Published in Stony Plain Reporter/Spruce Grove Examiner, Friday, September 4, 2015.
By the time Jacqueline was 19 years old, she had lost both her parents to suicide.
It was 1979, she was living in Saskatoon and life was lonely.
Jacqueline buried her feelings of abandonment and rejection deep inside herself. She spiralled out of control, turning to a life of self-harm and substance abuse.
“I was on my own,” Jacqueline said.
“I went through life very angry, lonely and always feeling like I didn’t fit in anywhere. I became connected in crowds that partied and went to the bar a lot. I used and abused because I didn’t want to face life.”
By her 20th birthday, Jacqueline had led a life that was very different from most of the children she had grown up with. Both her parents were functioning addicts — addicted to drugs and alcohol while still able to work.
Her father left when she was an infant, only three weeks old, and her mother spent every day drinking a bottle of vodka or a bottle of gin out of her closet. Sometimes both.
“She tried to hide if from me,” Jacqueline said. “My memories of growing up are not fun ones with my friends. They’re of me listening outside her door and thinking, “I know what you’re doing.” I was living in fear and watching my mom die.”
In 1975, with creditors hounding her for money, Jacqueline’s mom went missing for a short time. Then on Dec. 6, she was found deceased in a Holiday Inn in Saskatoon. She had left a note and had ended her life.
Jacqueline left high school and partied away her teenage years, connecting off and on with her father who was then living in B.C. When she was 17, she herself attempted suicide. Eventually, she held a job working for a brokerage in Saskatoon and like her parents, had become a functioning addict.
In 1979, Jacqueline learned her father’s latest relationship had ended. She reached out to see how he was coping.
“He was delirious,” Jacqueline said. So, she asked for time off work, flew to B.C. and knocked at his door.
“He opened the door, let me in, cleaned himself up and we spent the day together. He had a mobile home business and drove me out for a day alone. He said sorry for what Mom did to me and said he would never do what she did.”
The next day, he said goodbye and insisted she board a plane back to Saskatoon. It was two days later that her sister called. Instinctively, knowing what had happened, Jacqueline set the phone down, went to her room, covered her face with her pillow and screamed.
“I got back to the phone and asked if she was calling to tell me that Dad was dead,” Jacqueline said. “Yes, he had committed suicide. I was 19 and I had no parents.”
Jacqueline says the pain of those times has never left her — it still hurts.
Today, Jacqueline is 55 years old. She has been in recovery and has been sober for seven and a half years. She is actively involved with a 12-step fellowship and is a sponsor for others.
And, with a beautiful daughter, Jacqueline is trying to make a difference and break the cycle of abuse that has affected her family.
Since January 2015, Jacqueline has attended the Resources for Suicide Survivors Support Group, which meets on the last Monday of every month in Spruce Grove. To this day, she distinctly remembers her first group session and the way it made her feel.
“I had never sat in a room with other people who are survivors of suicide,” she said. “It was a real eye opener for me. Listening to their experiences was just heart wrenching, but it helped because it solidified that I wasn’t alone. For many years it felt like I was the only person who had ever gone through this.”
Jacqueline remembers her body tingling and physically vibrating as she waited to share her story with the group. She says it was her body’s reaction to the first time she had ever shared her story with people who had been where she had been.
For Jacqueline, this support group is a place for likeminded people to make a connection, through discussion and emotion. They share and hear hope from one another.
“Life is all about connection. Whether connecting with one person, a higher power, a group of people or with yourself — it’s all about connection,” she said.
“When we become disconnected, we usually live in fear. When you’re not alone, you’re living in love. There’s two ways to live: in love or in fear — there’s no in between.”
Now, Jacqueline does her best to live her life in love. She celebrates the seasons with her daughter and says that at times it feels like this gives her a chance to know the little girl inside herself.
And while the pain is not gone, it is not the burden it once was. With others listening to her story, Jacqueline says she can unload part of her pain, some of the thoughts and feelings she harbours away.
“Healing comes through sharing your pain,” she said. “There’s someone out there who has been where you’ve been, felt what you felt and will share the experience of how they’ve healed.”
Jacqueline, along with others from the Suicide Survivors Support Group, will participate in the 12th annual Rotary Run for Life on Sept. 13 at the Heritage Park Pavilion in Stony Plain. This five kilometre walk, 10 kilometre run or half-marathon event raises money and awareness for suicide prevention in the tri-area.
As a message to the community, Jacqueline says, “If you’re thinking of taking your own life, don’t do it. There is a lot of destruction left behind. If you’re a product of suicide, come and be with people who have unconditional love, compassion and who pass no judgment.”
Jacqueline’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity. She is a Spruce Grove resident and has lived in the tri-area off and on for 12 years.
If you or someone you know has lost someone to suicide, you are encouraged to contact the mental health office at WestView Health Centre, 780-963-6151. An intake worker will connect you with the supports and services you need.
For more information regarding Rotary Run for Life, visit www.rotaryrun.ca.
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