Retrospective on my Daughter’s Suicide

By Darlene Franklin

My daughter, Jolene, committed suicide ten years ago this March.

My world stops for a few seconds when I say those words. I still feel the enormity of the loss, the emptiness left in her wake. The wound has healed, but the scar remains.

On the other hand, life has moved on. Jolene is in my past (and in my future, in heaven), but she’s not a part of my present.
Enough time has passed for me to gain perspective into how I survived the loss in one peace (sic). I’ve summarized the lessons as statements, some complex, some simple. They offer hope to people struggling with mental illness, grief, depression, any one of a multitude of losses.
What I can say beyond any doubt is that God was intimately involved with every breath I took. For every negative, God gave me a positive.

1. God gave me time and distance as the days crawled into weeks, then months
2. God helped me understand I’d done my best when I blamed myself for my mistakes.
3. God gave me grace to forgive myself when I wanted to take responsibility for Jolene’s death.
4. God filled my nights with dreams where Jolene lived when the days were empty.
5. God gave me Jolene’s teddy bear to hold when my arms ached to hold her.
6. God surrounded me with twenty-four hour love from around the world when my heart felt ripped in two.
7. God helped me laugh again when my lips forgot how to smile.
8. God gave me stories I could control when my life spun out of control.
9. God prepared me for Jolene’s death by the trials during both children’s teen years.
10. God restored the memories of things like her generosity and her poet’s heart after I had found it difficult for me to enjoy her due to her illness. She suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder, which leaves the sufferer with a dark emptiness instead of a sense of identity.
11. God has used Jolene’s life and death to shine light on mental illness in the Christian community where she had often felt misunderstood and unwelcome.
12. God made me strong in my co-workers’ eyes when I could barely function.
13. God gave me my granddaughter Jordan nine months after I lost my daughter.
14. God gave the image of Him waiting to take Jolene into His arms as life had ebbed out of her body.

There is so much more I could say. The principle that God takes every grief and pain and transforms them continues to direct my life.
Jolene put it this way: “I am on a journey to hope/Where the sun shines and gladness stays.”

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