They Do Exist.

My Mother Committed Suicide: Thoughts On Grief

Editor’s Note: Today’s brave post is by Kalie Wolfinger. She writes at and you can see her lovely photography at kaliedubphotography. I’ve just realized we’ve spoken little about grief here, so if you have words to share, please feel free to link to them in our comments so we can carry each other through these things. Much love. – Lauren

Photo by Branden Harvey

Has a friend ever left a cute piece of clothing at your house and you intentionally don’t tell them they forgot it? I’ve done it. My favorite black sweater was left in my car during the madness of my wedding week and I have no idea whose it is, but I didn’t bother asking either.

In 2008, halfway through my sophomore year of college, 4 days before Christmas, my mom took her own life.

After months of struggling with pre-menopausal hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and a variety of medications it came to a peak. This moment changed everything for me. I’ve spent years dancing around how to talk, write, and think about it; not for myself, but because of how it affects others.

I second guess everything I say for the slight chance it might offend my dad…or my brother..or my sister. I don’t want to share about the grace and lessons on joy I have seen through these circumstances out of fear that I will hurt someone close to me. It’s incredibly painful to voice that there was some redemption and grace out of such a horrific situation.

About a month after my mom died, a close friend lent me a book by Jerry Sittser called A Grace Disguised.

Grief is a tormenting rollercoaster. A rollercoaster in the dark leading wherever it pleases without any indication of the next twist and turn.

I pinpoint this book as an upswing in my rollercoaster of grief. It pulled me along and brought glimpses of clarity and peace through my journey.

The book more or less outlines the journey of grief after the loss of the author’s mother, wife, and daughter in the same car crash. Although it specifically hits home for me as it talks about death, Sittser also points out that all loss is loss and inevitably occurs in all of our lives. Terminal illness, disability, divorce, rape, emotional abuse, physical and sexual abuse, chronic unemployment, crushing disappointment, mental illness, and death. He talks about how we want to quantify and compare loss and suffering, but “Each loss stands on its own and inflicts a unique kind of pain. What makes each loss so catastrophic is its devastating, cumulative, and irreversible nature.”

As I was reading the book the second time around this quote pulled on my heart strings different than the first time:

“The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise. I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could. Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it. I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean.”

Everyone has something. Some covered up aspect of your past or present that’s a lot easier not to deal with or not allow yourself to think about. It’s easier to ignore the deep, dark fragments of life rather than allow yourself to process, experience the full range of emotions, and heal. I don’t think this decision is usually made consciously, but subconsciously as a defense mechanism.

We have to CHOOSE to plunge into the darkness and do the dirty work, but in the end being transformed by our suffering gives us a small glimpse of grace.

I am coming up on four years since my mom’s death and my own glimpses of grace have turned into days, windows, and floodings of grace.

As the carpet was ripped out from under me was when I truly learned the meaning of joy; joy that is not dependent on any circumstance or situation, but solely on the grace of Jesus Christ and the hope found in Him, that whatever you are going through right now…this isn’t it. This isn’t the end of your story.

There is so much more than what we see. Committing to do the work and run into the darkness takes courage. It requires a trust that believes somewhere in the darkness God will show up; that we won’t journey through the tunnel alone. It trusts that His grace is sufficient and that His power is made perfect in our weakness.

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63 Responses

  1. victoriashootsstuff

    Thank you for this. I feel you like put into words so well what I've been trying to communicate to people about my feelings for the past year. One of my best friends passed away in a tragic accident a year and a half ago. I struggle with it every day and as hard as its been, I've had to face my grief head on. Its still not easy, even after time has passed but I feel like his passing and my grief, however horrible and no matter how many times I tell myself it shouldn't have happened, has made me a better person in some ways (and still working hard in other areas). : )

    April 2, 2013 at 11:49 pm

  2. mmillwee

    I worked in ministry.. teaching children every weekend about the love of Jesus…. but it wasn't until the death of my husband that I truly got it…

    Here's what I've posted about my own grief journey:

    April 2, 2013 at 11:50 pm

  3. Graceinyourheart

    I wrote this in my journal recently:

    Pain demands to be felt. In our pain we become more sensitive to the pains of others. To heal is to walk up to the very wounds that bring upon discomfort, distress, and weeping and to understand them. It does not have to dealt with and fully healed at once. Some days are meant for growth and understanding, some days are meant for crying out to God. Some days are even meant for nothingness. Day by day, you may not see the progress, the change, the work that God is doing in you. It is precisely when you look back, you will see the marks of grace every step of the way.For every hint of progress, you must respond with gratitude and trust. This is the trust that the God who brought you out of slavery yesterday will bring you through whatever it is that you are struggling with today. In this way, "we are free to struggle, but we are not struggling to be free." (Tenth Avenue North song)

    April 3, 2013 at 12:14 am

  4. Allison H.

    Oh man. All my hugs are yours.

    I lost my mother, essentially to cancer, on Christmas morning when I was 11 years old. 16+ years later, and I’m still on that roller coaster.

    For a long time, my way of dealing with it was just short of shutting down. Then, when I got to be older, I had to deal with all the pain and grief I had bottled up for so long. One of my first true highs didn’t come until about five years ago, when I got a letter from a woman who had been a close friend of my mother’s in college. She told me a story of a phone conversation she’d had with my mom during her final stay in the hospital; she told me, “All your mom wanted was to be able to go home for Christmas.”

    And I cried so hard when I read that, because in the weirdest way that doesn’t make sense *at all* outside of Jesus, I was *so happy* for her. Because she did go home for Christmas. And she is doing so much better there than she ever was here.

    And that gives me so much to look forward to. All the pain and grief that’s still there, it’ll all be wiped away some day. Praise God.

    April 3, 2013 at 12:25 am

  5. Kalie, I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for talking about grief so beautifully and unflinchingly.

    April 3, 2013 at 12:26 am

  6. Lauren


    I was so touched by your post. Our stories are surprisingly similar. Like you, my father took his life my sophomore year of college nearly four years ago. I too have found great solace in the book you mentioned. Thank you so much for sharing your story as I know how challenging this can be to talk about.

    Blessings to you.

    April 3, 2013 at 1:00 am

  7. Andria

    I was sitting here in my grandparent’s house looking at pictures of my dad, who took his own life twelve years ago this month. I’ve been crying for the last 45 minutes. For years I’ve rejected any help in the area of grief, content in my own suffering because I was mad at God. Then God revealed to me in such a gentle way that he was there.

    When my dad sat in his car mulling over whether or not to take his own life our God was there loving him and trying to win him back. When my mom told me at nine years of age that my dad was never coming home God was there holding me and loving me. Through all the years of sorrow God has been here walking with me and loving me. Our God will never leave us not forsake us, he has never done so.

    Tonight as I cried over a dad that I will always miss I called out to God. I asked him to show me that he is here even though I can’t feel his presence. Then I stumbled upon this piece. I thank you so much because God is here.

    April 3, 2013 at 1:47 am

  8. Thank you so much for sharing. I can't begin to know what that experience is like. HUGS to you!

    Though grief is something no one can avoid it is not discussed much (in my experience) in younger circles. Having lost my dad almost 5 years ago, it was one of THE most painful experiences of my life and yet one that I have learned so much from. I think that we could all use the shared experiences and community of those who have walked similar roads. Also conversations on grief are so important as it's nearly impossible to move on to "life as usual" after such loss. I know the few people who reached out with similar experiences really helped me to process and those who listened over and over as I processed have been such a huge part of my story and made all the difference.

    April 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm

  9. Oh Kalie. I simply cannot imagine. Thanks for sharing your grief–raw and painful, yet very hopeful. The quote from Grace Disguised is beautiful, as is your writing.

    April 3, 2013 at 1:35 pm

  10. Almost three years ago, my parents split up. It was intensely devastating, and still is. I ended up reading "A Grace Disguised" for a response in one of my classes, and it changed how I viewed everything – how God's grace is so permeable and so evident in loss. I'm so thankful that, like you said, joy is NOT dependent on circumstances – it is completely, utterly dependent on Jesus Christ and because of that we can have joy in our darkest of days.

    Thank you so much for being willing to share your story. I'm so sorry for your loss and praying that you continue to allow it to shape you into a softer, kinder, understanding soul even though it's painful.

    April 3, 2013 at 8:54 pm

  11. I just wanted to post a quick note and thank everyone for their comments, encouragement, and support. I really appreciate all your kind words. It means a lot. -Kalie

    April 3, 2013 at 10:14 pm

  12. Terri Kiggans

    Beautiful, bountiful, glorious grace. Thank you for allowing us into your grief. I am going to share this link with a friend of mine who runs a ministry for battered women. I know this could reach out and touch someone else’s story. Bless you, Kalie.

    April 4, 2013 at 2:03 am

  13. Anna

    Thank you for sharing.. My grandpa took his own life 5 months ago and I still can't fully face the emotions. I've tried to run from them since it has happened, and sometimes it feels like they catch up to me all at once and I start to drown in all of the emotions. But I just try and put them out of my mind as soon as possible after the breakdown happens. I don't think I've ever really opened up to anyone about what I'm feeling, not even God. I've had surface talks about it, maybe turning the focus to my Dad, who is struggling even more than I since it was his own daddy who did this. I'm honestly not even sure how to begin to heal or to find a blessing through this right now. But thank you for sharing your story about how you did. It's encouraging to hear that it will eventually happen…

    April 5, 2013 at 9:48 am

  14. Laurel

    So much pain and yet redemption. The gospel is grace pure through and through and I am so proud of you, my daughter by marriage. Grief is so unique in the way it hits, but when we share the healing is also there, peeking through the pain. I love you, Kalie.

    April 5, 2013 at 10:45 pm

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    This is really a sad story. I don't like it when people commit suicide and specially if it was someone's mother and their children liked her very much. I hope she Rests In Peace.

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