” neighborhood) when a drunk driver struck the car on his side. He said he went to the hospital and they think he may have fractured his hip. No justifiable reason for hanging out at the gas station at 3 in the morning and no doctor statement. Besides all that, the “accident” happened 4 DAYS ago so, that didn’t explain the other 206 days with no support.

Annoyed

I call B.S but, somehow the judge went for it. She did order arrearage for the missed payments but, put provisions in the order for him to modify the order prior to the 36-month rule in case he could no longer work due to his “injury”. Then because he did not do the parenting class that all divorcing couples with kids have to do, she ordered him to a free online version. I had to sit 4 long hours and pay $75 for this class. I was the one raising 2 teenage boys by myself on minimum wage for most of those 7 months. All the while, what was he doing? Hanging out at the gas station at 3 in the morning.

Relieved

That was the hard part of the divorce. Mr. Ex agreed to part ways with what we already had in our possession. He also agreed to pay whatever debt that was in our name as we had no joint accounts or debts. Do not be shocked or give him too much credit though, all the bills we ever had was in my name. I just considered this to be a small price for freedom.

Perplexed

As for Thing 1 and Thing 2, due to Mr. Ex’s state of mind and lifestyle, the court granted me full physical and legal custody. Mr. Ex was not even granted parenting time. The judge ruled that he had to complete some provisions and then file a petition to even be considered for any parenting time. I didn’t see that one coming. I wanted to protect my kids from the trickle-down effects of the harmful situations that Mr. Ex loves to revel in but, I never intended to keep my kids from their father. I could only hope that he would quickly and successfully complete the court’s request, so he could get back to being a father.

Liberated

You don’t know this new me; I put back my pieces, differently-unknown

Finally, the judge granted me my maiden name back. Court adjourned! That was the official end to us and the beginning of me. To everyone around me I was in celebration mode but, once I was alone I was beginning to reflect.

Deep in thought, I was suddenly back to that fateful night of October 20, 2001. Our Wedding night.  A 19-year-old me lay in my newly gifted negligee 2 hours into waiting for the return of my husband. I had made an attempted to make our humble one bedroom apartment as romantic as possible for us to consummate our marriage. Candles were strategically placed all around the room giving it this beautiful hazy glow. Our song, You’re All I need, was on repeat.

“Where is he!” I shouted, feeling frustrated and lonely. Checking the time yet again, 12:30 A.M. At that moment in time, I had all kinds of wonderful, lively fantasies about our future together. Calling around to all his family and friends, jails and pleading to God that he was okay was never in my fantasies. Yelling, cussing, lies and suspicions of cheating was not the future I pictured for us. Depression, low self-esteem, loneliness, and empties was not the forever I seen when I gazed in his eyes just hours before at the altar. That night I drifted off to sleep listing to Mary and that night we did not consummate our marriage.

Like a strong gust of wind, my mind whirled around all the stressful situations I allowed my marriage to put me in. My 15 years of marriage was like being on a crazy roller coaster ride in the middle of a tornado. Finally, the storm died down and I got off the roller coaster. I put my past to rest. I got up and walked to the mirror in the hallway. I took a long hard look at myself. From my head to my toes. With a wink and a smile, I said out loud, “Allow me to reintroduce myself”.