Sam remembers feeling embarrassed the first day he went back to school after his mother’s death. He wondered who knew and what were they going to say. He remembers that while his mom was living, if a friend would ask if he could come over, he wouldn’t tell them he had to stay with his mother to make sure she didn’t kill herself.
Following his mother’ suicide, Sam, Joe, and Joann grieved in different ways. They did not seek counseling.
Dad would be grieving and then he’d have a good day and then fall back into emptiness and despair. Then he’d be in his circle of recovery and not recovery. And the same for my sister and the same for me. Only rarely did our spheres connect or cross. . .We would just walk around like emotional zombies. But then you’d connect, briefly. But my family view was never the same. My balloon got popped. It never re-inflated completely.
In the next years, Sam focused on activities with peers, but he does recall a moment when he realized the sacrifices his dad was making.
I will always remember I was excited to go out on a Friday night and I’m sure my sister was doing something—she was just 14 or 15. Dad was doing the laundry on a Friday night at 7 p.m. very dutifully. That was the first time that I thought about his needs.
Both Sam and Joann struggled to find stability following their mother’s death. Sam reported he drank to became “numb.” He explained, “Pretty much I was drunk for many, many years to come.” His sister got involved with a rougher crowd, engaging with drugs and shoplifting. Both initially blamed themselves for their mother’s death. For a long time, Sam believed his mother died because she did not want him to take the job at the restaurant. Twenty years later his sister told him that she thought their mom died because she wanted a puppy for her birthday.