By Elizabeth Connick
For some reason this year, Mother’s Day has been looming in my mind far more than usual. I lost my mum to suicide nearly seven years ago and while I recognise the importance of commemorating the lives of so many mothers around the world, and indeed, my own mum, Mother’s Day does harness a certain amount of pain for me.
In the lead up to Mother’s Day 2021, I am feeling particularly down, or at least reflective. I have been trying to work out why this might be. I think a combination of working through the final months (hopefully!) of a national lockdown, graduating from university, missing my family and the stress of applications has been weighing me down for a little while. Yet nothing has been as damaging to my thoughts as the events of this week, with the storm of cruel responses to Meghan Markle speaking her truth. I say truth, and not merely interview, because the interview is a small part of her much larger existence and the pain that was bravely displayed in front of millions last night is an articulation of months and years of suffering, suffering that anyone who has been bereaved or affected by suicide or suicidal ideations might recognise.
I woke up yesterday (7th March) feeling so angry. I hadn’t watched the interview yet and already people, namely Piers Morgan, were calling Meghan an actress and a fraud, echoing the narratives we hear so often about self-harm being attention seeking. I then watched the interview in the evening and was knocked by one moment in particular: when Meghan calmly and pragmatically noted that she thought her death would be a “solution” to the entire problem. The thoughtful and strategic nature of that consideration, to kill herself, reflects the coldness of an institution and a society that ridicules people for expressing difficult and complex emotion. I sometimes feel ashamed of the anger and frustration I have when I hear insensitive comments about suicide or mental health, but not right now. Right now, I am fueled by anger on behalf of my mum.
In a very troubling way, I am grateful that my mum, who suffered from the same intrusive and devastating thoughts that Meghan described in the interview, is not here to witness the backlash that Meghan’s brave revelation has inspired. That sickens me, that I am admitting to being grateful that my mum is dead, so she does not have to feel the weight of these comments. I am angry that seven years on, I am encouraged by mainstream media to feel ashamed of my mum, to not believe her when she talked about her demons, to question her decision to take her life. My mum was a brave woman, she was a beautiful woman, she was my inspiration and on International Women’s Day yesterday, instead of thinking about all of those things, I was preoccupied with thinking about her death.
I am devastated that there are many people who will have to witness this discourse play out, who will be affected by it, who are being affected by it right now. It’s Meghan and those that feel the same way that we must place at the centre of this narrative.
Looking forward to Sunday, I encourage everyone to think not only of their own mothers but of those without mothers and of those mothers who were beaten down by a society that told them to be silent.