When Emmy Hamlin lost her 15-year-old daughter, Alydia, to suicide in April 2019, she wanted to spread awareness so no other parent would have to walk through what she did.
“When you see that a young person dies, the first thing you want to know is what happened,” Hamlin, 40, tells PEOPLE. “And if I put shame and stigma on it, then how are people going to feel comfortable stepping forward saying, ‘I’m struggling with these hard feelings’? There’s nothing to be ashamed about.”
Advocating how people speak on suicide is one of many things Hamlin has leaned into since losing Alydia.
She also writes, paints, makes music and visits friends.
“I say the best cure for grieving is living,” says Hamlin, who lives in Kirkwood, Missouri. “Because I feel like Alydia kind of isolated herself, and I don’t want to do that with my grief. It’s almost like her depression just got transferred onto me.”
Licensed mental health counselor, Kelly Houseman, revealed to PEOPLE that studies have shown child bereavement by suicide or other causes imposes an approximate two-fold risk of suicide in their parents. Suicide bereavement is also linked to increased depression, anxiety disorders and marital breakups along with heightened shame and stigma.
“The self-blame, rejection and anger are probably some of the biggest reactions,” Houseman says, adding how people in these situations usually think, “How could I miss this? They seemed so happy. Even the day of, gosh, they were happy and smiling and we’d just had a conversation.”
For Hamlin and many others, therapy helps, along with online or in-person support groups specifically for parents going through similar situations.
Houseman says finding ways to keep their child’s memory alive is also healthy a way to heal.
It’s methods like the aforementioned that have helped Hamlin in the midst of losing Alydia, who was a high school sophomore who loved playing guitar and singing, had just started her first job at Smoothie King and was only weeks away from getting her driver’s license.
Hamline reveals that while her daughter did battle depression and was on Prozac — her death came as a major shock.
“I find comfort in every time I talk about her,” she says. “It’s therapeutic for me in its own way. Talking about her is like I get to visit her.”
Hamlin says that most days, she stays busy with friends and family, including her husband, Chris, her 14-year-old son, Keegan, and three stepsons — as well as keeping a blog about her healing process that she hopes to one day compile into a book.
“I wish a lot of things, but at the end of the day, I can’t change what happened,” she says. “All I can do is talk about it and hope that her impact reaches somebody else or that one other parent won’t have to go through this.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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