**This one is pretty intense, so if you’re sensitive to the topic of suicide loss, please feel free to read something else. I do a lot of processing here and it’s messy. I’m good, though. I’m posting this in the hopes that it will resonate with others who have been affected similarly and have or are going through similar pain cycles. You’re not alone.**
Today marked nine years since my dad died by suicide.
I heard an analogy once that rang true with me and it goes something like this: When you experience suicide loss, the pain feels gigantic. It feels like it’s taking up every part of you, like a bowling ball in a bucket; there’s not much room for anything else in there. But, as time goes on, it feels like there’s more room for other feelings. Maybe the bowling ball goes into something the size of a garbage can and then an above ground pool and then maybe a lake… The pain still exists and is even still the same size, but it doesn’t take up as much space. It doesn’t slam into you with the same frequency as it did before. When it does, it still hurts like hell, but it’s not as often.
That’s how I felt this morning. As I journaled, I said something to the effect of, “Dad, I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here. All the things. But, man… I’ve got a lot going on. I’m working on a lot of things in my life and I have so much to be grateful for, so… I’m gonna do that.” And it’s true. I don’t feel bad about it and I don’t think he’d want me to. It’s just where I am.
Or at least, it’s where I was this morning.
The weather was beautiful in the afternoon, so I went to the cemetery to visit. Most of the time when I go, I don’t do much talking. Just kind of take in the surrounding nature, the peacefulness of it all. Sit and breathe. But, today was different. Today was complicated.
My youngest had her first JV1 basketball game of the season last night and she did awesome! I started telling dad about it and how I wished he was there and how much fun we’d have had and how proud he’d be and as I did that, I started to get pissed off. And sad. I kept going back and forth between them. Because, like I said, it’s complicated. It’s still complicated nine years later and if I’m sure of anything, it’s that it’s always going to be complicated.
I got mad at him for all the pain he’s put us through. I was especially mad for my brother and step-mom who found him and have to live with that for the rest of their lives. Mad isn’t the right word. I was furious. How could he?! How did he not anticipate that they’d find him in his own garage?! And my kids! They were ten, nine and seven. SEVEN. Are you f***ing kidding me?! And your brothers and sisters, who had to go through that with your BROTHER thirty years prior. You made them go through that AGAIN?! Are you out of your mind?!
Yes. Sadly, the answer is yes. Something was wrong. And that’s why my anger turns to sadness so quickly.
His intention wasn’t to cause pain. Quite the opposite. His intention was to end the pain. The pain he felt in his chest. And the pain he anticipated causing as a burden to those around him. That’s what he was thinking about. And that makes me so sad.
It also doesn’t change the fact that he did cause a lot of pain. Pain that lingers here nine years later and will continue to persist for many of us. This isn’t an either or situation. It’s a both and situation. He did something that caused so much pain for so many, though that wasn’t his intention. He was in pain and got to a point where ending it all was the only thing that made sense. He exercised all of the control he believed he had in order to alleviate that pain. I can forgive him for that and I have. But it doesn’t change the fact that he’s not here for my kids, my brother’s kids, his wife, his boys…me.
It’s such an odd and confusing mix of emotions. Sadness, anger, confusion, understanding, forgiveness…bouncing around like a bouncy ball in a shoe box. It’s exhausting. And I know he’d feel terrible if he knew that he caused it. But that’s not where his mind was.
So, here I am at 8:49pm on a Friday night, listening to “Everywhere The River Goes” by Nathan Nockles, a beautiful and peaceful instrumental album, as I struggle to put words to my experience today. A few friends and family reached out and asked how I was holding up today and, even given what I described above, my answer of “pretty well” is true. I’m ok with the hard stuff. I get it. It’s not my favorite, obviously, but it’s life. And like I said, there’s so much good in my life. Like, SO much.
And while there’s a lot of heavy, difficult stuff to work through, I’m also able to remember good things. In fact, I didn’t realize until I was about halfway through, but I did something today that I watched him do while his dad was in hospice. I remember sitting with him and he had this little notebook and he was writing something. My dad was NOT a writer. I’m laughing as I write this because he would agree; he asked me to edit things he had to write for work (he was the parks department foreman in our city) several times when I was in middle and high school. I asked him what he was writing, since it was so out of character for him, and he said ever so gently, “I’m writing down the things I love about my dad.” I’d give anything to have that piece of paper. I remember him telling me that he wrote things like “strong” and “loyal” and “funny” and “kind.” There were more, of course. It really impacted me. I knew he loved his dad and he wasn’t perfect, as none of us are, but to see my dad push himself out of his comfort zone to put his love and gratitude into words…
I wrote many of those same words about my dad today. I was especially thinking about him in his role as Papa to my kids. Proud. Funny. Affectionate. Playful. Inappropriate. lol Kind. Encouraging. Helpful. Cool. Strong. Then I remembered all the times he came to my concerts and theater performances. I remembered the times I called him when I was overwhelmed and the way he comforted me and made me feel like things were going to be ok even though it didn’t seem like they would be. I wish I could have made him feel that way for himself. Sigh.
I don’t really have a great ending for this, honestly. Life, for me, goes on. Without him here, but always in my heart. And in so many others’. If you’re still reading, thanks for letting me process all this.
Dad… I love you. I miss you. I forgive you. I still get mad at you sometimes, but I also get really sad and that kind of makes me mad, too, so… It’s complicated. I know you said to take care of each other and to be nice, so I’ll try to keep doing that the best I can. – Ryan