By Christina Galeone
When Hudson author Kathleen Laplante considers the moments she’s grateful for, she thinks about her two sons. She recalls the pride and joy she felt upon hearing the Columbia University engineering class valedictorian speech of her younger son, Alden, and upon seeing her older son, Kegan, complete a cross-country bicycle trip in Santa Barbara. She said she also treasures “every time my sons and I hug each other and say ‘I love you.’” Those moments were only possible because she survived a suicide attempt.
In her memoir, “Unraveling My Father’s Suicide,” she writes briefly about her suicide attempt and to a greater extent about her battle with depression that began after her dad took his life. In an effort to help others, she chronicles her brave – frequently painful – journey to try to comprehend the tragedy and how it and her father’s absence, alcoholism, anger and depression impacted the lives of their family. With unwavering candor and honesty, she also recounts her journey of healing, which leads her to the epiphany at the book’s conclusion that love is “the most powerful deterrent to suicide.”
Although Ms. Laplante said she never expected to write a book, when a friend encouraged her to expand a seven-page story into a memoir, she embraced the idea. In addition to wanting to help people learn about suicide – including how suicidal people think and how suicides can “cluster” in families – she wanted to promote healthy, much-needed discussion about the subject.
“I hope it will raise awareness of the social problem this is and make it easier for people to talk about,” said Ms. Laplante. She later added, “I am finding that people are looking for others to talk to about a suicide, an attempted suicide or someone they know who has been affected by someone else’s suicide or a suicide attempt.”
In an effort to encourage an open dialogue, the New Hampshire native boldly shares intimate details about the struggles she and her five siblings faced. But while she writes about the abuse and disrespect their mother endured because their father refused to get help for his alcoholism, at the end of most chapters she also included happier moments she had with her dad. Additionally, she looks with tenderness at his tragic childhood, which included losing his dad in a mysterious boating accident and being temporarily placed (part time) in an orphanage while his siblings remained at home. And, in addition to including a disturbing police report of her father’s suicide, she includes police reports – involving accidents and arrests – that illustrate her dad’s downward spiral at the end of his life.
But as she unravels each piece of the tragedy, she discovers revelations. Through these revelations and therapy, and through her return to the Catholic faith, she finds much-needed hope. She shares her ultimate hope that she and her siblings will pass on a legacy of life and love to their children, grandchildren and future generations.
Ms. Laplante hopes others can pass on the same legacy. She said it’s important for everyone to know the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and to talk respectfully and openly about suicide.
“Parishes can mention it in Prayers for the Faithful.… If there is a supporting nurse or medical program, give suicide ongoing attention with write-ups in the bulletin or support groups…,” suggested Ms. Laplante, who attends Our Lady of Perpetual Help Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Worcester.
In regards to friends and family with suicidal loved ones, she later added, “Other things that can help are to simply be a friend and compassionately listen. So is paying attention to your own capabilities to know when the situation is beyond you. Stay in tune with yourself, and make sure you don’t overextend yourself. Debrief with someone whom you can trust.”
She also offered words of encouragement for people who are suicidal and those who struggle with suicidal thoughts. In addition to finding a good therapist, who can develop a “multi-tiered coping strategy to use when depression and suicidal thinking arise,” she recommends that people be gentle with themselves.
“Hang in there. I know it sounds trite, but it is true. Things can get better. If you don’t believe it, believe in someone who believes it,” said Ms. Laplante, who writes about the truth of the adage that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
She added, “Seek out and take advantage of people who have been there before. Foster personal prayer. I found my conversion back to the Catholic faith was instrumental in my healing. It wasn’t quick, but it was reliable and grounding. I can’t imagine my life without it today.”