What my Dad’s Suicide Taught Me
My Dad’s suicide taught me pain is temporary.
Sometimes the strongest people in our lives are the ones we need to check up on. They are the ones who walk in silence, carrying the weight of the world with a heavy heart. My Dad was the strongest person I knew. He had the brightest smile and the most honest laugh but beneath the surface was a sadness he eventually surrendered to.
The day my Dad took his own life began as a long-overdue ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. For two years, my family struggled with rebuilding a new life after losing everything from the 2008 market crash. We lost our houses, cars, retirement investments, and any hope for a stable future. For two years, we drowned in a season of devastation. It pushed me to level up in my fashion career and pursue a path that challenged me. My career as an executive consultant gained momentum as I lived in London at the time, working with the biggest retail store— MatchesFashion.
On this sunny day, I received hopeful news of opportunities to come and immediately called my Dad to reassure him our season of financial uncertainty was coming to an end, I had good news and a light at the end of the tunnel was shining. My phone call turned into two, then three, then four and five. He has never missed my call since I moved to London—we spoke nearly every day. I dismissed my strange feeling until my brother called at 3 am. My gut feeling was right when he broke the news; our Dad took his own life.
The initial shock quickly turned into anger as my flat mates woke up to my screams, cries, and throwing glass. I was living a nightmare with the news of my best friend gone. I had been trying to reach him all day to plant seeds of hope. If only he picked up the phone. The next day, I flew home to what later became a permanent uproot from life abroad.
My Dad’s suicide left a void in my heart even to this day. I never saw my Dad cry, but deep down, I knew he was in pain. Deep down, I knew he was trying his hardest to be strong for our family. What I never expected was the day he would let go forever.
His suicide was a traumatic loss that eventually drove me to a series of panic attacks, anxiety, and PTSD— but first, I skated through a state of anger as my life quickly turned into becoming the sole provider for my mom. I was angry he gave up on all of us. I was angry he made a selfish choice. I was angry he transferred his pain onto all of us by leaving.
My anger turned into compassion when I began to clean his desk covered in unpaid bills with desperate scribbles of a haphazard man. So much money flowed out but nothing in, creating a mountain of debt he tried to conceal. I could feel the heavyweight of the world he carried as he tried to keep our family’s head above water. I felt the level of stress and dysfunction circulating in his mind. I wished he had asked for my help, but I realized he never did because he wanted so badly to fix it himself even though he was mentally falling apart.
It’s been 10 years passed since my Dad died. During those years of grieving, I fought long and hard not to let his suicide diminish the relationship we had. I wont lie - on many days its a struggle - I am still grieving - some days are anger - some sadness - some happiness that I was blessed with an amazing father who loved me, he may have left us abruptly, but he will always be my best friend.
Whenever I miss him, I close my eyes and reminisce about my favorite memories of our family vacations. He would play with us all day and make our family the center of his attention - doting on us and making us laugh until our stomachs hurt. He put us first before himself, always. When I got older and busier with my career, he would drive 1.5 hours into the city just to get lunch with me in the middle of the day. These cherished memories were my reminder to savor every present moment I have with the ones I love.
His death will always remain a scar in my life. Some things in life will change you forever. A father’s suicide will do just that. I had to come to terms with acceptance. Acceptance gave me the ability to savor the life I had with him before his death and move forward to create a reality where his death didn’t define me. My healing journey was not linear. It was a dance back and forth from hard and easy days, but a progression, nonetheless.
What my Dad’s suicide taught me is the strength in asking for help. I wish he never isolated himself from us. I wish he told us he needed help to alleviate his stress. I wish I could have told him if you’re sad, I’ll be sad with you. If you want to cry, I’ll cry with you. If you’re lost, I will be lost with you, and if you need help, I will help find it for you.
My Dad carried so much burden, and I wish he knew he didn’t have to move through moments of darkness alone. He was my Dad and best friend, but first and foremost, he was a human that needed a hand to guide him back to the light in a sea of dark hopelessness.
If you are struggling, please remember these three messages:
Do not be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone.
You are loved. You are seen. You are worthy. You are human. You are never alone. If you are struggling, please do not isolate, and please remember you are not a burden. Reach out to someone you love because the truth is you will never be a burden to the ones closest to your heart. There are resources ready for you to access.
Stay the course because pain is temporary.
Today’s pandemic has uprooted our lives, but we have to remember this is only temporary. Moments of pain, loss, and uncertainty only last for a season. If you lost your job, if you had to take a temporary job to make ends meet, it is okay. Difficult moments tend to feel permanent but never are, and we never have to go through them alone. Always reach out for help to navigate moments that feel unlivable.
Hold on to Hope.
When you feel like giving up, the most important thing to do is ground yourself. Ground yourself by seeking gratitude in what brings you joy. Joy is the light that will tell you to keep moving forward. When we meet our darkness with happiness, love, and gratitude, we can find a reason to keep moving forward.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255.