|EQI.org Home | Teen Suicide | Saving Jessie | Emotioanally Abusive Mothers
a Glass Wall - The Anatomy of a Suicide
These notes are from this
book about a mother who wrote a book after her daugher
killed herself.. Dorothy is mother, Zoey is daughter.
They remind me of the book
written by another mother - Saving Jessie, which I re-named, Poisoning
really know her daughter
p.4. Dorothy goes
through Zoes boxes filled with journals,
letters, papers, photos, etc. She says, I had
no idea that youd kept this stuff; you were
such a private person.
Notice how she calls
her a "private person". But she doesn't
understand why her daughter stopped sharing the truth
with her. I say "stopped" because children
naturally want to share things with their parents. They
only stop when they are afraid of telling the truth, for
one reason or another. They could be afraid of
punishment, judgment, disapproval, rejection, not being
understood, being invalidated, or hurting their parents,
from her father
Confusing cause and effect or
"The chicken and egg problem"
From a letter the mother wrote to
one of Zoe's friends
In her heart ZoŽ hates
herself. She turns her hate outward to her parents
Compare this to what Zoe herself
I hate myself because
I profoundly loathe my parents
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says of her daughters suicide:
It is murder and I
remain enough of a Jew to remind you of the commandment
which says, Thou shalt not kill, even if
murderer and victim is the same person. How could that
happen? How could you kill anyone even
Daughter has learned to be
a good actress
...outwardly you seemed
happy and successful, inwardly you were grappling with
Mother trying to
The mother says, speaking
to dead Zoe,
...in so much of what
you wrote in your twenties, when outwardly you seemed
happy and successful, inwardly you were grappling
with demons. You gave them human faces; they resemble
people you knew including your parents.
It is unclear what the
mother actually thinks the "demons" are but she
does an admirable job of poetically evading any
responsibility and painful truth.
Here is an excerpt the mother
offers us from the mother's journal where she is
wondering who or what is to blame for her daughter's
How much of this rage was due
to the family she grew up in; inevitable mistakes
parents make; how much due to faulty chemical firing
messages in her brain that shook her out of reasoned
Notice the "inevitable
mistakes parents make" part. But is abuse, let's say
sexual abuse, part of those "inevitable mistakess
parents make"? This would be like a father saying
that him having sex with his own daugther was just one of
those "inevitable mistakes parents make." So if
sexual abuse is not considered one of those
"inevitable mistakes parents make," then what
about extreme emotional abuse and neglect?
The argument that all parents make
mistakes and this is simply "inevitable," so
therefore we shouldn't try to ever either
a) train and educate them or
b) hold them accountable
is the kind of ting that Nigel Latta, a TV psychologist in New Zealand woud have
us believe. He says things like "All parents screw
up their kids. Tha's our jobs..."
This book makes me think
about a video I recently saw about hypothermia. A young
man in New Zealand died because of hypothermia on a
hiking trip with his friends. There was an official
investigation, including a courtroom case, but no one was
found guilty of anything. His friends did things they
regretted later, and made what turned out to be
unintentional but fatal mistakes. But no one was found
guilty of his murder or even being an accessory to it.
Obviously when there is an
actual murder trial, people are looking for the guilty
party. Yet when there is a suicide there is rarely, if
ever, any such legal investigation, and no one is
typically found guilty of anything.
In this book we see that
the mother had access to a lot of relevant information.
But no third parties were involved, except perhaps those
who suggested she not publish the "hurtful"
things she found. We don't know what she didn't publish.
We do know, though, that she threw away at least one
thing which was too painful for her - the pictures which
her daughter had cut. Why these were so painful to the
mother, one can only guess, but the mother admits that
they were too much for her to bear, so she got rid of
them. What if there were other notes and bits of evidence
that she also found too painful to bear? What if they
would help us understand the reasons for Zoey's suicide?
An immediate problem I see
is that if we tried to apply the typical, punitive,
adversarial legal system to a youth suicide, the parents
would obviously be afraid of being found guilty and
prosected and punished. They would have more incentive to
destroy any potentially incriminating evidence before the
police or investigators got to it. As I have asked
before, would they they be guilty of obstruction of
justice similar to destroying evidence in a criminal
Rather than create these
legal complications and incentive to destroy evidence and
lie, it would be much better to encourage the parents to
come forward with the truth. I am not sure yet how this
could be done, but one thing which would clearly help is
to remove the threat of punishment. On one hand, a caring
parent who loses a son or daughter to sucide will feel
enough pain. On the other hand, if a parent knew that
they could be accused of emotional abuse or emotional
neglect contributing to a suicide, perhaps they would be
more motivated to get outside help in time to prevent a
loss of life. (See Parental Liability in Suicide)
Guilt creates pain. Too
much pain leads to suicide. For some guilt and guilt
trips is "effective" - ie getting desired
behavior. But for others it is "debilitating"
or damaging, weakening, painful. Person feels unworthy.
Feels bad about themselves. Too much feeling bad leads to
self-hatred. Person could believe others are better off
without them - ie they just cause pain, problems.
understanding is painful. For some, understanding is more
important. Probably for the more intelligent
"breeds" of people, like different breeds of
dogs - ie malamutes.
The mother calls herself a
Jew. She believes people should obey the ten
commandments. But it would be understandable if Zoey saw
the inconsistency or hypocrisy between saying "Thou
shalt not kill" and seeing how the Israelis kill the
Palestinians on a regular basis. Or how parents were
instructed in the Old Testament to stone their own
children to death. Deuteronomy 13:6-11 and Deuteronomy
18:21 (See below) It would be understandable then if this
kind of thing was one of the undoubtedly many things
which cause her painful confusion.
Dorothy, tells the story of her daughters life, who
killed herself by jumping in front of a train (when she
was about 27 I think)
p.4. Dorothy goes through
Zoes boxes filled with journals, letters, papers,
photos, etc. She says, I had no idea that
youd kept this stuff; you were such a private
Out of many entries
that read, chatted with Mum, I cant
recall whether the chats were fruitful
and loving or whether we argued.
p5. She guesses that maybe
the papers Zoe left behind were both a present and
From a young age,
you had a wickedly sharp way of slicing through
pretension. A least one person, amongst those few to whom
Ive shown some of your writing, has said,
dont print what she wrote, its too
hurtful. And in so much of what you wrote in your
twenties, when outwardly you seemed happy and successful,
inwardly you were grappling with demons. You gave them
human faces; they resemble people you knew including your
After your death,
well-meaning people trotted out clichťs: that we had
given you a happy
childhood; that we had done the best we could; that you
knew we loved you and so on.
She says of her
It is murder and I
remain enough of a Jew to remind you of the commandment
which says, Thou shalt not kill, even if
murderer and victim is the same person. How could that
happen? How could you kill anyone even
notice the guilt trip
She goes through all of
Zoes papers, looking for clues as to why she killed
In the boxes, amongst the photographs are several
pictures of horses and ponies. The top half of the rider
has been cut out; you were the rider. It looks odd and
nasty the silhouette of a horse with only your
lower leg. Why did you do that? The photos frightened me;
I tore them up.
The anger that you must have felt against yourself,
us, the world, is mirrored in the anger we feel against
you, ourselves, the world.
Having read and reread your papers, I have learned
aspects of your nature that I never guessed when you were
alive. She repeats several times throughout the
book that Zoe hid her feelings (especially of fear) and
she only learned about them after her death when reading
P.5-6. She wonders about the cause of Zs
Brain malfunction, hereditary weakness, bad
childhood experiences, inadequate parenting - all of
these or simply none bad luck alone, a
P.6. Dorothy says that searching through the letters and
journals is her way of acceptance. Says she wants to
publish the book to help others suffering from the
same illness as well as parents.
Draining inadequacy she and her
husbands feelings about Zs suicide
Writing down blunders and mistakes or efforts
doesnt erase them. But I want and need to tell
this story for you [Zoe] , for me and for the
She tells the story of Zoes life from the
beginning, including extracts from her letters and
journals at different stages of her life.
Z was born in india.
P.11.Parvati, the ayah, treated ZoŽ as if she were
her own child. I was too occupied with parties, horse
riding and buying silks to wonder whether ZoŽ believed
that Parvati was her real mother. Years later we read
about that experiment in which baby chimps were given
milk from wire framed models of mothers but cuddled by
soft cloth imitation mothers. The baby chimps grew to
prefer the cuddling mothers to the milk-giving ones. I
never related any of that to how ZoŽ was treated. I fed
her but Parvati cuddled her.
Parvati the ayah would say how much she longed for
a daughter and fair-haired Baby-ji [Zoe] seemed a
harmless fantasy substitute. I would breastfeed the baby
with Parvati hovering at my side ready to whisk her away
for changing nappies, love and cuddles. Baby-ji adored
her and would stretch out her arms to be carried
Walter didnt like our children being waited
on but I said that it would make them self-confident
like Edwardian aristocrats.
Certainly as a baby ZoŽ had every whim catered for
and was never left to cry.
We moved to France when ZoŽ was almost two. For the
first few months she cried a great deal,
unlike the smiley baby photos taken on the pile of red
cushions on the veranda in New Delhi. It never occurred
to us to wonder whether separating from the ayah had
Once we had moved to Vaugenlieu, she had grown out of the
difficulties shed had when she was two. She had
learnt the lesson that no one was exclusively available
P.14. When The Guardian sent Wal back to London after
nine years in France, she never complained at losing her
friends and leaving her dog behind. We only learnt years
later that ZoŽ felt let down because we had sold her
p.15 We learned many years later that her first months in
England were miserable with
homesickness for France; she never told us.
MylŤne, one of her long time best friends said at
Zs funeral: You were looking for perfection
and for a world which does not exist. Of course, this
impossible quest made you angry and
p.16 D said of her daughter: Her manner of seeing
through pretension became and remained one of her most
appealing qualities. No one could bullshit ZoŽ.
Her judgements could be harsh
We found a scrap of
paper in one of ZoŽs boxes, written after a
weekend spent with hergrandparents. She was fourteen. I
dont come out of it too well either.
Z writes: [grandmothers] superior airs were
ridiculous because she couldn't carry them through. When
she spoke she spoke in what she thought was a grand tone
and very slowly to give importance to her words. She had
gone into a fantasy life because her own world was and
had been boring for years. All her stories were of
self-glory, self-love and self-adoration. Never we but I.
My own mother has inherited quite a few of her
mothers mannerisms, which always annoys me. And
often she bears that same silly expression of
self-importance that she cant even look people in
Z says at fourteen I could see through them. Like
transparent children they sat before me.
Z says (of her grandfather and grandmother) He had
let himself be dominated. You couldnt speak to him
without her butting in and answering instead of
D said That ZoŽ was more reserved than the rest of
us was accepted, rarely discussed.
We were noisy, argumentative and full of ourselves.
P116. It was true that I have never responded much
to childrens petty complaints and tears. If they
cried I told them to shut up. I encouraged them NOT to
P79. D attempts to analyse Zs writing. The
swing refers to her mood swings, as she is
diagnosed as being manic depressive:
Then the swing rises
so high that ZoŽ loses her ability to think straight and
she blames those she loves
Yet does she love her parents? In her own words, Zoe says
Sometimes, I wish Id never been born. I am so
angry. I hate myself because I profoundly loathe my
Letter From Her Father
My dear ZoŽ,
I am deeply sorry that you arrived home on Friday
apparently gay and
bubbly and that an
incessant inquisition from a disapproving family reduced
you to misery
humiliation, fury and finally to a precipitate departure.
Could we not
have been more charitable, less heavy as you put it to
accept you on
your own terms?
We are heavy no doubt, as seen by a brilliant 20 year-old
in a faster more dangerous and unpredictable world. None
of us could
make head or tail of your accounts of your life. One can
efforts to understand and help a daughter living in a way
disapprove of, but first you need to know whats
going on and it took
until late Saturday night before we felt we had even a
Even that wasnt the real problem, which is this:
impression left by your visit was that we werent
getting the real
ZoŽ. The real ZoŽ is beautiful, full of affection, fun
laughter,sensitive, loving animals and children and
music, bright but
with no pretence of being free from any problems like
your work blocks
or the anxieties that go with growing up in an imperfect
That ZoŽ has been ill, depressed and then over-the-top
never getting the balance
right as yet. That same ZoŽ well or ill, successful or
not, thin or
fat, happy or miserable has the love and sympathy of a
family and a
wide circle beyond.
What we got this weekend was a stranger, an
impersonation. It was
phoney; a hard-faced, calculating stranger presenting a
of money, sex and cynicism with a hint of violence and
We all felt that you have come to hate yourself and we
want to help
you and if possible prevent
emotional decisions in the spirit of self-hatred. In the
future is the question of you resigning.
If you do resign well do anything we can to help
you but are you
really sure? The alternatives strike me as harder as and
problematic than staying on as you are and attempting a
We all love you and so does Zac. It was grief at seeing
phoney Zoe instead of the
real one that made him unreasonable. He was trying to
punish you for
not showing him the ZoŽ he
knows and adores
How much do you think she felt
loved and understood when she read this?
Then the mother writes
What efforts Walter made - not easy for him - not
a person who likes
talking about his family to outsiders. But like me,
he persisted in
believing that rational persuasion would work
eventually. After ZoŽs
disastrous December visit, he wrote to Dr Baloch, the
psychiatrist in Colchester. A copy of this letter
turned up in ZoŽs
Personally, I am not too impressed with the father's
Next the mother shows us the letter dad wrote to the
Dear Dr Baloch,
Dorothy and I are frightened and anxious about what
the future holds
for our daughter
(The mother adds that her husband "recounted
ZoŽs fantasies of being rich and successful."
This suggests to me that neither of them took her
seriously, a pattern I am sure was repeated innumerable
times during Zoe's life.)
In reality she is penniless, has run up debts and
borrowed money on
every occasion. She tells us that she is
We suggested that she move back home and offered to
buy her a caravan
for more privacy.
She refused saying that she wants to live in Bristol. The
changes, sometimes she will be kept by a boy friend
in other versions she is to live on the dole.
.We want to pay for private psychotherapy and have
given ZoŽ the name
of a practitioner in Bristol.
So far she has not taken this up.
We fear two possibilities: either a relapse into
depression, or yet
more extravagant behaviour
resulting perhaps in drugs, AIDS venereal disease or
We do not know what to do. ZoŽ appears to respect
yourself and Dr Fu.
She is of course an
adult and we have no authority. I have written this
letter because she
is persuasive enough to tell you that nothing very much
is wrong, that
she left her studies because she had changed her mind
about them, that
she is quite happy about her future plans, etc
In the hospital notes, there is no record of any reply
from Dr Baloch.
None of this helped. Zoe came home at the end of term.
That was a
dreadful Christmas. She arrived,
presenting a vulgar image in leather skirt and
and told us stories, elaborated in detail, of her working
brothel. Her very expression had changed, becoming hard
The family were stunned.
I gave her an ultimatum, either give up the idea of
living as a tart
in Bristol or leave Greenacres.
She said that she would leave.
The day after she left, I wrote in my journal.
I dont know how to pitch this. Im so tired I
cant think. It 2.30 am.
I told ZoŽ on Sunday morning either you give up the idea
of being a
tart in Bristol, stay here and go to Israel or else you
welcome at home. So she went.
She said if love was conditional on my sharing the same
values as her
it wasnt love. Love must be unconditional.
She never contacted us all Sunday or Monday and I have
myself at the harshness of giving an ultimatum to a sick
I dont understand the dynamics of what she is
doing. Last night spent
from 1-3am puzzling over her behaviour and our behaviour.
an overwhelming sadness and a rage, how can this
have happened to us?
|Acceptance and Bible
Here is something from our Encyclopedia
of EQI.org topics
long ago someone brought something to my
attention which helps us understand the
deep-seated insecurity in our modern, Western
world. It was a passage from the Bible that said
if your children dont believe in your god,
then you should kill them. The actual quote is
If your very own brother, or your son
or daughter, or the wife you love, or your
closest friend secretly entices you, saying,
Let us go and worship other gods
(gods that neither you nor your ancestors
have known, gods of the peoples around you,
whether near or far, from one end of the land
to the other), do not yield to them or listen
to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them
or shield them. You must certainly put them
to death. Your hand must be the first in
putting them to death, and then the hands of
all the people. Stone them to death, because
they tried to turn you away from the LORD
your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out
of the land of slavery. Then all Israel will
hear and be afraid, and no one among you will
do such an evil thing again.
is about as far as you can get from accepting and
approving of your children.
Another section, by the way, instructs parents to
kill disobedient children:
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who
does not obey his father and mother and will not
listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his
father and mother shall take hold of him and
bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.
20 They shall say to the elders, "This son
of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not
obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard."
21 Then all the men of his town shall stone him
to death. You must purge the evil from among you.
All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
Of course, nowadays killing your own children is
totally socially unacceptable and even illegal.
Yet being aware of these historical writings
helps us understand our current social problems
in terms of our general fears and insecurities.
If children had to live in such fear of their own
parents, they could only grow up to be insecure
as adults. And it was not only the parents which
people had to fear in those days, but there was
always the fear of judgment by other adults and
death by stoning. These fears and insecurities
must have certainly been passed down from one
generation to the next. Although we have
progressed in many ways socially, there is still
a tremendous amount of judgment, punishment, and
Acceptance begins in the family and schools. A
helpful question then, which parents and
counselors can ask children and teens is
How accepted do you feel from 0-10?
The answer and explanation will provide valuable
feedback when taken seriously.