Strength in Pain: What I’ve Learned From My Father’s Suicide

Death is a weird thing to experience. Before it happened, I never really understood its full impact. I’d lost a great aunt, a few cats and a dog, but not a dad. No one tells you about how weird it is that one day they’re there; alive, beating, warm, and the next… gone. Obviously their clothes, car, wallet and shoes remain, but the body they belong to is no longer alive. Weird. Especially when you were talking to that certain body a mere ten minutes before this unnatural chapter would start.

Over the past year, this bizarre part of my life has taught me a lot:

  1. I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was.
  2. I’m my own worst enemy.
  3. I’m too hard on myself.
  4. Temporary feelings and situations are just that – temporary.

Nothing is permanent – that is the beautiful fragility of life. Things that have always been can change in an instant, whilst others can change how everything was before, making us question how we ever did without. If you’d have told me a year ago that my dad would kill himself and I’d be the one to find his body, I would have never believed you. “My dad? No. I mean, he gets depressed sometimes but killing himself? I don’t think so; he wouldn’t do that to us.” Back then I would’ve thought that I’d be an absolute mess upon finding him, never being able to function again after seeing a parent, let alone anyone, hanging from a door-frame.

After my dad’s suicide, people kept complimenting me on how well I’d dealt with it all, often saying that I was doing “amazingly”, which confused me. How am I supposed to be reacting? Is there a right way to grieve? Should I be grieving like my family? May it have been the fact that I openly spoke about my dad and my feelings towards his death? Is it because they didn’t expect me to be so vocal about the way he died?

Whatever the reason, I’m proud that I never blamed myself for my dad’s choice. I’m proud that I found the strength to avoid cashing into that mentality, as that would’ve been nothing but a downward spiral. Blaming yourself and thinking about what you could’ve or should’ve done is a toxic road to go down; guilt-tripping won’t do anything for your grieving process apart from make you feel wholly responsible and ruin your life – would not recommend.

I understand that dragging your mind through the grieving process is A LOT easier said than done, but it’s do-able – I’m living proof. Therapy had quite a bit to do with my mental improvement; it was an absolute game changer for me. Don’t get me wrong, I was coping okay on my own but instead of dealing with what happened to me, I threw myself into work and spent most of my time at my boyfriend’s; subconsciously not wanting to be in my house.

Therapy helped me feel. It helped me admit my own feelings to myself, challenging me in ways that threw me off after a good six months of hiding behind “I’m fine, it was his decision so I respect that”. Therapy made me question myself and taught me that it’s okay to deal with things differently to your family, that I don’t need to expect too much from myself and be lenient when it comes to the future. I put myself in a box before, thinking that I needed to sort myself out after 6 months because I should’ve accepted it by then. Why are we as humans so harsh on ourselves when it comes to personal growth?

This past year and a bit has taught me a lot. I really hope that this will be one of the worst things that life can throw at me; if I can cope with my father’s suicide, then lots of life’s other trials will be far less of a challenge. Ultimately, this experience has been life-affirming for me. My dad’s death made me appreciate how valuable yet short life can be and I’m going to live mine for him.

Written by Sophie Fisher

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