Almost four years ago, on Jan. 30, my daughter took her own life. I tell this story not to elicit sympathy or for dramatic effect. I tell this story in the hopes that someone struggling with suicidal thoughts will see the devastating pain caused by suicide loss and seek help to avoid it. I am also hopeful that a survivor of suicide loss will read my story and their own story and realize they are not alone in their experience.
The day she died is a blur. She and I were in a fairly heated discussion before I left for a quick, 15-minute walk with the dogs. I asked her if she wanted to join us, but she didn’t. I remember her looking at me kind of strangely, and I couldn’t figure out why. It was almost as if she looked right through me. I asked her if she was OK. She said she was. I didn’t think anything of that look. I wish I had.
When I returned home from that dog walk, it was quickly evident what had happened. It had only taken 15 minutes of her being alone. I screamed. I sobbed. I called 911. It seemed like an eternity, but they finally arrived. They put her in the ambulance and headed to the hospital. It’s horrifying to follow an ambulance that your child is in. We asked for prayers, posting on Facebook, “Please pray. We need a miracle.” Throughout the longest night ever, we waited for word that she was improving. By morning, the doctors told us she wouldn’t make it. By this time, there were a lot of people there. I don’t know how many. It’s a blur. We received notice that our son’s high school choir had gathered at our church to sing The Choral Benediction for her. They live-streamed it to us. At the end of that beautiful blessing, Ana was removed from life support.
Now what? What are you supposed to do when your child has died by suicide? We got in the car and drove home. Many people followed us from the hospital. And more people continued to come over all day and into the evening. It was a welcome reprieve. The chaos, the love, the kindness, was and still is, deeply appreciated. Others in this position might not have appreciated all the people, but for us it was a good thing. In our shock and sorrow, with the help of what seemed like everyone we knew, we would survive.
In the upcoming days and weeks, we would plan a funeral, have a funeral, grieve, cry, collapse, breathe and get up again. And then life would start again and we would continue to gasp for breath. Luckily, we still had our people. We still have our people. And those people — you people — are the light that still gets us through. To this day, when I think of Ana dying, I think of all the good people who gave donations, cards, gifts, flowers, meals, kind words or time. That is truly a blessing because I don’t go a day without thinking of Ana’s death. Therefore, I don’t go a day without thinking of all the good in the world. All of the good people out there who help bring light to the darkness.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrate next week, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.” Thank you all for being our light. We are forever grateful for all of you. Four years later and we’re starting to see a little clearer.
Toni Plante grew up in Wayzata. She lives in Minnetonka with her husband, Al, and their two dogs. Her remaining child, Leo, lives in NYC. She, her family and extended family all miss Ana terribly. Suicide prevention and mental health are her passion. She is not a therapist or a counselor. She is a parent who is committed to making a difference by sharing her experience.This column is meant to offer insight and awareness, not advice. If you have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.