November is obviously the main month of the year in which we are all to be thankful, in whatever capacity we deem best for ourselves. I can list off plenty of things and people I am thankful for: my siblings, sister-in-law, nieces, my best friend and boyfriend, second family, my dogs, cat and the newly acquired neighbor’s chickens that are always in my yard, rollerderby, Pepsi and Swedish Fish.
See, that wasn’t so difficult. It seems easy to be thankful for things and people in your life that make you happy, but what about being thankful for losing someone? This makes me sound like a bad person, but if you will hear me out, it might change some perspectives and what exactly different types of thanks can be.
This month houses International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. It’s a day meant for people to gather and find a sense of healing by sharing stories with others. Last year I went to my first ISSLD and it forever changed my Novembers, what I am thankful for and what I was finally able to let go of- forever.
2015 marked a decade since my father died by suicide, caused from many factors. Last year at this event, I was finally able to admit many things that I held on to since age 16. Things that if said to the average person not affected by suicide, could hardly understand. Things that sound so harsh, yet need to be said.
I am going to share something I posted last year on Facebook after attending my first ISSLD. It’s something I deleted, re-wrote, had a pounding in my stomach about, cried over, called my ‘feeshter’ about to gain perspective over whether or not I am a bad person for sharing this information and finally decided to put my truth and feelings out there. I have been aching with these thoughts since my teen years, but I was never able to put them into words.
Here we go:
November 22, 2014
Today is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. I am celebrating today for my father. I love you. I miss you. I am still grieving for you and I am still working on my forgiveness for you. I accept the reasons of why. I try my damndest to honor you. I understand things others cannot see about you. I share your disease. I cry out of anger more so than hope. I have internalized this pain and doubt 5 months shy of a decade from losing you.
Today I viewed a video and heard a remark that shook me during the support group meetup I attended. A woman stated she felt ‘relief‘ after she lost a loved one to suicide. I thought of that statement and how careless her words sounded, until I really thought about what she meant and how she used the word relief to her certain perspective.
Today after years of shouldering blame from those who didn’t live how we did, whom felt myself, siblings and mother had some part of driving our dad to suicide, years of hearing “I’m sorry” because telling someone your own father shot himself left them speechless to say anything else. For years instead I told random people who knew nothing of me that my father died from natural causes because at first, being 16 onward, I was ashamed to be viewed as a freak, crazy or the daughter of a statistic and even more afraid of being viewed as a person who had to be watched over. Well, I am effing crazy but I am alive to admit that.
Today I am announcing that I am indeed relieved that my father ended his life. Relieved because no amount of medicine nor doctors could help him. Relieved because he is not in physical nor mental pain any longer. Relieved because I don’t have to worry about him wrecking his motorcycle again. Relieved because there are no more threats from him ending not only his own life, but ours as well. Relieved because I don’t have to call 911 on him anymore. Relieved because he finally did what he threatened to do since I was just a goddamn child. Relieved because he truly is a soul that is whole, finally. Relieved because I truly do know the full extent of his crazy love he had for us. Relieved because today sharing your memories I only focused on the grand ones and people saw my humor I have from you. Relieved because I should not feel ashamed to feel this way.
Think what you may. View my words how you will. Today I might just be able to forgive a part of my father and that makes me relieved.
Today I also took home a sand art ornament that myself and others made together by sharing a memory of our lost loved ones and pouring in different colors of sand. I chose white since there wasn’t black or red sand for Huskers and blue because the two colors together reminds me of Christmas lights dad would hang up.
Relief-one should not feel weighted down to feel this way.
—And now, nearly a year later and rereading my own exact words, I feel such a sting towards this person that would say this. How can someone feel relief from someone, especially one’s own father choosing to end their life? Well, it did not happen overnight and it has been the most courageous moment of my life to admit this feeling and to finally not feel like a bad person for having such a different take on a disease then most and letting go of the weight that his death has held over me. I can justify my relief because I am still here, walking around with his DNA within.
I recall being afraid to check the new comments and wondering who would be offended by my word choice but something my brother wrote back on the post held me at ease. “Dad had an illness and battled it for a long time. Some people will read this and be mad, some will be happy, some will not understand. Hearing him say he would do it, we never knew he would. The spirits of the dead are kept alive in the memories of the living.” I knew plenty wouldn’t get it, and that was OK- because I knew some would.
I learned from ISSLD that, time does heal some of the pain that was given after losing someone by suicide, but it doesn’t bring someone back. You are allowed to feel and cope and find support from people dealing with the same pain! We hear it all the time ‘suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.’ I do not feel this way. There is no way to get into the mind of someone who has this feeling marinating within that can be caused by many factors. We do have a right to be angry and say things like ”maybe there was more I could of done,” but sometimes there just isn’t anything more anyone can do–and the blame game doesn’t solve a thing. However, my father’s issues were not temporary; they were life-long and profound to the extent that they took over the man I called ‘Pops.’
I grew up watching my father trying to be the best damn dad there was, and somedays failing miserably by his choices and others being a dad I didn’t know because of his disease. Being asked by him to flush his medicine down the toilet at age 9 or so because he ”didn’t need medicine” because he “didn’t have a problem” is a moment I recall almost daily. I saw sides of him that make me afraid to look in a mirror somedays. But anyone who knew him would tell you he had the kindest heart, which was evident. He would literally give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and lava soap if you came over for a visit. He was, like many, a good person.
Albeit, it will never sound ‘ok’ to be thankful for losing someone (either by death, breakup, moving cross country etc), but I am thankful my father is in peace even if that means I don’t get to have him anymore. I am in relief because the constant worry and threats has ceased.
Suicide will always be the word that sparks people to want to try and ‘save’ someone, which is nothing we have the power over someone to do, but sometimes help can be found. It is, however, a word that can be poorly misrepresented due to the stigma behind it. My dad was not a coward, nor self-ish. He cared so deeply but lived his way. I am not ashamed to say how he died any longer nor accept people feeling sorry for me being a daughter of a statistic. I am more than that and my father is as well. I gained relief and thankfulness after a decade from something society seems to only see as an easy way out. Well society doesn’t always get it right.
In memory of you Pops.
Forever the Sunshine on my Shoulders.
*I highly encourage anyone who has been affected by the loss of suicide to find where their own event is being held in their city and to attend on November 21 this year*