My daughter Ariel, my child of 33 years, died this year on February 17, 2013. Gone. No more. Yes, I know the one word statement is not a sentence, by any standard other than my own-yet the single, simple word ‘gone’ is the strongest statement I can think of to describe the overwhelming awareness of how our lives have changed since her death. Gone, yet not just for a minute as if she stepped out or misplaced her phone, but she is gone in the most permanent sense that I know: gone to never return as we knew her. I don’t care to be comforted with the ever after and how one day I will ‘see’ her again- I simply want to absorb the idea that my little girl, my ‘picayune Amazon’ is out of my life and the lives of her siblings for as long as we each live on this great earth. The world as we knew it before February 17th has changed forevermore.
The stages of grief have been my companion in a most intimate and personal way this past five weeks, with each stage coming to visit in a different way each week until the visits of these unwelcome strangers gradually fades from that of a screaming nightmarish intruder to that of a quiet comforter. Anger was the most prominent of the stages and the most expected of the grief stages presented by the renowned Swiss-American psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Yes, Elisabeth, you were right on each one, that I know for sure, because I learned each one well in the past thirty-five days. I was angry for many reasons, mainly because I had a life stolen from me, I was ‘wronged’ and there was nothing in the world I could do to change that. My daughter did not have to die, she was not ill with some unbeatable illness such as cancer, nor was she killed against her will by some random stranger. My daughter was responsible for her own death.
I bargained with myself, alternately blaming myself because I failed her in some way. Maybe if I had said “l love you” one more time or was more understanding and supportive, then she would be alive. Maybe if I had had more money and more resources, I could have prevented this awful thing from happening to her. All of the second guessing, negotiating and bargaining, has changed nothing, not even my own honest opinion: that nothing I could have done would have stopped her from orchestrating her own death. I knew this because I have spent eighteen years of her life and mine, trying to stop my daughter from continuing on a path of self- destruction and self-annihilation.
Suicidal ideation became my daughter’s drug of choice when she was fifteen years old and persisted in her psyche till the day she died. The internal conflicts and mental illness that troubled my daughter’s mind were difficult to displace, even for short intervals during her life. The extreme polar opposites of my child’s mood swings only matched her extremely disparate behavior; she was like two people living in one mind. My daughter, ‘Ariel’, was one of the most complicated and fascinating human beings you would likely ever meet because she was a gifted with unusual intelligence and a brilliant mind. Ariel possessed the duals abilities that enabled her to comfort, inspire and charm in one moment and to become a caustic hurricane of wrath in the next. Ariel was a dichotomy of positive and negative human emotions and a repository of unprocessed childhood angst and fantasies.
Ariel loved to dream dreams of great accomplishments, of becoming an attorney, a writer, a world traveler and activist; yet the world of today and now, was one she could never conquer. The act of living in the moment, and of finding joy among the most common and mundane of daily living experiences, such as the beauty of sunrises and sunsets and the simple joy of just ‘being’, was something that she never mastered. Ariel never learned to love herself, as she was and in the moment; instead, she would only entertain the idea of Ariel the Conqueror, The Attorney, The Writer, titles she projected into her ever distant future and never fully achieved. The fact is, these future goals were achievable if only Ariel could have found peace within herself. Ariel was a great writer and a great communicator, for she could bring you to your knees with her words or lift you to transcendent heights of elation.
I feel a deep loss for myself and for my family, and I also feel a deep loss for what Ariel could have been and would have been. I have accepted this loss as part of my new normal and I will incorporate it into my life as something positive in the spirit of ‘Ariel’ (Shenoa). Ariel wanted to complete her book ‘On the Wings of Moonlight’…….I will complete it for her to honor her and as a testament to her spirit.
Sara Niles (pen name for Josephine Thompson), Ariel is the name chosen by Shenoa for herself in the memoir: The Journey by Sara Niles
Suicide in America:
On February 17th, 2013- the same day of my daughter’s death-Mindy McCready committed suicide at age 37.
Rodney King survived police brutality, only to succumb to the consequences of careless choices made as a result of his addictions (June 17, 2012).
In the year 2010, the statistics on suicide rates reflected a steady rise in the suicide rate to
over 100 suicides per day.
The Balanced Mind Foundation (2013). Daniel Steel’s Testimony before Senate Appropriations Committee; Retrieved from the web Mar. 2013: http://www.thebalancedmind.org/learn/library/danielle-steels-testimony-before-senate-appropriations-committee
Suicide is the murder of self. There is no simpler way to put it. Self -murder or suicide kills more people in America than homicide; currently over one hundred people per day die by their own hand in this country and over one million people per year make suicide attempts. The victims of this tragic behavior include hundreds of thousands of family members and friends who are left behind.
When I was young, I could not imagine why anyone would ever want to kill themselves. The word ‘suicide’ was not only a puzzling phenomenon; it was a concept that was far removed from my world at that time. I never suspected that one day I would spend almost 18 years of my life in imminent fear of suicide robbing me of my child, my daughter.