You Were Not There

I remember the three and a half hour drive to your apartment Kaitlyn. Thankfully my brother in law drove us or I don’t know how we would have gotten there. I sat back there in the back seat with your daddy in a daze. Every now and then I would cry, but I was in a state of shock. I watched the houses, fields; trees and landmarks go by like I use to see them when we went to see you. The feeling of happiness and anticipation of seeing you was not there. In its stead was a feeling of horror, disbelief, despair, grief, and total disengagement from my body.

At that time, I didn’t know why you took your own life. I had no idea. The policeman said you left notes; I hoped I would find out all my answers then. But at the time I knew nothing. What happened to you? Who hurt you so badly that you felt you had to die? What happened in your world to make you take your life? Something horrible had to have happened. My God, everything was so RIGHT in your life!

I also didn’t really understand the method of your death. The policeman told me you put a bag on your head and put some kind of chemical in there that caused your death. What kind of chemical? I’d never heard of such a thing. It makes no sense.

As our travel went on, two of the deans called to say they would meet us at your apartment, both sounding horror stricken with disbelief.

The entire ride there I thought of how difficult it would be to go to the hospital to identify your body. I didn’t want to see you dead. No way, no how. I couldn’t bear it. But I felt as your mother I had to do it. My brother in law offered to do it, my husband begged me not to do it, but I insisted saying that I must. But the thought of it turned my insides out.

When we arrived to your apartment and met with the police, the apartment manager, and the two deans of your school, the policeman told me I didn’t have to ID your body and I only had to call the medical examiner so she could talk to me. She explained how you died by helium telling me that it’s easily found how to do it on the internet and has been increasing in the last 10 years.

So I didn’t have to go see your body. I didn’t have to go to the hospital at all. I feel guilty in saying I was relieved, but I do think I would have died if I had seen you then. I had thought that maybe they would send me your clothes you had on. I didn’t think of anything like that then or we would have requested them. I’m sure that before you died you dressed in the new undergarments that were so beautiful that you bought on our last visit to Victoria’s Secret days before you died. You must have had them on, for I never found them. I also never found most of your new clothes you bought that day. So I assume you were wearing them, looking your best for your last moments of life. Oh how I wished I would have asked for them. I would have buried you in them.

I read your 2 page suicide note telling us that you had been depressed all your life and hid it from us to protect us from it. You could not explain why you did not get help. And you could take being sad no longer and this is what made sense to you. You said so many other things; you loved us very much and you were sorry. So nothing traumatic happened to you. No one hurt you. Nothing happened to make you do this except years and years of relentless depression that wore you down so much over the years you could take it no more. No one ever knew.

The ride home was filled with calling the friends of who you left letters for as this was your request. You left 4 or 5 letters for your last closest friends, us and your sister, complete with addresses and phone numbers. I called them all on the way home. The rest of the trip was filled with reality hitting me so hard I could barely stand it, crying and Allyn asking me if I wanted him to take me to the ER. No. What could they do?

That was on a Friday. The first day I was to see you Kaitlyn, was at the funeral home a few hours before your visitation on Sunday. I didn’t want to see you Kaitlyn. The thought of seeing you laying there lifeless was horrible. When I walked up to your casket with you in it, I almost passed out and they got me a chair. I looked at you, but it wasn’t you. You were not there. I could not bear staying long so we soon left.

When we came back for visitation Kaitlyn, I stood at your casket. Many mothers touch their loved ones, and kiss them and talk to them, I could not do this. I could not even touch you. I just could not touch your lifeless body that only a few days ago had so much life in it. Once I accidentally touched your hand and it was cold and hard and it sent chills of despair through my body that I cannot explain. This was not your warm, soft skin that I so often touched and hugged.

Your sister Stephanie drug up a chair right next to you and sat right there during the entire visitation talking to everyone that came to view you and never left your side. I don’t know how she did this, but she could not leave you. And I could not be with you. I just couldn’t do it.

When it was all over and everyone was leaving I stopped by your casket to look at your body once more. I looked at you seeing all of our wonderful, loving past, all your potential, all your future dreams. I have your past but your future here will never be. I kissed the top of your hair like I always did when you were alive. It did not smell like you. It smelled like someone else’s hairspray. Your hair did not feel like yours. But this did not really surprise me because who you were and are was no longer there. You had long gone. You were not there at all. I told you goodbye and that I loved you, but you were not there to hear it.

To me, that last time I saw you at visitation was not the last time I saw you. The last time I saw you was when you left our house about a week earlier to go back to your apartment, when you looked at me with those beautiful, sweet eyes, and held me close and I felt your warm, soft body that smelled so good. That is the last time I saw you. That is when you were you.

I’m sorry I could not hug and touch and talk to you at visitation Kaitlyn like so many people can do. I don’t know how they do it. I love you so much I could not bear to see you in death, to feel your body that you were no longer in. If I had I would have surely died then and there. And when I visit your grave Kaitlyn, I don’t feel close to you there either because I feel you less there than anywhere. I just got you a beautiful stone Kaitlyn in memory and honor of you that was worthy of you. But I never find you there, ever.

About gatito2

My name is Rhonda. I'm a registered nurse, for the last 20 years, that has not been able to work since the day I learned of my daughter's death by suicide 4-12-13. (She actually died 4-11-13 and her body was not found until the 12th) Me and my husband have been married for 32 years and he's a wonderful man. We grieve in different ways. He works, I write. This is my journey through this horrible land of losing a child..
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25 Responses to You Were Not There

  1. Ellen Ross says:

    So very powerful …. thank you for having the courage to share all of this.


  2. gatito2 says:

    I just need to get things out, sometimes to the horror of other people. But that, is my reality. I live with these memories every single day. This is what suicide does.


  3. You did well just to get through Kaitlyns visitation – there is no right or wrong way to cope.
    I will never forget the sight of my daughter not being there anymore – I couldn’t understand how empty her body was. Two and half years down the track I’m still struggling to get my head around what I saw. Her coldness was shocking to me. I took some gloves and a hat & scarf in for her, but I couldn’t warm her – I was helpless.
    I read somewhere once, that shock kicks in and numbs us, enabling us to get through the first week or two after a tragedy with detachment, everything is just a blur..
    I found that couldn’t be further from the truth. I remember every second of those days/weeks with a crystal clarity that haunts me. There was no magic protection for my heart.
    From one mother to another – You did so well just to get through Kaitlyns visitation, and I did well just to get through Bryers. Xx


  4. mainbean says:

    I don’t know how to say this, but I find comfort in your words of anguish. They help me to know that those of us that are left behind are not alone, even though we feel so cut off from the world and the people that just keep on going through their daily rutines. Life has changed, things look the same but everything feels and even tastes differently than before. Just like the landmarks you passed are still the same but no longer give you the pleasure and joy they once did.


  5. gatito2 says:

    I understand exactly what you are saying. You are not alone in the way you feel. The world still spins, the sun still rises, but nothing is the same…..for us.


  6. gatito2 says:

    Thank you for your comments. I was numb in some respects except I was so full of pain and disbelief. I got through things I didn’t know I could, but I was really hoping I would die so I didn’t have to endure it any longer just knowing the pain itself would kill me. It didn’t and I just keep hurting. I am so sorry for your loss. Mothers never get over this. Fathers don’t either, but if it had not been for my husband pushing me along, nothing would have gotten done because I was a zombie.


  7. Wendy Charlton says:

    My 27-yr-old daughter, Rose, died suddenly of an asthma attack in her father’s arms in February of this year. Every day is still so hard, and I know I will never again be the same. My husband and I saw her lifeless in the ER with her pretty green eyes half-open and a tube sticking out from her mouth. That is a vision I have not been able to get out of my mind. We visit her grave daily, knowing that even though her spirit is not there, her dear, sweet body is. Things that used to make us laugh together, now make me cry. I’m so very sorry for your loss and for all of the emotions that accompany a child’s sudden death. I will remember you in my prayers. You write of her beautifully.


  8. Neal says:

    I was in shock that weekend. I was in shock after you called me. And while I don’t remember everything we said on the phone, I remember the shock and horror I felt when we talked as I drove home from work.

    I didn’t sleep Friday or Saturday night. At the visitation I had trouble understanding that it was her in the coffin until the very end of the visitation. It just gets more and more difficult. It started to sink in, but continues to sink in now. It just gets worse the longer I go on. I become more aware of how important she was in my life and how many places she affected it positively. How I wish she were still with me to help me through my life.


  9. gatito2 says:

    Thank you for your words Wendy. Hearing of your daughter’s death breaks my heart. I feel for you so much. Nothing is the same and never will be again. There’s no getting around it. Kaitlyn brought SO much joy to my life since the day she was born. It is so hard to be without it. But my loss is overshadowed by the fact that she suffered all her life and I didn’t know it. Knowing this kills me. It hurts me to my very soul to know someone that shown so brightly, suffered so much and so silently. I feel for us all.


  10. gatito2 says:

    I was in shock too Neal. I did not even go to bed the night we found out and me and Allyn talked all night. The next night I slept some only with help of medication.

    It was SO extremely hard to call you and her other friends to tell them. She wrote in her note to make sure you were all called but I didn’t have to do it myself but to please make sure someone did. I felt I was the one that needed to do it. Though the only one I called that I ever met was Shannon, it was still so very, very hard. Shannon was inconsolable and everyone else went into shock.

    I have a very hard time Neal, knowing how many people she touched and helped but yet could not see how she herself could be helped. She gave to people that she loved her undying friendship, but she could no longer live to enjoy it. It is so confusing. But that’s what depression does. It makes you lose hope when in reality you have this wonderful life, but you are tormented on the inside. It’s so hard to understand.

    I’m also getting worse as time goes by. No psychiatrist can help me as they spend all of 2 minutes with me on each visit. No counselor has helped me and I’ve been to 2 different ones since Kaitlyn died. Now I think I wlll seek out the group for the survivors of loved ones that have committed suicide that I have found an hour away from me. It’s worth the drive. I have to do something or I just don’t know how I will live through this.

    I’m thinking of you Neal.


  11. Neal says:

    I know it was difficult to call. I thought about that a lot over the last few months. Shannon was inconsolable the next day when we met and the day after that when we drove to the visitation together. I haven’t seen him in a couple of months, but I think he’s spending time with family.

    I’m sad that psychiatrists and counselors don’t help. I think the survivor group is worth a shot. I hope you can find something from that community. I’m halfway through Jan’s book. I spent a lot of time traveling this weekend and got a lot of reading done on the plane. It’s difficult to read, but I think it’s helping me gain some perspective. It’s showing me the range of experiences other people have had.

    I’m thinking of you too. Thank you for sharing so much.


  12. Marcia says:

    This feels very similar to some of my thoughts! My 23 year old daughter died instantly in a car crash, she was driving to work, and then she was not. Just like that. We did not see her until 4 days later at her visitation. It was so weird to look at her, I did touch her cheek and it was hard and cold, like a mannequin, so weird and I have always hated that I felt that way about my sweet beautiful cool and unique daughter. But she was not there; thank you for that phrase! I was numb and if not for my other daughter there wouldn’t have been any personalization, etc at her funeral. She pulled it all together. I picked two of the songs, that’s all I could manage. Its getting very close to 5 years ago and it still feels unreal sometimes. I’ve been numb off and on, and sometimes it still feels like someone is kickin me in the chest and gut. I exist, but don’t live anymore. Life will never be the same, I’m not at all the same.


  13. gatito2 says:

    You sound so much like me in the way that I feel. I didn’t do anything pertaining to what was said at my daughter’s funeral. To be honest, I don’t even remember what the preacher said. My other daughter actually wrote a poem 1 hour after she got the news and it was read by the preacher at the funeral. Other than that, all I remember is staring at her casket. I will never be the same either. This wound’s too big to heal. I’m so sorry about you losing your daughter. It’s horrible what we human beings must endure sometimes, and this is the worst of the worst.


  14. My husband and I went to a therapist for about 6 months. She was nice and tried her best, but I found that it really didn’t help us very much. One day she made some sort of comment about Graham’s death “rocking my world”. That trite, overused phrase pushed me over the edge (in my mind – I didn’t say anything out loud) and I decided that therapy wasn’t working because she clearly didn’t understand the utter devastation of losing a child. Her comment trivialized my tragedy.

    I find much more understanding and help with other bereaved parents, both online and in person. If I ever see another therapist it will have to be someone who has also lost a child. No one else really gets it, no matter how empathic they are.


  15. gatito2 says:

    I agree with you. The 2 therapist I have tried have done nothing for me. The first one kept telling me how wonderful I was doing and I wasn’t. She was nice and all and I liked her, but her therapy did not help me at all. Neither did the 2nd one. Not saying that it is not for everyone because it does help some people. Just not in my situation.


  16. lhabedank says:

    Rhonda, this was absolutely beautiful, I have tears streaming down my face because I can relate to so much of it. I’ve chosen to write about my grief too and I’m so glad that you have because I know you will touch a lot of people. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I lost my only sibling, my brother Brian, 3 years ago last week. I wish I could say the pain goes away… but it doesn’t. But it does get easier to get through each day as time goes on. My thoughts are with you and your family, Rhonda. I’m going to share your blog with my Mom as I know she will get so much out of your writings. Thank you. Sending love to you from Texas. -Laura


  17. gatito2 says:

    Laura, you made me feel so good by saying that. I’m so sorry for the loss of your brother. My other daughter is having a tough time though she tries to seem so strong. But she is making it somehow. Please do share this with your mom. Sometimes my writing is too painful for some to read; others find it helpful. It just depends on the person. Please share it with anyone you want to.

    I not only post about my feelings, but I also post memories, articles, and just anything that I think relates to Kaitlyn and depression and the memories I have of her. So some things may be more helpful on here than other things. I have no rules or rhyme to what I post but how I feel at the time.

    Thank you so much and I wish you peace. I know the pain never goes away. It’s not moved an inch but only gotten worse since Kaitlyn’s death and is probably why my writing reflects this.


  18. lhabedank says:

    I just shared the link to your blog on my Facebook page, too. I know a lot of people will find comfort in it. Please tell your other daughter I’m thinking of her, as well. I’ve always been a sister to Brian and it feels like my identity has been altered now that he’s gone and I have no sibling to call me “sister” anymore. I’m going to be in an upcoming documentary about sibling survivors of suicide… feel free to share it with her, she may be able to relate to it a great deal. Here is a link:


  19. gatito2 says:

    Thank you for sharing it on your facebook and please friend me on my page. It’s under Rhonda Sellers Elkins. Share it to the high heavens if you’d like and thank you.

    I will tell my daughter Stephanie what your wrote and share that link with her. She is so sad. She always talks about her future children will have no aunt and the whole future of our lives has been changed by her death. She is 28 and Kaitlyn was 23. And it’s true. She has written poems about her sister and one was read at Kaitlyn’s funeral. I only had 2 daughters, no sons so Stephanie is all I have left as far as my children go. She tries to be so strong, but she hurts.


  20. Summer says:

    This brought tears pouring from my eyes. Still so hard to grasp & believe. Kaitlyn, of our whole graduating class, is no longer here with us. It breaks my heart a million times.


  21. gatito2 says:

    I know Summer. She was the very last person anyone would have thought would take her own life. I will be in disbelief forever.


  22. My daughter also lost her only sibling. Her husband is an only child, so she is quite distressed that her future children will have no aunts, uncles or cousins at all. And she’ll never get to have a sister-in-law. This is painful for me on so many levels.


  23. I have nominated you for the The Liebster award


  24. gatito2 says:

    Thank you so much. It would be such an honor to receive that so I can get Kaitlyn’s message out there to be able to help others that suffer the way she did. Thank you.


  25. this has more information about it that I forgot to include


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