A Virginia woman whose 17-year-old daughter committed suicide explores issues of faith and grief in this excellent debut.
One Sunday morning in 1995, Antus and her husband left home to attend a monthly meeting with their community of secular Carmelites—“Catholics living in the world who agree to pray silently twice a day.” That afternoon, they returned to find daughter Mary on her bed having a seizure. From the empty bottle of antidepressant pills and other objects around her, along with a suicide note, it was clear she’d tried to kill herself. Her father, a doctor, administered CPR while an ambulance was en route, but Mary didn’t survive. Those who’ve lost someone to suicide won’t be surprised by the questions the couple agonized over: why did Mary kill herself? Did they miss the signs? Because their son suffered from schizoaffective disorder, were they doing enough to protect him? A gifted writer, Antus sugarcoats nothing, from her anger at Mary for taking her life to her own frustration with funeral home visitors who said Mary was “in a better place.” The book often references the family’s Catholic faith, and those from other faith traditions may be unfamiliar with, say, the Canticle of Zechariah at Morning Prayer. Readers of any faith or no faith, however, can relate to the overwhelming grief that often accompanies a loved one’s death, especially if death occurs by suicide. Antus later decided to complete her master’s degree and write her thesis on suicide and the Catholic community; readers have to admire her resolve as she continues to explore the topic. In a concluding paragraph, she says, “God had nothing at all to do with Mary’s illness and suicide, neither causing nor allowing them, and everything to do with loving her.” This particular analysis seems rushed and could bear further discussion, but otherwise, the author adeptly shares the expansive emotions that followed her daughter’s death and the hope her family found along the way.
A penetrating, emotionally honest look at the aftermath of suicide, ideal for sharing with others who grieve.