I Lost My Mother To Postpartum Depression

by Karlyn Marchal
Originally Published: 
postpartum depression
portishead1 / iStock

After recently being diagnosed with PPD, I reached out, using my blog platform, to other women who have experienced what I have. They shared their stories with me. There was one story that compelled me to take it further. Rachel Platfoot, an amazing young mother, shared her story with me. It’s the story of losing her mom to postpartum depression.

PPD is something we don’t talk about or discuss nearly enough. Hearing from a child whose mother lost her battle with PPD makes it all that much more real and scary.

I had reservations about reaching out to tell my story, the hardships I have endured in my life, because I always strive to be a positive person. But the moment I questioned it was the moment I knew I had to reach out and share. I knew if I could open my heart and be vulnerable, there is a greater chance that this will find its way to someone who needs it, to someone who is suffering from postpartum depression, or any depressive disorder in general.

My mom gave birth to me at the age of 21, eleven months after marrying my dad. She was already a stepmom to my brother, and couldn’t wait to have a baby of her own. When I was born, it was a happy time for my entire family. My mom was a happy, loving, caring person. She was always smiling, loved to run, took pride in making sure her hair was just right, and had a huge heart for all her family and friends.

Karlyn Marchal

She was the love of my dad’s life.

After I was born, she began to argue and pick fights with my dad over everything. She wouldn’t bundle me up when it was chilly outside. She almost kicked her nephew, who was lying on the floor next to me, because she simply didn’t see him. She would only eat an apple for lunch while at work. She began to lose weight. More importantly and more notably, she began to lose her luster, her beautiful smile that so many people loved.

All these things were noticed in hindsight…after she committed suicide.

She took her own life on the day my dad was supposed to start staying at his brother’s house, because their arguing and not getting along was becoming too much for either of them to handle. My dad laid down for a nap, and when he woke, she was hanging from the closet door of the bedroom where his suitcase sat. Her heart was still beating, but barely.

She was pronounced dead at the hospital later that day, where family gathered to support each other. My dad wanted to run. He wanted to get away from the entire thing, this nightmare. But he couldn’t. He had to raise me.

There is a saying that holds true for the way I was raised: “It takes a village.” My dad was a truck driver who spent most of his time on the road. I stayed with my family who lived right next to us the majority of the time.

This is where the hard part is: being bluntly honest with my feelings and how it felt to grow up without a mother. And not only that, but losing her to suicide from postpartum depression — something that can be treated so that situations just like mine may be prevented.

When I tell people my mom passed away when I was young, instantly the response is “I’m sorry to hear that,” or “I’m sorry for your loss.” My response to that has always been, “Don’t be.” I am a huge believer that everything in a person’s life happens for a definite and specific reason. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t supposed to grow up with a mom. Even though I do believe that, I’m not going to act like it doesn’t completely suck — a lot.

No one should grow up without their mom. She is one person that truly cannot be replaced. She is not able to be replaced in anyone’s life. My dad refuses to marry anyone else because he feels as though he would be betraying my late mother. This incident has caused my dad tremendous heartache through the years. It’s a heartache he will never recover from.

My grandparents had to cling to God and each other to try and get through each day after losing a child. My dad didn’t have the heart to tell me how my mom died until I was 11 years old, after kids at school had already told me. The explanation I always received growing up was that she was sad and had gone to heaven. My dad had the hardest time trying to tell me what really happened because it hurts him too much to talk about.

One thing some people don’t realize is that moods and reactions change when you lose someone you love to suicide. People don’t know what to say or how to react. It’s hard for a family to find the best way to explain the situation to people. When I run into people who knew my mom and they figure out who I am, their faces instantly drop and the conversation goes blank.

Another thing I struggled with for such a long time, more than I care to admit, was blaming myself. If she had not had me, she would still be here. In low times, I would feel my life wasn’t worth the loss of my mom. Here was this amazing woman everyone loved, who is not around anymore because she gave birth to me.

I hated her. I don’t say that openly, but I truly did hate her. I couldn’t blame a coincidence of a car accident. I couldn’t blame God’s way with cancer. And I couldn’t blame someone else for taking her life. In my opinion, suicide is the worst way to lose a parent.

She chose, in that moment, to never be in my life — not while I was in school, beginning friendships, partaking in sporting events, high school and college graduation, falling in love, the birth of my own children, and my wedding day.

Karlyn Marchal

I didn’t have the one person in my life who was supposed to teach me how to cook and shave my legs. While I was blessed with a family of strong women to look up to, I felt deprived of the comfort of a steady role model. Not to mention, it wasn’t the most comfortable situation telling my dad when I started my period.

She chose to never make those memories with me. She chose to leave me looking around, always missing her in those times of my life. She chose that. It took years, a lot of strength, and a lot of praying to forgive her for being the root of this constant ache in my life and to stop constantly asking God, “Why?”

But I love her, more than I could ever love someone I don’t even know. She suffered from PPD, and she could have chosen to take my life, but she didn’t, and for that I am grateful.

But no, it never gets easier. As I get older, there are constant reminders of what I will never have. I see my friends becoming best friends with their moms. My children don’t understand why they have to go to a cemetery to “see” their grandmother. I have no idea if I’m doing what a mom is supposed to do when it comes to raising my kids. I don’t get to call her up to go shopping, out to lunch, or just to get advice in general.

Through education, I have learned she wasn’t herself during that time. Committing suicide is not something she would have done if she was in her normal state of mind.

Postpartum depression can be a terrible and debilitating thing, especially if the mother doesn’t seek help. In the ’90s, it was still an issue that was swept under the rug and not talked about nearly enough. Of course, I can’t help but think she would still be here if there was more awareness about PPD.

That being said, to anyone who is suffering from PPD or depression: Please do not be afraid to get help. No one is perfect, especially new moms. The stress of worrying about what the general public will think of you is heightened with social media now. But ignore all that. Ignore the mom who acts like she has it all together and like her life is amazing — because chances are, it’s not.

Do not struggle through this alone. Open up to your significant other, parents, best friend, or even me. Go to your doctor. Get help to find yourself again. It’s not something that will just go away, and I’m sure my mom thought she would have been able to handle it on her own.

I will continue to make memories with all my family and try to stay positive that she is with us in spirit, but she will always be missing. I will continue to talk to her in my hard times, trying to receive her guidance. I will continue to share with my children who their grandmother was, regardless how hard it is to answer their questions.

I will continue to have my voice be heard, in hopes that I can help avoid one more child being raised without the one most important person in their life.

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