My father died from suicide 17 years ago this week — forever making March 10th my least favorite day of the year. And, just like clockwork, I find myself asking the same question again this year: How has it been so long?
But that sort of question is only natural any time you lose someone you love, isn’t it? And it’s especially true when you lose that loved one to suicide — one of the most sudden and cruel of deaths. After all, the world you’d known for so long (in my case, 21 years) is rocked and abruptly shifts forever; it’s a swift and painful jolt to everything around you that was once the bedrock of your life. What was once familiar and comforting is now foreign and confusing. What was once light and airy is now dark and heavy.
My father’s suicide is the demarcation of my two lives: Life with my dad and life without him. I feel like I’m looking at someone else’s life when I look at old childhood photos. There were times I was so angry with the world, but looking at these family photos just makes me miss him right now. For so long, I resisted feeling those conflicting emotions. How could I feel something like love and anger at the same time? I mean, I had to choose one, didn’t I?
Thanks to my wonderful therapist, I’ve come to embrace ALL the emotions, especially the conflicting ones. She helped me see that it’s OK to feel seemingly two opposite emotions together at once. All those feelings are part of the grieving process and we all know that grief takes as long as it takes.
Life with my dad was always an adventure — full of seeing, doing, exploring and discovering. He made sure that my disability didn’t stop me from experiencing everything this world had to offer, whether that involved carrying me to the water’s edge, holding me up so I could play a video game in the hospital or holding me on the merry-go-round.
I wasn’t always so open about my father’s suicide, but I’ve realized that silence only contributes to stigma. It’s important to say it and to talk about it. Thanks for always letting me talk (err, write) about it…
I’m grateful for those memories every day. I love you so much, Dad. You were the greatest…thank you for everything you taught me!!! xoxo
Carol Wong says
Wow, that is hard, My brother was an intern on a rotation taking care of children with kidney disease when he committed suicide.. i remember the long conversations we had, There will never be another per son like him, That was back in 1971.
Linda Fitzgerald says
Thanks for sharing these memories with us, Melissa. You have some great pics. I’m sorry your Father chose suicide, I wish he could have (would have) gotten the help he needed in dealing with his feelings/life. I don’t want anyone to hurt so badly..but it’s not always “easy” for some people to actually ask for help. Sending hugs to you!
Jennifer Wilson says
My heart goes out to you, Melissa. I look at these photos of you and your father and see the love between you. My cousin Sandy killed herself. She had three children under the age of five. The oldest, Sarah, found her mama. Sandy was a Deadhead- she made wonderful beaded jewelry that she sold on the festival circuit. I’ve passed along some of my pieces to her daughter. We all make sure to talk about Sandy, but I now see we haven’t done enough talking with her boys. The repercussions continue for everyone, 17 years later. I think the “what ifs” are the worst, so haunting, so unresolved. Hugs to you.
Kathy Ewing says
Thank you for using the term “died by suicide.” We commit a crime, commit adultery, commit a felony, commit arson, commit a sin, commit fraud, commit murder………and so on.
By using “commit suicide,” we’re blaming the victim.
My oldest daughter died by suicide at age 27. For 20 years, I never, ever wrote February 23 on any document, even propfessional work. I wrote “Feb. 22 + 1” on my notes or, usually, just the day before or the day after.
And, yes, by hiding it, we continue the stigma, so thank you for helping lessen that.
As you know, you never “get over it.” I’m so happy you were able to talk with someone. I’m impressed with what you learned about handling conflicting emotions.
Big hugs from Seattle……..
That before and after…I admire you so much for talking about it, and the complex feelings survivors carry with them.
You hit a nerve-sometimes I wish everyone who’s had such a loss could get together because it’s a lonely club to be in.
MARILYN A DENMAN says
My oldest daughter died by suicide about a year and a half ago. Thank you for talking about it. Life will never be the same again.
What a moving post. You are so right that talking helps remove the stigma. I like how you’re talking about it’s ok to feel conflicting emotions at the same time. Seems like that’s a hard concept to get your head around. Love your photos.