Music has the power to evoke such strong emotion. It can touch upon our deepest sorrows and our greatest joys. It might be intertwined with a cherished memory, bringing us back to the past, no matter where we stand today. Music can be part of our truth, our narrative of life. It can frame the way we see the world around us.
When I first lost my father to suicide I felt like an open wound. The words to a song could be a source of comfort or deepen my sense of pain. If the song, “Fix You” by Coldplay came on the radio, it would unleash sadness so profound it was hard to breathe.
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Those words spoke to my loss. They were a reflection of the abundance of tears I cried day in and day out. It felt like such a waste to lose my father in this way, to suicide. And I could hardly fathom a pain that would feel worse. It was as if a song written years before my father’s suicide, were somehow written just for me.
And then came the part of the song that exposed my deepest wound, the profound guilt that I carried.
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
We, his family, were “home” for my father. He was tired. The suffering he felt as he fought a deep depression coupled with severe anxiety had most certainly reached in to his bones. “Bone weary” is the term that comes to mind when I think of how exhausted he must have felt. And oh how we tried to be the light in his darkness. With all that we had to give and with what we knew then, we tried to help him to heal and to find the strength to fight on. We tried to ignite within him that spark of hope that seemed to have gone out. He was caught in a storm, and we stood as a lighthouse, ready to guide him to
safety and calmer waters.
But it turns out we could not fix him. And because of that, we thought we had failed. Suicide leaves behind an abundance of blame that we took on as a family. As if our grief was not heavy enough, the missed signs caused our knees to buckle.
But I know today that we could not “fix” my father. He had an illness that required treatment. He would have needed to find the strength to seek it out. He would have needed to dig down into his already depleted reserves to find the resilience to work toward recovery. We could offer him love, unconditional and without judgment. And we did. We could reassure him that he was cherished just as he was. And we did. We could listen when he talked, hold him when he cried and support him on his journey to
wellness. And we did.
My father was not broken as a human being, though I believe he felt that way. And none of us is imbued with the power to fix another person, much as we’d like to in the face of such suffering.
It wasn’t our fault. I know that now. And I can hear that song today without allowing it to bring me back to that place. I cannot revisit that burden of guilt. The lyrics still evoke tears for the father I loved and lost. But it was not for me to fix that sense of brokenness. And I know the love we shared, in the time we had, will never go to waste.
If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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