I can’t believe I’m writing this, but today marks the five-year milestone of my dad’s death by suicide and my position as a “survivor.” Today, I’m reflecting on how my life has evolved in that time.
- I’m thankful for the resources and survivor friends who have been there for me. Early on, I was able to find my footing and begin healing with the help of Catholic Charities’ Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide support groups. I attended my first group meeting 11 days after my dad’s death and learned I had unfortunately become a member of the club nobody wants to join. I bonded with other survivors and found comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone. I am particularly grateful for the friendships I built with Jessica and former blogger Lindsay, who lost their dads in very similar situations as me. To this day, we can continue talking about the effects of our losses and know that we will always have someone who understands what we’re going through. I also benefitted from the community forums provided by the Alliance of Hope for Survivors of Suicide and books like “No Time to Say Goodbye” by Carla Fine.
- I’ve learned that my dad’s death still affects me. I wonder how he could have appeared so happy in this photo only two months prior. I have maintained a relationship with my grief therapist for the duration of the five years since I lost my dad. It also seems unbelievable I’ve been with her for that long now. However, I’m surprised by how often my dad’s death still comes up and potentially plays a role in the way I approach situations or react to them. This will likely be the case five more years from now and I understand that’s ok.
- I’m more open about being a survivor than I ever thought I’d be. My dad died in a very public way, which led me to the choice to be open about my loss and journey as a survivor. From sharing about it in conversation to writing regularly about it here for three years, I’ve covered every single aspect of losing a parent to suicide. I don’t see it as bravery, I just see it as the way I have chosen to progress as a survivor. It is what it is and I can’t really hide what happened. I assume everyone knows he took his life and I own it. I don’t really feel ashamed in most cases or embarrassed. It happened and I can talk about it. If I’m helping to fight a stigma, that’s a bonus.
- I’m still on the grief journey. As Jessica has written, I am a firm believer that there is no end to the grief journey or cycle. I still have days where I am angry or sad and sometimes still don’t think I have fully accepted what happened. I’m pretty sure this is a road I’ll be on for the rest of my life. When I used to attend support group meetings, I’d find myself wondering why people were still attending 5-10 or more years out. Now I completely get it.
- But, my grief has evolved. This Father’s Day, while I saw many people posting on Facebook about their dads, it struck me that my post was about my husband and father-in-law. Every year I feel a little bit different about this. For the first couple years, I posted about my dad. A couple after that, I didn’t want to say anything and avoided looking at all the posts. This year, I realized I have dads in my life, including my husband – the father of my child, who hold special places in my heart. Of course I wish I could celebrate with my own dad.
I used to say things like, “I recently lost my dad,” or “my dad just died,” but now I feel like I can’t really say that anymore. Five years feels like a long time when describing when he passed, even if it still feels like yesterday to me.
Something I was dreading was whether or not Facebook’s “On this Day” feature would show posts from those who shared their condolences on my Wall five years ago. This is sensitive for me since those posts are how I learned he died. Sure enough, it did show some. But at least I knew to prepare for it. After time, certain things still get me. Coincidentally this week, I was asked to serve on jury duty – he was a judge. How about that timing?
Some days I wonder why I’m still blogging about the way he died and if it’s time to move on, but then I look at how few resources there are for survivors and know there’s still support to be given.