By Aimée McDonald
Like all deaths, the subsequent grief doesn’t disappear quickly. It rears its ugly head time and time again when you see a picture of the deceased, hear their favourite song, think about a memory you shared with them. And this time, the wounds of my grief have been to the ladies to freshen up because of the 2 year anniversary that marks my dad’s suicide. However this time, I’m choosing to help myself by writing this as way to express my anguish at one person’s fatal actions. And hopefully to help other people who have gone through the same thing as I have.
Aftermath of a Parent’s Suicide
He died on the 28th August 2015, and it blew my family apart. My mum lost her ex-husband (and although they were divorced, she still cared for his wellbeing). My grandparents had to see their child die before them, my aunt lost her brother. All the fear and heartbreak and anger that we all feel is so difficult to put into words. But if you’ve experienced a loss like this, then you’ll know how I’m feeling.
Before he died, we finally told each other the details of our mental illnesses. So when he took his own life, I felt like he had left me to deal with those problems by myself. Why would he tell me everything and let me confide in him and then decide to die? Surely by that point he would’ve realised that he wasn’t alone? But depression is irrational and fickle. I couldn’t expect his problems to vanish into thin air just because I let him know that I had them too. I can’t put the blame on him, because suicide is not a selfish act.
The Questions I Ask
I ask myself questions like that all the time. Along with a long list of other ones when I remember that heart-wrenching night. You may ask yourself similar ones:
1) ‘Will I have the same fate as him?’
I’ve had many episodes of depression and every time it comes back I always think, ‘okay I have the ability to get over this one, but what about when it comes back again? Will I ever get over it? Will I end up just like him?’ Mental illness runs in my family, making my final verdict seems even more inevitable. Although, there’s a difference between him and I: he denied help all his life, he was a ticking time bomb, and it was only a matter of time before he exploded; he couldn’t be fixed. Yet I’m only 18 and have received 3 lots of therapy which has helped me a great deal. And so the message I want to put across is that if you don’t deny help, then your fate is not sealed like his was; there’s hope for all of us.
2) ‘Was it my fault?’
I didn’t have the closest relationship with my dad. That was no secret to anyone. He was a mentally abusive person; sometimes I don’t think he realised it himself. We were always treading on eggshells around him, and the day before he died, I stopped doing that. I stood up to him by telling him that I felt like he never listened to me and that he was never on my side. He looked hurt, but I genuinely thought he would get over it. Turns out he didn’t, because he took his own life the next day. When my mum first told me he had died, the fear and guilt was suffocating; physically painful. I’ve never felt anything like it.
Since that day I always think whether the outcome would’ve been different if I had just kept treading on those eggshells. Because even though they hurt my feet, they still didn’t hurt as much as the aftermath of a parent’s suicide. But in the end, I have to keep reminding myself that no single person is to blame. It wasn’t ALL my fault. What people don’t realise is that suicide is such a complicated thing. So it’s quite rare that only one person is the reason for a suicide occurring. Inevitably, this thought process always leads to my next question:
3) ‘If it wasn’t entirely my fault, then who else is to blame?’
Blaming someone can make us feel better and give us a better chance of achieving closure. But achieving closure isn’t always done in the healthiest way. My ex-step-mum left us a few months before he died. She had always had a volatile, toxic, and abusive relationship with my dad. They were always arguing, always tearing each other down. She texted him some vile things the night before he died. So that had a massive involvement in the matter of why he did it. That’s the reason I can’t talk to her anymore. I’m angry. I blame her. It makes my blood boil that she’s been able to move on with her life by moving back to her home country (the US) with her family. Now she has a new boyfriend (who she met less that a year after my dad died) and has recently given birth to twins. Why should she have a happy ending while my family is left to pick up the pieces?
I go as far as blaming my ex-step-mum for my mum developing PTSD from the incident, and for why my grandad can’t be left alone anymore in fear of what he’ll do to himself because his grief has completely destroyed him. She left us with nothing and she got everything. I think it’s normal for us to blame people when something so horrific happens. Even though I want to talk to her and let her know that she’s to blame, I also know that I can’t because I wouldn’t be a moral person if I did. Even though I may well spend the rest of my life trying to figure out the exact reason as to why he left me, I just have to accept that that fact simply can’t be known to the people suicide victims leave behind because there may have been other reasons that nobody else knew about. She may have been the one to push him over the edge, but there were other events building up to it that she can’t be blamed for.
4) ‘Do I want him back?’
This question makes me feel the most guilty. Because even though people say it’s normal to feel relieved that someone has died (and it is normal), it still makes me feel like a heinous person. It’s not that he was a burden; I would never give him that label. Instead, I wouldn’t want him back because he did hurt me a great deal. Like I’ve previously mentioned, he was an abusive person. His illness made him so insecure that he felt the need to always drag people down into his ocean of sadness so that he wouldn’t drown.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss him. I miss his good personality traits, just not the bad ones. I miss walking along the beach with him, getting ice cream, playing cards, having lazy days where we would watch movie upon movie and never get bored. Now all I can do is cherish the good memories, and try to block out the ugly ones.
Finding the Positives
However, it’s not all bad. My experiences have led me to make positive changes within my community concerning suicide. I’ve been volunteering at my local Mind charity shop over the past year, and have done many fundraising events at my school to raise awareness for mental health. I’m most proud of the fact that I used the money I won from my Jack Petchey award to set up a ‘health and well-being’ room in my sixth form. So that people who are having mental health issues have somewhere to go to relax, do some colouring therapy, light some candles, listen to music and talk to a student support officer if they want to.
This has been one of the ways I’ve dealt with losing my dad, so even though something terribly awful happened, I’ve managed to live through it. You can too, if you want to. It’s okay to feel hurt, or fearful, or angry, sad, depressed, guilty, overwhelmed, relieved, anxious, helpless. But there must come a time where you search for positive things in the world again, and start to believe that there will come a time where you’ll achieve happiness. I’m not saying you should forget the person who died. Instead remember the joyful memories you shared with them, and the positive aspects of their personality. It’ll take a hell of a long time to find peace of mind, but it’ll happen one day.