How I experienced my father’s suicide…
and found the support I needed.
A True Story, Written By: Brenda
Dear friends & family,
This message is long overdue and it really hit me last night around 3am that it would be very therapeutic for me to put into words all that I have been experiencing over the past few months. Each of you have walked with me through this very difficult journey in the weeks leading up to my Dad’s untimely and traumatic end and I don’t believe I could ever have walked through without the support, encouragement and presence of my friends & family.
I wanted to write this to reflect on this horrific journey with suicide because it is something that still carries so much stigma in our society and I felt it important to describe our journey in the same manner as which we would have talked about his death had it come from heart disease. Through this, I must find a way to better equip myself and those I come into contact with to better manage our individual & collective mental health and be okay with reaching out for help when we feel unbalanced or just not ourselves.
There is not an hour that goes by during the times I am awake that I don’t think about my dad or the image of him in the garage at my parent’s home or the week(s) leading up to his death—replaying every conversation and thinking/agonizing over whether we did everything we could to help/save him. I have realized in my years of working in the ICU that we can’t save everyone but that is certainly harder when it is your father and you look on, helpless to figure out a way to lift this cloud of depression that had descended on my dad. I had said in late summer that I felt like I was mourning the loss of my dad-he was no longer the dad I knew…but never in a million years would have imagined him going down this path.
We all knew my dad was not in a good state of mind. He was over at my house on Sunday October 29th and we sat down with him and my mom and said we would do anything to help him get the care he needs. I told my dad that I would be over the next morning and we would go over his paperwork and I’d call his psychiatrist and his PCP to get some of his physical symptoms assessed. On Monday October 30, I got a call about my dad and felt he needed to be committed; I text my siblings and relayed concerns and my sister said said “he’s not going to like it but that is probably what he needs” so I mentally prepared myself for the task ahead. I was bent on getting breakfast, which delayed my arrival at my parent’s house. I drove up to my parent’s house minutes after my dad had taken his life. My mom didn’t know I was on my way and the garage door was open and as I parked. My mom calls in a distraught voice and said not to come in the garage, which I did and saw what no person on earth wants to see of their loved one. I did have a small sense of relief knowing my dad was no longer suffering. My first natural thought was “what if I had been here sooner? What if I hadn’t been so frivolous and stopped for breakfast?” But then I realized that those delays were part of God’s plan to protect me on a variety of levels; physically and emotionally.
I can now realize after many conversations with friends who work specifically in the mental health field and the gracious police officers who sat down and answered our questions about accessing guns etc; that someone my dad’s age is the highest group of people that ‘successfully’ carry out a suicide. Even recently over the holidays-we read about the heir to The Post who took his life in a similar manner to my dad (he was 69)…also think of Robin Williams…its Erik Erikson’s stages of development: Ego Integrity vs Despair and my heart breaks to think of my strong logical, level headed father being in a place of despair which is most certainly where he was. He was no longer the dad I knew.
Thank you for reaching out to me in the hours, days and weeks following his death and for the countless texts, phone calls, presence at my dad’s service and for offering distractions that help get me through each day. I am on a roller coaster and some days are better than others, when I am distracted and am in a place where I know I will keep on living and using the gifts that God has bestowed to me. I know that this has happened in my life for a reason; if it’s to be a better advocate for mental health and/or to continue to advocate for self-care. Only in the past year have I really been able to better understand myself and my introverted, highly sensitive nature. I am able to better accept/understand myself and know my limitations and set realistic expectations for myself and it is my hope that I can encourage people in their journey as well. I don’t know what the future has in store but I know that this event will shape me and hopefully make me more compassionate and cognizant of the people hurting around me.
I will close now-thank you for the therapeutic effect that this provides in allowing me to pour out my present feelings. I hope this experience equips me to be a more gracious & compassionate person and friend.
My deepest gratitude for your role in walking through this journey with me.