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…