On Christmas Day in 2015, my friend Sasha Hettich committed suicide. I admittedly did not know her well. We met in a bible study at Cornerstone University, and I connected with her again when her daughter Ember was about four weeks old. The following is what I wrote about that time together.
(Written on Saturday, August 18, 2012)
When I let myself into Sasha’s house on Wednesday, things were even worse than I anticipated. Sasha, a college classmate of mine, had attended our local Postpartum Emotional Support Group the night before, and my friend and “groupie” Kelsey offered to visit her and help out with her four-week-old daughter, Ember. When Kelsey sent me an SOS text in the afternoon, I zipped over there as soon as my husband got home from work.
I found Sasha lying on the living room floor with one breast hanging out of her tank top. She had clearly been nursing recently but, despite being in a room with relative strangers, hadn’t bothered to put her shirt back on.
“How do I survive this, Karen? I’m not going to make it. It was a mistake to have this baby. I should just drop her off at the fire station. I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I don’t want to be here anymore.”
Without thinking, I climbed down onto the ground and lay next to her. I wanted to stroke her greasy, unshowered hair, but I remember how “touched out” I felt when Becca was a four-week-old frequent feeder.
I don’t remember what I whispered to her because it wasn’t me talking at all; God answered my frantic prayers to give me the right words to say, and He did not fail to give me more than I could ask or imagine. Kelsey sat on the floor behind us, clutching Sasha’s tiny daughter and crying softly as Sasha told us over and over and over again how much she just wanted to die.
How do you explain to complete strangers that their loved one needs more help right now than they are able to give?
Sasha’s mom arrived from Indiana soon after. She took one look at Sasha lying on the floor partially topless and embraced Kelsey and me. “I guess I should have come sooner, but I knew she was safe as long as she was with you two.”
The first night I attended the local Postpartum Emotional Adjustment Support Group back in June of 2011, the facilitator started the meeting by having the “veterans” introduce themselves. I was surprised by how many women continued to attend the group even though their struggle with postpartum anxiety/depression had primarily been resolved. And when Sasha asked how she can ever repay us for our help and support, I told her the same thing those veterans gave over a year ago as the reason they keep coming back: “Get better so you can go help other moms going through this too.”
Like I just did.
Sasha was hospitalized a few days later and soon slipped into full-blown psychosis as a side-effect of a specific medication. It was messy. But Sasha did get better. She was a fabulous mom. She went on to have another baby in July of 2015—a little boy named Gus. But when he was five months old, Sasha chose to end her life.
I promised her in 2012 she would get better. That promise is broken now.
And while that is not my fault—it’s not anyone’s fault—I want to keep the second half of that promise. I want to help other moms going through this. And I want even the tragedy of Sasha’s death to help other moms too.
I will fight. Fight with me. Please?