Landisa: I was 12 when my father killed my mother, brother and sister - here’s how I got through it

2020-03-23 22:52
Alicia Ramdharee

Alicia Ramdharee

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There is a stigma that surrounds suicide. The stigma is when people think that if you attempted suicide you are “weak” or “a coward”. What many people fail to realise, is that, people going through this aren’t really weak or cowards. A lot of people out there suffer alone, they are either scared to open up or to reach out for help. I have made this my mission and it’s my passion to help where I can.

It was a great loss for me when I lost my entire family when my father murdered my mother and my two siblings and then killed himself 20 years ago. I was 12 years old away on a holiday in Johannesburg while my parents and siblings were at our home in Durban. My dad on the 11 December 1999 shot my mum, sister and brother and then himself. I never knew his reason for choosing suicide. My life changed after this tragedy. I became a victim and a survivor of suicide. After the tragedy, I had to live with my maternal family. I was grateful to have a home and family to go to. But it wasn’t home.

I dreaded each day I breathed, each day I woke up with heartache and the words of people blaming me for their deaths. I cried to my heart’s content every night, it affected me throughout my adolescent years. I was in a world that was cold and I felt alone. Nobody understood me. My pain and that urge to surrender to my suicidal thoughts grew. However, I never had the courage to kill myself. A few cuts on the wrist and I would stop. I wanted to live but not without my family. As time passed it became harder to cope. Life without my family was difficult. I received counselling from professionals and school, but I didn’t feel helped. It didn’t give me that peace I needed, the answers to how I felt. Why I felt like dying? I felt my childhood trauma wasn’t dealt with properly. I forgave my dad for the pain I was left to deal with.

I was bullied in school for not having parents, children made fun of me. There was a time I slapped a bully because he had picked on my late mum. It was never easy living with family, you may think that it would be easier but I felt like a burden. Nothing I ever did was right, I had to stand up for myself. There were times I would watch my cousins threw the little holes in the cupboard, sitting with their parents and my heart would cry. Yes, I could join them but it wasn’t

my place nor my parents. I was finally legally adopted by my mum’s youngest sister, this too was a very rocky path. But I was grateful again, in my senior year I had changed schools and I had to adjust to this new environment. My first year of grade 11, I failed. Embarrassed but eager to try again and do well. I didn’t allow that to bring me down, I repeated and passed. Failure for me is a stepping stone in life.

Despite my traumatic past, I make the best of my life because it is so precious. If you understand what I have gone through as a child you will understand why.

I am stronger and ready to help others. I use my life’s lessons and my tragedy to help others move forward.

- This essay was published in partnership with the South African Anxiety and Depression Group (Sadag). 

Do you have a story to share? Send it to and include your contact details and a photo. Visit Landisa for more stories. 

Read more on:    suicide  |  landisa

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