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How I Dealt With Sudden Death

Losing someone in your family unexpectedly is hard to deal with, especially when it is your own mother. It changes one's life completely.

How I Dealt with my Mother's Death

How I dealt with my mother's death, I can't explain how broken I was and did not know where I got the strength from then to carry on with normal things like living. I felt numb and felt hopeless. I was only 21 years old at the time. Just finished my midwifery course just two weeks gone and this happened.

Everything happened so quickly that there was no time to think and plan things. I suppose with sudden death, the grief is so unbearable but you have to try and carry on regardless. Looking back, there were times that I was losing hope but had to keep going for my family's sake. It was not easy at all.

Expected deaths due to illness are easier to cope with than sudden deaths I think because at least you have time to say your goodbyes to them before they die but with sudden death it is unexpected to happen. It is harder to cope with suicide victims and sudden deaths of any kind.

When my mother took her own life which left me and the family devastated for life, I did not know how I would cope. I was the eldest in the family of six children, four boys and two girls. In my culture, if you are the eldest, you automatically assume responsibility when your mother dies or your father dies come to that. I was not prepared for the responsibility in front of me at the time.

Two weeks before my mother committed suicide, I graduated as a midwife. I was so happy. My father and mother came to my graduation day and they were both very proud and happy that I have finished my two-year course midwifery and I will be able to get a job and will be able to help them in return. That was my plan.

But due to my mother's sudden death, my plans and dreams were short-lived. I began to worry about how would I cope doing what my mother used to do everything for us. But no time to worry, I just got on with it. It was really hard work but I had to do it. My blind grandfather(mother's dad) was also living with us at the time. I did not know how to care for blind people then like I do now but somehow managed. I was not prepared for that situation at all.

I had to forget all about my dreams and future plans because my family needs me most. My father just got on as well with the day to day job to provide for us and drowned his sorrows in his work.

I must say, I did not want to write this for profit or for pity as it is so personal to me but I wrote it in the hope of saving someone's life if they plan to take their own life and in the hope of leaving some tips for people to cope when one of their loved ones die thru suicide or sudden death. Because with situations like this, it can either take someone into a negative place or positive place.

With my mother's death, I could have gone into depression myself because as I said earlier, I just finished my midwifery course which I was ready to go and practice and this happens. I was being pulled into two directions. I wanted to just go away and leave my siblings, blind grandfather and dad but I could not do that. I do care about them so much even now. They were the reasons why I am here now.

Instead of focusing on my future plans, I decided to take good care of my family. I thought at the time, when my sister grows up a little then that is the time I am going to leave them and find a job.

When my sister was seven years old, my father suggested that I should go abroad and work. I did not like to go away from them but again I had no choice, it was the only way I could earn some money for us. Of course by then I have forgotten what I learnt in midwifery so I decided to try my luck working abroad. I worked in Kuwait for five years then came to work in England after that. I am still working in England now.

Photo of us

This is me with my two brothers and our youngest sister with a beige cap.

This is me with my two brothers and our youngest sister with a beige cap.

Me as a midwife then

Me as a midwife then

My Mother's Cause of Death

My mother was always low in mood most of the time because she got asthma and she knew that she has to take asthma pills for life. Her asthma is so bad sometimes that she is gasping for breaths at nights.

She always said that, it would be better if she is dead because she thought she is a burden to the family especially to my father who was the sole breadwinner at the time.

My mother also worked in the farm and took care of us at the same time. I didn't take any notice of what she was saying because I thought she was bluffing. But I was wrong, I should have listened more to my mother when she mentioned about killing herself. I thought at the time mother knows best and she won't do anything stupid, but I was wrong.

My mother has low self esteem and always think that she is not a good mother. But to me, she is the best mother I ever had. She did loved us in her own way. She even thought my father was having an affair but I know my father is not doing anything like that to upset us. Clearly my mother is depressed or have mental illness that no one in our family knows about it until she killed herself.

I wish I knew more about depression or mental illness in those days, maybe I could have saved her life. Her asthma was also bad at that time, she was coughing badly and even has become more breathless.

She drank the rat poison that they kept for the farm one evening when our father was at work, it was at night time. My mother was taken to the nearest clinic in our village but did not make it. The rat poison was so strong that it killed her quickly.

I can't forget her last words as they were taking her to the hospital, she said to me "Goodbye Linda, promise me you will look after your brothers and sister". I did not have any choice. My blind grandfather(mother's father) came up on the second floor of our house to say goodbye to his daughter before they took her to the clinic.

We were all devastated by her sudden death. I was very upset because it meant I won't be practicing my midwifery skills. I have to look after my young siblings including my blind grandfather and my father too. I never imagined that I could cope but having no choice, I had to face it. I love my family so much and I always put them first.

How I coped after My Mother's Death

How I managed the following days and months that followed after my mother's death, I did not know. My father went back to work as a miner and I looked after everyone in the house, my blind grandfather, my younger brothers and three-year old sister.

I cleaned the house, did the laundry, cooked our meals, feed our animals like chickens, dogs and pigs, and even go to the farm to tend to my mother's sweet potatoes that she planted before she died, carrying my sister on my back.

My brothers were attending primary school at the time so I had to prepare their packed lunches every morning and helped them with their home works. I asked my brothers to help me, like fetch water from the well because in our village, we don't have water taps like we have here. We had to fetch water from the well to cook our food and wash our dishes.

Then I realised why my mother used to get uptight and distressed because my younger siblings don't listen to her sometimes and I was away at school. I had to grow up so quick. It was hard to be a mother and a sister to them as well. Somehow I managed to do what my mother used to do for us but it was very hard indeed. My mother was really great in her own way. I still miss her.

That is why I did not have time to grieve over my mother's death. I was too busy looking after all my loved ones but I did it with all my love for my family. It hit me later but that's another story.

I still miss my mother though but we have a loving step-mother now who looks like our mother and she loves us all. They really look like twins but not identical. My father remarried after a few years had passed and she is a wonderful loving step-mother who loves us unconditionally. My stepmother got asthma too but she is not suicidal like my mother.

Tips on how to deal with sudden death

My tips on how to deal with sudden death:

  • Accept the situation and deal with it
  • Focus on what needs to be done now and what to do next
  • Accept that things will never be the same and some changes have to be made
  • Change your future plans if needed – it was not easy for me but I had to give up my future plans for myself
  • Be strong and help the young ones cope without having a mother
  • Be willing to accept help from other people when you can't handle everything
  • Be willing to sacrifice your career for your family
  • Learn to live and let go. Not easy but as time goes by, it gets easier.
  • Talk to other people and ask for guidance on how to cope if you are overwhelmed.
  • Try and grieve if you can, it's okay to be sad because of what happened. Have a good cry when you feel like crying. It is a part of the grieving process. It helps lighten your mood and move on.
  • Talk to a trusted friend who can understand what you are going through. It does help. My friend helped me a lot.

Lessons learnt from my Mother's Sudden Death

I now understand what my mother was going thru when she killed herself. I think she was very depressed at the time but I did not know the meaning of depression in those days.I wish that I know a lot more about mental illness or depression then maybe I could have saved her but there are things we only learn after something happens.

I only understood the meaning of depression when I experienced it myself but because of what happened to my mother, I was determined to live and find ways to get out of depression. Also if I hear anyone saying they are depressed or they want to die, they should be listened to. If we can't help them, maybe we can find others who can help them. A lot of people suffer with depression due to different reasons but they are not getting enough help they need.

I think mental illness is a disease that should not be ignored because people who can not cope with it often end up killing themselves like what my mother did. Because they can't see an end to their problems or a way out of it.

How to deal with sudden death poll

© 2015 Linda Bryen

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