Finding Forgiveness After Decades of Guilt by Gail Eisenberg

Wellness with a Wow

Finding Forgiveness After Decades of Guilt by Gail Eisenberg

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic.

My college friend, Gail Eisenberg agreed to share the following excerpt from her forthcoming memoir on the Divabetic blog:

Visceral congestion, pending chemical examination.

Decades later, those five words on a mustard-yellow death certificate were the only explanation I’d had for my mother’s demise in May of 1980, when I was 14. The question remained: Had my mother killed herself? Without proof, I would allow myself to waver. I convinced myself that uncertainty was better than having to say goodbye. But about 10 years ago, as I approached 40 — the age Mom was when she died — I needed resolution. I was determined to ground myself in facts. I dialed New York City’s chief medical examiner to request a copy of her autopsy report.

Within two weeks, I held the legal-size pages folded tightly in thirds. As I read, I imagined my mother’s toe-tagged body draped in a crisp white sheet as it slid out from the metal chamber, the glint of the scalpel, the snap of latex gloves. The pages of the report included terms I didn’t understand, quantities I couldn’t comprehend, body parts I didn’t know existed. My mother described à la carte.

Then: Final cause of death: Acute propoxyphene and diazepam toxicity. Suicide. 

My list of socially marginalized affiliations grew — motherless, gay, only child, suicide survivor. I thanked God I wasn’t left-handed. I felt sad, yet satisfied. Until I saw something on the document I’d somehow missed:

Notes found at scene to be brought to mortuary.

“Did Mom kill herself?” I’d asked my father many times over the years, wondering if he’d protected me from the truth at 14, hoping he’d tell me at 40.

“I don’t think Mama meant to do it that day,” he’d reply. “All the medications she was on caught up to her.”


Gail Eisenberg is a New York City-based freelance writer who is working on a memoir, from which this essay is adapted.

A common method of suicide attempt in people with diabetes includes uses of high doses of insulin or other medications to treat the disease.

How widespread is insulin suicide?

According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, an analysis of overdose-related calls to a poison center suggested that 95 percent of insulin overdoses were deliberate. READ MORE

We’re discussing ‘Diabetes & Suicide’ on Diabetes Late Nite podcast with guests, Dr. Beverly S. Adler PhD, CDE, Patricia Addie-Gentle RN, CDE, Neva White DNP, CRNP, CDE, Poet Lorraine Brooks, Author Kim Boykin, the founder of, Marina Tsaplina and Mama Rose Marie. LISTEN

If you’re thinking of suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is avaiable 24/7 across the U.S. Call the National Suicde Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255

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