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Orphaned by suicide

Alicia Sewdass Ramdharee is a South African author, formerly from Durban, South Africa. In 1999, when she was just 12 years old, a tragedy claimed the lives of her entire family, which left her as the only survivor. Alicia is a warrior that continues to inspire and motivate wherever she goes. She recently self-published her Autobiography, Orphaned by Suicide: Life after losing an entire family to a Murder-Suicide.

It’s Monday!!! Here I am, getting ready for a Zoom interview. My hair is done, I have the perfect bottle green blouse and for the finishing touch, I need to put on some make-up. As I sift through my cosmetics, I stumble upon my mum’s red lipstick. In all the 22 years of having it, I have never taken a good look at it. It just lay there waiting to be used. My mum was a strong-willed, petite daintyfigured lady with a personality to match that beautiful smile. My mum loved the colour red. Tears begin to fill my eyes as I recollect memories of my past…

We were a happy family of five. I had 2 younger siblings and we loved having fun. I admired the love that my parents shared and hoped that, someday in my own marriage, I too could have what they shared.

Destiny has a funny way of making our paths rocky! There came a day when I had to say goodbye – not only to my dear mother but to my siblings and father as well. I was a 12-year-old who was left behind with endless unanswered questions. I learned on 11 December 1999 that my dad took the lives of my mum, siblings and then himself. A murder-suicide! One last phone call and that was it! What was going through my dad’s head at that point? Did he even think of me?! What about my siblings? They were just 3 and 8 years old respectively. My life hit the reset button. In an instant, what was a perfect life of 5 was now an upside down 1.

I never could understand what my dad must have felt, for him to go ahead with his murder-suicide mission. I mean, what point must you reach for you to pull the trigger? I was angry, I was blamed, I was cussed and cursed at by family members. Failures, multiples traumas and many setbacks followed in the years to come. I tried to make sense of my father’s familicide. I tried to understand, learn, heal, find peace and most of all forgive. This journey of understanding unfolded further after starting my own Suicide Awareness support group and getting my Autobiography published, “ORPHANED BY SUICIDELife after losing an entire family to a murder-suicide”.

We often hear… LOOK FOR RED FLAGS!… LOOK FOR SIGNS! These signs, just to name a few, are usually withdrawal from socialising, constantly talking about suicide or how much they wish to die, leaving notes of departing, living life on the edge and even self-harm. In hindsight, my dad never presented any of these signs. I call suicide The Silent Killer. In many cases people do not show signs of being suicidal or suffering from a mental illness. Some individuals are good at wearing the mask of “I am okay” way too well. I was that person who wore a mask. Nobody understood my trauma and nobody knew I was suicidal. Nobody knew how much I wanted to die. Living was such a curse to me. The pain of not having my biological family with me made each day harder. I wanted to be with them, up in the heavens. I felt lonely, cold, emotionless and the air around me felt thick. The walls locked me in and I sat in complete darkness. The more I was told “you killed your family” the more I wished to die. I went through depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and anxiety, without even knowing it at the time until years later. When you are in this state, alone with the walls and darkness, it feels like there is no way out. For me my only way was to kill myself. I guess my dad felt the same. I BELIEVE that this tragedy could have been stopped if my dad sought help from the right people! We underestimate the power of our minds! The mind is a very powerful tool. An excerpt from my Autobiography, Orphaned by Suicide:

“My silence grew louder when I was alone. I am glad I was able to turn down the volume and choose to continue, despite everything thrown at me. Living alone was a huge, huge, huge eye opener for me, not only mentally, but emotionally too. Some of my worst times came from being alone with myself, the person that everyone disliked.”

People do push you over the edge! I have experienced this first hand via social media with comments from my family. This was encountered immediately after I had published my autobiography. I remember it being my birthday and the first thing I saw on my social media feed was a photo of me drunk, which was taken at a family party that I had attended years ago. They had tagged people to have a good laugh about it. It was posted to show that I was never suicidal as I was happy with family. People had joined in to poke fun at me. People that I respected… mocked me! Their comments and insults made me wonder. Had I not been in the right frame of mind, I’d jump to my death, just to get away! How often does this happen to many others on and off social media? It is not only the pain that makes one suicidal but people amongst us that provoke and push individuals to do so! It’s peer pressure, stress, bullies, rumours, relationships and so much more. Toxic relationships are not healthy and these generational forced relationships need to stop!

I could never openly express myself for the fear of being ridiculed. People have no idea how much it takes for an individual to speak up. We need to be mindful; it is important that we think properly before we respond to others as we don’t know if they may be suffering from any form of mental illness…I can’t preach that enough! The tone and how we respond to others is crucial! I know we speak out of anger at times but try to refrain from trigger words. Far too often I’ve heard responses such as, “Are you stupid?!’, “You are so weak!”, “oh that’s the easy way out!”. Such lines, amongst many others, are triggers. You are causing more harm than help! The last thing a person wants to hear is any of the above. Instead, offer your support, provide helpline numbers, details of walk-in centres, offer to hear them out and just hold that space for them.

We should never be afraid to seek counselling when things become too much to handle. There are people trained to assist us finding the root cause and to provide techniques that may assist with helping us cope better. Other than a professional, it is also okay to speak to someone that has gone through it themselves. By sharing my experience, it has helped me to speak up, heal and at the same time help those who needed to hear my story.

Too often we pass judgement and attach labels to individuals. We need to educate ourselves and others so that we create a better, open and safe environment for those suffering from trauma and depression. Trust me when I say we try. This is real, it’s not fake or a show. And we are not looking for attention. It may be invisible but it sure as hell is THERE!

My advice to you – You are responsible for your life, make it a beautiful one! Working on yourself is the best thing you can do for YOU! Remember it is OKAY to NOT BE OKAY!

You Matter!

ORPHANED BY SUICIDE is available for purchase:

South Africa:

International: Amazon

eBook: Kindle

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