By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson/Southborough – Kathleen Laplante of Hudson appeared Feb. 11 at the Southborough Library for its ongoing author series and discussed her self-published book “Unraveling My Father’s Suicide.” In the memoir she writes, “Nothing in the world can change the fact that our two events came together on Jan. 24, 1983. My father’s death by suicide and my birthday were intimately woven forever.”
At the time, she was a junior at the University of New Hampshire. She celebrated her 21st birthday by going out with friends. Early the following morning she was awakened by unexpected visitors. Her sisters came to tell her of their father’s suicide the previous night. They intended to bring her back to their family home, but she decided to not go with them.
“I was disoriented,” Laplante recalled. “I eventually had an emotional breakdown and realized that I had to go home. I look back upon not going home right away and see it as an indication of how disconnected I was from things.”
Much of the disorientation was because she no longer knew her father intimately. He hadn’t lived with the family since around the time she was in the fourth grade.
“My father had disconnected from our family for the most part,” she said. “We didn’t know
about his personal struggles or his social celebrations.”
The reason that he took his life is also unknown, but there are theories, Laplante noted.
“He had been struggling with alcoholism and financial problems for quite some time,” she said. “Those are factors that we think contributed to it.”
Laplante acknowledges that she was initially in denial about the impact of her father’s suicide. She began seeing a psychiatrist to deal with the stress of work while raising children, and later going through a divorce. Ultimately, she spoke of her father’s suicide with the psychiatrist.
“It helped put things into perspective and take some of the shame away,” she said. “There’s a lot of shame associated with suicide and it’s not easy to talk with people about it. You always want to be proud of your parents and when that happens it’s very difficult.”
In time, Laplante did talk about the subject with friends and felt some comfort.
“There are a lot of people who haven’t had that experience, but they have had trauma in their life, so they could identify with my pain,” she explained.
Laplante credits a 1997 conversion back to Catholicism for helping her find faith and hope.
“It’s been a cornerstone for my recovery and my growth,” she said. “I was so unsettled and anxious about everything. Now, my religion has really given me a grounding to live the rest of my life.”
She has also reached out to the See A New Sun (SANS) Foundation, a suicide prevention organization. For the past three years, Laplante has raised funds and awareness by participating in its walk held in September in Littleton.
For over three decades, Laplante’s feelings about her birthday have evolved.
“I was really upset on my birthday for several years,” she shared. “It took many years before I came to the point that my birthday is about me, and it’s about the friends and family that I have. I celebrate that. I do think of my father. I say prayers and have a Mass for him, but it’s not like before when it was consuming me.”
“Unraveling My Father’s Suicide” is available at online booksellers Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. For more information, visit unravelingmyfatherssuicide.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/unravelingmyfatherssuicide.