Dempsey Rice – Daughter Of Suicide

If You Are Feeling Suicidal Or Need To Talk Call The National Lifeline
1-800- 273-8255

I am so pleased to have Dempsey Rice start our “Share Your Story” series, and I hope that more of you will follow. In the meantime, as you will see, Dempsey is working on the wonderful project of putting together a 10th Anniversary version of her award winning documentary:
Daughter Of Suicide.
Dear Dempsey, thank you for sharing your story and good luck with this project and all the ones to come.

Lots of Hugs from Andrew’s Mummy, Esmeralda

"Young Dempsey with her Mother, Bonnie Rice"

Young Dempsey with her Mother, Bonnie Rice

When I wrote to Esmeralda, the host and writer of Forever Invictus, about my two young children, she sent me an email that read, “Little children, I remember… I wonder… was it really me and was it really them?” Her comment struck me because I’ve mused in this very way about my mother who took her own life in October 1987. I’ve thought to myself: Did my mother really take her own life? Is this really my life? My experience? Those musings are part of a little game I used to play with myself: if I question it, if I wonder about it, perhaps I can imagine that it didn’t really happen to me… that my mother didn’t really do it. … I could dream that she’s alive somewhere in this world…
But 23 years later I know that the only place my mother lives is inside me, inside my sister, inside her five Grandchildren, and inside the rest of her family and friends that loved her. She is alive in our memories and in the stories we share about her. She lives through the impact her life, and her death, had on all of us. She lives in my JOY and in my LOVE for my children.
During the first 10 years after my mother’s death I carried the heavy load of her suicide every waking moment. I struggled with my own depression and feelings of abandonment and my anger spilled over and spread throughout my life, but in the 10th year after her death something changed. I took the first step of what would become the single most healing journey I have ever made. In October 1997 I started making DAUGHTER OF SUICIDE, a documentary film (that was to eventually air on HBO) about my mother’s life and death and about how we (her family and friends) survived it.
My initial thought was to make a documentary about the grassroots suicide prevention movement that was growing out of the survivor community. I thought I was doing just fine: I had survived a suicide and I might be able to help others. Looking back, I see how naïve I was – I was not “fine” ten years after my mother killed herself, I was a mess! But in that moment, I thought I was a pillar of strength; as a result, I started videotaping family members and friends while talking to them about my mom. A good friend volunteered to interview me for the project and suddenly I was making a film.

I interviewed my father and sister, my aunts and uncle, my grandmother, a cousin and my mom’s best friend. I talked and talked about my mom and I asked questions: Who was she? What was she like as a child? As a wife? As a young mother? As a friend? My father told me about her post-partum depression, my grandmother talked about her as a happy and precocious child, and her best friend told me how supportive and open she was as a friend. I heard over and over what a GOOD friend she was, what a GOOD wife she was, what a GOOD child she was… despite the darkness that she struggled with.

I began to understand what a wonderful woman my mother was and started comparing the stories I was hearing with my own more recent memories of her depression and anger and eventual suicide. That last year of her life, and her eventual suicide, blotted out much of the happiness I felt as a child, but while making the film I was learning something new. I was asking questions and actually getting answers about all of her ups and downs. Good memories were coming back and it felt like she was speaking to me through friends and family. I was finally in conversation with my mother! It was exciting and devastating — the loss of her hit me all over again and the load of her suicide grew heavier as I moved forward documenting her life.

When DAUGHTER OF SUICIDE was released in early 2000 I was invited to be a guest on a few TV shows, I traveled to film festivals and it eventually premiered on HBO Signature. My pain, and my family’s pain, was out there for everyone to see and it felt surprisingly good! It was as if the making of the film released all of my demons. My load was suddenly lighter despite the fact that my mom was still dead, still a suicide. I’d stepped into her darkness and came out the other side brighter, happier and freer. I could GIGGLE again! I could laugh and smile and actually ENJOY living!

It has now been ten years since DAUGHTER OF SUICIDE was released into the world and I can see the impact it had on my life. It allowed me to take time and really examine every part of my mother’s life: the good and the bad. I was able to put everything under the microscope and focus on her — I saw the flecks of dirt and the pretty, shiny stuff and I was able to integrate her suicide into my life. I am no longer carrying the weight of it. Her suicide is just another part of me… a part like everything else. All of those interviews, all of that talking and all of that learning allowed me to let go of my bitterness and anger.

When people ask my advice about how to cope with a suicide I tell them what worked for me: to talk and ask questions and talk some more. Therapy – yes, support groups – yes, but most importantly – talk to the people who knew the person you lost. Talk to them about who that person was. Open a conversation with your lost one and talk until you can’t talk anymore. That conversation, in my experience, will eventually set you free.

"Dempsey Rice"

Dempsey Rice

About the Author
Dempsey Rice is a documentary filmmaker and mixed media artist in Brooklyn, NY. She lost her mother, Bonnie Rice, to suicide at the age of 18. Dempsey was a contributing member to the New York State Suicide Prevention Council, a public/private partnership that wrote the New York State Suicide Prevention Plan. Dempsey is currently putting together a 10th Anniversary DVD of “Daughter of Suicide.” If you are interested in donating to her efforts in exchange for a copy of the DVD please click here: You can learn more about Dempsey and her documentary at or email her directly at

If You Are Feeling Suicidal Or Need To Talk Call The National Lifeline
1-800- 273-8255


8 thoughts on “Dempsey Rice – Daughter Of Suicide

  1. Dear Dempsey, I always want to talk about Andrew, especially with my family. Yet it is difficult while everyone is grieving. Even my daughter, who is open and as talkative as me, says that she would like us to talk about something else. But I want to collect and save every stray memory, snippet of conversation, forgotten joke. I want to hear how others saw him, thus learning more about my son.

    • I am the same way Esmeralda. I don’t want anything about my son to get forgotten! But the way other family members are grieving keeps them from wanting to talk as much as I want to talk. Grrrrr… How can we as a family preserve the beautiful memories locked away in our individual experiences if we don’t talk? What are other ways to preserve those memories? During the first months after my son’s death, friends, family and acquaintences posted memories on a Facebook page. But that has long stopped and I know there are more precious memories hidden away. That makes me sad because I want to hear them; I want to know them. My son was a beautiful human being.

      • It took me ten years before I could really talk and learn and share about my mother. I hope it doesn’t take either of you that long… but some space can be good. Everyone needs time to heal from the terrible wound that opens when someone dies. Once some healing has been done and everyone has gained strength perhaps that is the time to talk?

        Many of us have small video cameras or digital audio recording devices… if you want to preserve the memories you could do your own small oral history project. Talk to people about your sons and record the stories… or write them down. Write letters to the folks that you feel might have memories that you’d like to keep and ask them to write you about those memories when they feel able…..

      • Okay Dempsey, now I know how you can help with the Fair. You could do a: “Preserving the memories” workshop. How about that?

    • (((((((Dempsey……))))) September either 26 or 18, in a GREAT location that I will announce as soon as we get the blasted permit.
      Six months today for us!

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