Learning How To Mourn My Parents After Their Suicides

“I don’t want to pretend like my parents never existed because they died a death that isn’t as socially acceptable as others.” As told to Krystie Yandoli.

Illustration by Susie Oh for BuzzFeed

I was 12 years old when my mom and dad both committed suicide. My dad died first, in March 2003, and my mom in October. Both of my parents suffered from mental illness: My father had deep depression, hypochondria, and anxiety, and my mother also had her fair share of struggles.

Before that, though, they were great parents. The dad I knew for almost all of my life was animated and cheerful; he was bursting at the seams with adventure and excitement. My childhood soundtrack was the drums, didgeridoo, and other instruments he’d play around the house. He loved spending time with me and my mom; we even called our own little family the Three Musketeers.

My parents shared hobbies like gardening — they managed to turn our barren Arizona backyard into a lush landscape of green grass, palm trees, vibrant hibiscus flowers, and even a few banana plants.

But when I was 10, something changed; either that, or I just started to pick up on more of my dad’s anxieties and concerns. Until then, he had loved cooking and enjoyed the process of making and eating food, but when his depression became more and more severe, he became rail thin. Then the music he created started to take on a much sadder tone than usual; he had previously been very talkative, but I noticed he became more and more quiet and withdrawn, and he’d often spend days in bed.

My dad also became convinced he had an intense pain whenever he would pee, despite the countless doctors who told him he was OK and all of the MRIs and CT scans that failed to detect any abnormalities. He thought he was sick until he actually did become sick, and then he lost the desire to exist.

When my dad died, I was having a sleepover at my grandma’s house and we received a frantic voicemail from my mom. She screamed that he was missing, and so was his shotgun. I was whisked away to my aunt’s house while my grandparents and mom searched for him. The next morning I asked my mom if they found him, to which she replied, “Your daddy is dead.”

The best word to describe my mom before my dad’s suicide is effervescent, even when my dad started to get sick. But in the months that followed his death, my mother told me she didn’t want to be a mom anymore. Our refrigerator, which was normally filled to the brim with goodies that my father had cooked, was now bare, only holding prunes and Mountain Dew. Her diet consisted of laxatives, and, as I would later learn, meth.

My mom had become a shell of her former self, a beautiful, vibrant woman who exuded joy and warmth. On the morning she died, she came out of her room to make breakfast for the two of us — it was a Monday but it was also Columbus Day, so I didn’t have to rush off to school — and she told me she loved me. That was the last time I ever saw her alive. Not even a few hours later on that same morning, I heard my mom’s new boyfriend, whom she had been spending a lot of time with, screaming from her bedroom: “Kathy? Wake up!”

Ignoring the barriers and space I normally kept from her and her boyfriend, I barged inside to find her gasping for breath and called 911, but it was too late. My mother — my sweet, smart, hilarious mom — had died from a heart attack caused by a methamphetamine overdose.

In the years after they passed, I was often told that it’s OK for me to feel anger toward my parents for their decisions. For a long time I did. I was very angry, until I came to the realization that even the most happy, loving, and carefree people could potentially be fighting an invisible battle every day of their lives. I know that my parents loved me with all their hearts, and it was not the most autonomous, healthy versions of themselves who chose to end their own lives. They were sick; just because you couldn’t see their illnesses physically doesn’t mean they weren’t suffering.

It’s been a decade since my parents died. It’s difficult enough mourning my parents’ deaths and going through adolescence and now adulthood without my mom or dad, but on top of the sadness I already feel I also have to fight against other peoples’ judgment about suicide. Justifying my need and desire to cope with this tremendous loss of life because my parents committed suicide is a task unto itself.

Most people in my life or who are familiar with my situation think they’re entitled to an opinion about my parents’ deaths because it was “their choice” to end their own lives. There’s so much shame attached to my parents’ deaths because of a lack of understanding about mental illness that sometimes it feels like I’m not allowed to be sad like people who have lost their parents to other diseases.

If my parents died of nearly any other cause within months of each other before I hit puberty, most people would see it as a complete and utter tragedy; they’d readily accept their deaths as worthy of mourning. Instead, I’m often discouraged from talking about my parents and their passing. A lot of my family members — including my maternal grandparents — pretend like neither of my parents ever existed in the first place. There aren’t any photos of my mom or dad in their homes; they never say their names or bring them up in conversations. Their way of grappling with the depressing reality of their deaths is by not acknowledging them at all.

But I don’t want to forget them; I don’t want to pretend like my parents never existed because they died a death that isn’t as socially acceptable as others. They did exist, and their existence was important because they created me. They were responsible for my being, and I love them because unconditional love doesn’t always mean loving and caring about someone in picture-perfect circumstances. Life is messy, human beings are flawed, but we can love them anyway. We do love them anyway. I do not want my parents to be remembered for the illnesses that eventually took their lives. I want them to be remembered for the creative, loving, and special people they were, the same creativity, love, and specialness that still runs through my veins.

So every year on Oct. 1 I celebrate my dad’s birthday with my other grandma, his mother. My grandma buys white roses and lights a white Jewish memorial candle, and we bask in the positive memories and happy moments we shared together. We laugh about how seriously he took his detailed replica miniature ships that he’d build. We talk about the times he played Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” on the piano, intently stroking each ivory key, while my mother danced along with me in her arms.

My parents are more than just people who ended their own lives; they’re also the people who gave me a magical childhood until they got sick. They’re the people who loved me, who gave me life, and who had no control over the illnesses that took over their bodies.

My grandma and I also celebrate his birthday by releasing white and gray balloons — my dad’s favorite colors — into the Arizona sky; she even draws smiley faces on them before we set them free. We watch them fly up, up, and away until we can’t see them anymore and they get lost in the clouds, trees, and a world beyond the one we know. Maybe one of these days they’ll even reach him.

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You’ve Heard These 10 Smash Hits, But Did You Know That Prince Brought Them To Life?

Although we rung in the new year a few short months ago, 2016 has already taken David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Natalie Cole, and Otis Clay, to name a few.

And we’re now in the throes of another major loss. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince left us on April 21, 2016, and it’s already proven to be a crushing blow.

When larger-than-life entertainers suddenly exit stage left, it’s hard to imagine the world without them. Although losing them is always hard, they leave us trails of breadcrumbs that we can follow whenever we need a little comfort. Seeing doves, for example, will undoubtedly strike a chord with Prince fans all over the world from now on.

But did you know that The Purple One contributed to way more material than the music that helped him top the charts? Here are 10 popular songs that got the Prince treatment.

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1. “Manic Monday” by The Bangles

Being a lover of pseudonyms, Prince decided to drop his royal moniker and keep a low profile while helping The Bangles out with this tune. He called himself Christopher Tracy instead.

2. “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks

The songstress loved “Little Red Corvette” so much that she drew inspiration from the track while writing “Stand Back.” Nicks sent it along to Prince and he loved it, so he hit the studio and helped her arrange the piece.

3. “Jungle Love” by Morris Day & The Time

This was actually The Time’s first major hit. Prince assembled the group and co-wrote “Jungle Love” with Jesse Johnson.

4. “The Glamorous Life” by Sheila E.

You can hear Prince’s signature funkiness in this hit. The track is full of life without being fussy, which lends “The Glamorous Life” its undeniable appeal.

5. “Yo Mister” by Patti LaBelle

Prince experimented with a new style called swingbeat when he wrote and produced this chart topper for Ms. LaBelle, and it has proven to be one of her most successful tracks.

6. “With This Tear” by Celine Dion

Before Dion released her self-titled album back in 1992, Prince decided to give her “With This Tear” as a gift. She then repackaged that gift and gave it to us.

7. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor

Although “Nothing Compares 2 U” was originally written for one of The Purple One’s side projects, the tune took off when he let Sinead O’Connor run with it.

8. “How Come You Don’t Call Me” by Alicia Keys

Originally a lesser-known Prince B-side that goes by the name of “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore,” Keys reinterpreted the song so beautifully that the two artists became fast friends. This version of the track brought his music to the attention of a new generation.

9. “Love Song” by Madonna

Even the Queen of Pop got a little help from Prince back in the day. The two royals co-wrote “Love Song” and the superstar added his voice to the mix.

10. “Sugar Walls” by Sheena Easton

Never one to shy away from controversy, Prince helped Sheena Easton pen this song, which the Parents’ Music Resource Council deemed one of their “Filthy Fifty” songs that kids should never listen to. That didn’t put a damper on its success.

Prince wowed listeners and industry heavy hitters for decades, and his work will continue to do so. Seeing him in action speaks volumes about his unforgettable, undeniable talent.

We miss you already, Prince. May your music, sass, and epic side-eye live on forever.

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12 Times That David Bowie Touched Our Lives — And Changed Music Forever

David Bowie, after battling cancer for 18 months, has passed away.

According to a statement posted on his social media accounts, he “died peacefully, surrounded by his family.” Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, was released only days ago on January 8th, his 69th birthday.

He was an incredible artist who challenged society’s notions of rock with his glam rock, punk, and electronica hits.

During his 40-year career, he pushed boundaries, changed lives, and served as an inspiration for countless people both young and old.

These are just a few of the songs and moments in which he seemed to change everything — and they’re ones we will always remember.

1. Space Oddity

2. Changes

3. Heroes

4. Ziggy Stardust

5. Dance Magic (as the Goblin King from Labyrinth)

6. Ashes to Ashes

7. Dancing In The Street

8. Modern Love

9. The Man Who Sold The World

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10. Rebel, Rebel

11. Golden Years

12. Blackstar (the titular song from his most recent and final album)

Illustrator Helen Green drew a picture of David Bowie every year on his birthday…resulting in this simply spectacular animated .gif that she posted to her tumblr.

If you’d like to order prints of these incredible illustrations, please visit Helen Green’s website.

“I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.” -David Bowie (1947-2016)

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Being Buried is SO Last Century. How About Being Made Into Some Of These Items?

Who wants to be buried when they die? That’s so old fashioned! These days, there are more options for the deceased (or soon-to-be deceased) than ever before. Maybe you want to be turned into a pencil? Or perhaps you see yourself as a diamond?

Believe it or not, these things can be done to your body when you die. For the right price, of course. But it would totally be worth it for #5. It’s so cool.

1.) Become A Photograph.

1.) Become A Photograph. Gizmodo

One enterprising design studio in Norway found a way to create rig up their printer to accept the ashes of a dearly departed loved one instead of ink. Now you can be printed out as a photo of yourself. How cool is that?

We should give you fair warning: This technique was only used with the ashes of a pet dog, so it might not work the same way with humans. Any volunteers?

2.) Become An Hourglass.

2.) Become An Hourglass. John Morgan

Urns are so boring. Why not have your loved one’s ashes turned into an hourglass instead? It’ll only cost you a measly $330. Nothing says “your time is running out” like an hourglass full of someone’s ashes.

3.) Become A Speeding Bullet.

3.) Become A Speeding Bullet. William Hook

This might be the weirdest thing on this list, but you can have your ashes turned into bullets. For just $1,250, your ashes will be stuffed into your choice of 250 shotgun shells, 100 rifle cartridges, or 250 pistol cartridges. Talk about a 21-gun salute. 

4.) Become Pencils.

4.) Become Pencils. Gizmodo

Humans are mostly carbon, and the graphite in common pencils is also made out of carbon. It only makes sense that humans are the perfect candidates for becoming pencils when we die.

Each one of these pencils is custom stamped with the name of the deceased and their death date. Plus, the box doubles as a sharpener. Nifty, eh?

5.) Become A Vinyl Record.

5.) Become A Vinyl Record. Dave Parker

Are you a music lover? Then you should have your ashes made into a vinyl record. Starting at just $4,800, you can have your ashes turned into a vinyl record with up to 24 minutes of audio (12 minutes on each side). 

6.) Become A Street Sign.

6.) Become A Street Sign. The Tire Zoo

When you’re cremated, any metal implants you have get left behind. This includes fake hip joints or dental fillings. A company in England collects these odd pieces of human metal. They then melt them down to make street signs and lamp posts. I think it might actually be pretty cool for part of me to live on as a stop sign.

7.) Become A Diamond.

7.) Become A Diamond. Gizmodo

They say diamonds are forever, right? Now you can become a diamond thanks to Algordanza. While pricing isn’t available on their website, they do say they offer payment plans. So if you start saving now, you might be able to afford to live forever in diamond form. 

(Via: Gizmodo)

These are all pretty cool. I would totally love to become a vinyl record after I die. How awesome would that be? What would I sound like?

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