Life After Parental Suicide

The goodbye I never got to say

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Dear Dad,

Much like you with the note that you wrote, I too don’t know where to begin. How do I possibly begin to say goodbye to you? To you, oh to you, my Dad…

I would like to take you back to the beginning. The very beginning of me and my short journey with you. I remember playing ‘crocodiles’ with you under the table at home. I remember loving you, with all of my little heart. And I remember missing you almost always. You bought me a blue CD player for my birthday once, amongst a few other things, including a stapler. I accidentally put a staple in my finger and being a nurse, you removed it with ease, care and love. I remember feeling proud of you. And in that moment, I pictured you being an excellent nurse and doing your best for people. I would later go on to find out, that this was true. These are two of the best memories I have of you and I. Free, alive and seemingly care-free.

I don’t know at what point I began to notice the palpable dysfunction between you and your partner at the time. It was evident to me that she was unwell, physically and mentally. She controlled and dictated your choices without fear of judgement or retribution. Despite this, you showed immense loyalty, love and kindness toward her and I never questioned it. For the next few years of my life, you were here for a moment and gone the next. You would both occasionally take me shopping and you would stay so close to me, I felt I could hardly breathe. But neither of us ever said a word. Why was that? We wished and we wished but all we ever did was wait. From there on in, there were trips to car boot sales and the beach, but never just us. This began to spark a fire of anger, jealousy and resentment in me. I visited your house a few times and I got a small glimpse into the place you called ‘home’. I saw your record collection, the model ships hung proudly on the wall, the chickens in the garden and the shed you would use to escape from the world. I enjoyed being in the place that brought you solace and comfort. This place started to comfort me too…

My resentment grew when I reached my early teens and Mum allowed me space to discover you for myself.

I saw someone who was stubborn and childish. Somewhere along the way you turned cruel and stopped turning up when you said you would. I would ask for us to spend some time alone but you let me down and I could not make sense of your behaviour. I found myself sitting across from you in a café once and wondering what happened to you? I knew you were capable of so much more.

In my mid teens, I had had enough. I wrote you a letter. I explained it all and laid my heart bare, in the hope that it would make you realise the wonder we could have had. I asked you to come and see me, alone, at my home. It was here, and this moment that I find myself replaying over and over in my mind now that you are gone. I don’t fully remember the conversation we had or what exactly was said. But I do remember what was done and what came after. I made it clear that I needed you to make a stable, unshakeable and trusted commitment to standing by me. But you didn’t. You went out the back door to have a smoke, you cried and then you left via the front door. I don’t even think you hugged me goodbye. Women are often considered as fragile beings but I have never seen anything as easily wounded as a man’s ego.

I called you out, I am my Mother’s daughter. You were always the war I could never win, you were always red and I was always the blue. After you left, I set up camp on the living room floor and sobbed. Cursing the heavens in futility. That was the last time I saw you and the last memory I have of you.

For years after you left I spent a great deal of time torturing myself over whether I did the right thing.

There were many complex things at war in your heart and in your mind but you didn’t get up and fight, you didn’t stand up and fight for me. And now I listen to others recall happy times spent with you and I can’t help but sit and grimace. You didn’t afford me the luxury of the same opportunities and I won’t ever have memories like them.

After you left, I would think of you from time to time and googled your name from month to month. Just to see if I could find out anything new without intruding on your life. I even found myself doing this a matter of days before you died. I wish I hadn’t done that. It was never going to make a difference what I did or did not find. Maybe I had become a coward? Maybe if I had picked up the phone you may have stuck around long enough for me to at least have said a proper goodbye. I’m not saying that I could have saved you or that I am some divine angel, but I believe I could have helped you. I have never encountered such heart – wrenching guilt and shame. “What” and “if” are two words as non – threatening as words can be. But put them together side – by – side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life.

So, in recent years I began to make peace with the fact that I may never see you again, that this would truly be the end. But never, in a month of Sunday’s would I have thought you would take your own life.

After reading your final note, I am angry. I am raging with all those that hurt you and all those that lied. You did not deserve to be treated with such malice and hate in your life. I am sorry you couldn’t have had a better life because you deserved much more. I feel such overwhelming sorrow and if I had of known what was really happening, I would have done something different. I may have even understood your behaviour better. I would have tried harder to help you. If you knew that I felt this way about you, would you have stayed? Did you think I hated you and that I didn’t want to know you anymore? This will never be true.

After speaking to the people that were around you the most, they say they had no indication that you were feeling so hopeless. There were no apparent whispers of warning. I think hell is something you carry around with you as well as somewhere you go. You were carrying hell and I hope the people who did you wrong have trouble sleeping at night.

At the same time, I have been struggling with what you wrote in your final note. You see, if it were me and I was making a choice to die by my own hand, I would want to make sure that all the people I knew and loved, knew that I loved them. But you didn’t do that and I think this is testament to how ill you actually were.

Words cannot express how catastrophically furious I am that you decided suicide was the only answer. We are not only coming to terms with your absence, but your chosen absence from the world.

You never really faced anyone and the problems you caused them throughout your life. You were constantly running, avoiding and closing your eyes from conflict. Now this time, you can never be held accountable for your actions.

The worst part about all of this is that you could have had it all. It was never to late to come home, to come back to me or even to Mum. Neither of us shut the door on you and we would have welcomed you home with open arms. You were still so young and so were we. There will always be a profound sense of loss for what could have been.

Despite your choices, my love for you is infinite and unconditional. It has never had strings attached or conditions. I am not quite ready to forgive you just yet, I desperately want to and I look forward to the day when I can. I am not ready to make peace with your choice and acceptance Is still a long way off. I don’t know how to connect the man that I love with the man that has inflicted such pain on my family and I. I just wanted you to show up for me and to the ones who mattered most. And despite your choices, I am still here. Waiting for you. But what were you waiting for after you walked away? I believe you were most likely waiting for a woman to dull your sadness. Someone to save you from all the madness in your mind, but women are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.

I don’t know if you can hear me. I wish that we had a special place where I could be close to you. But you never let me in enough to create such a place. I would love to scream into the heavens knowing that you are listening.

I pray now that God has you. That he has welcomed you into heaven and taken away all of your pain, suffering and turmoil.

I hope he is holding you close and hugging you more than I ever could. It is only now that I am realising there is a great deal of you inside of me and I am thankful for that. I am my Father’s daughter, which is something I have spent quite some time rebelling against. And I am thankful that after all of this, I feel unafraid. I can stumble into the dark night because there is very little that is as frightening as it was before. In a way, your death has made me feel brave.

Your death has caused conflict, crisis and tension in ways that you probably thought impossible. I have so many questions and so much I need answers to. It is destroying to never know what really went on in your mind. Thankfully, I now have support and I understand that my grief is incredibly complex. Unfortunately, there is no road map for surviving the loss of someone through suicide as the loss of you will never end. There won’t ever be a moment when I can neatly pack you away in a box and move on. I am relearning the world again and discovering how to cope knowing that your two feet are no longer standing on this earth with mine. I am beginning to find positive ways to manage my grief and some day, I hope to help others who have been bereaved by suicide too. Because I am made of more; more than tears, more than heartache and more than all of this. Inside of me there is a bottomless well of resilience and I am trying to use my inner resources to navigate my way through life.

As one of your survivors, I remind myself that I was lucky enough to have had any time with you at all.

In the end these were the choices you made, and it doesn’t matter how hard it was for you to make them, it matters that you did. I pray that you will continue to live in me and I wish that you could see yourself through my eyes. I see the whole picture now and I have learnt more about you following your death than I did when you were alive.

Well, I suppose this is my goodbye. I don’t want to leave you, I don’t want this to be the end. I would write an endless amount of pages of love and desperation but I know I have to stop writing. It hurts my heart to think that the time has come. The time has come to say my last goodbye to you, oh to you, my Dad…

I love you.

Your Lily, xx


If you or anyone you know is or has been affected by suicide or thoughts of taking your own life, please talk to someone:

The Samaritans – 116 123

Mind Infoline – 0300 123 3393


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