6 Things I Learned After My Father's Suicide
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
I believe the only way to lessen pain is to feel the pain. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid feeling the pain after losing a loved one to suicide. The shock accompanying a loss of this magnitude allows us to delay the intensity of the pain. Oftentimes, we think we are doing pretty well, considering the traumatic experience of our loved one’s death. Then it hits us. The overwhelming, excruciating, life-altering pain. We question if there will ever come a day when the pain will lessen.
So, how exactly do we get through the pain? We learn from it. Here are a few things I learned from the pain I experienced after my dad’s suicide.
1. What I didn’t do then, I can do now.
My pain taught me a lot about regret. I regretted not calling my dad more. I regretted not telling him how much I loved him. I regretted not telling him what he taught me about life. Then one day, it was simply too late. For a long time, I beat myself up for not doing and saying more. I learned my regrets kept me in the pain. I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t change the past. But what I can do now is make a conscious effort to tell the people I love how much they mean to me. I no longer wait to tell them tomorrow, because I now know there are no guarantees of tomorrow. This has made my relationships stronger and more authentic. Most importantly, I am doing now what I didn’t do then.
2. I learned to live in the present.
For me, a great deal of time was spent in the past after my dad’s suicide. I combed through every moment, trying to figure out how and why this happened. I think we need to spend a little time in the past in order to make sense of our present. Problem is, we often get stuck in the past. There is a great deal of pain in the past. I believe living in the past keeps us immersed in the pain. Living in the present helped lessen my pain. The past can’t be changed, but our future is still unwritten. Living in the moment helps to decrease the pain, one day at a time.
3. I learned how to evaluate what truly matters in this life.
I viewed my conversations with friends differently after losing my dad to suicide. In fact, most of the things people complain about appear to be so petty. For awhile, I pointed the pettiness out. I felt it was my duty to point out how petty their concerns were. I learned this also kept me stuck in the pain. When people talk about something that is bothering them, they want to be validated. I certainly wasn’t doing that. It isn’t our duty to tell people what they should or shouldn’t care about. All we can do is control what we care about. These conversations still occur among friends. The difference is, now I listen, adding input as needed, but I don’t join in the negativity.
4. I was able to weed out the people who weren’t who I thought they were.
This was a tough one. For a long time, I viewed this as another person leaving me. Viewing myself as a victim kept me stuck in the pain. I learned the relationships I thought mattered never were as authentic as I thought they were. In fact, most were one-sided. I was the listener, they were the talker. Now that the dynamic had changed, and I was the one who needed the support, they simply couldn’t provide it. This wasn’t necessarily a reflection of them, but our relationship. Relationships have to adapt or they will fall apart. A few relationships did fall apart, and that’s OK. The ones that I maintained were more authentic and supportive than any of the ones I lost.
5. I learned not to settle for “mediocre.”
Follow your dreams. Do what makes you happy. These were all simple statements until my dad’s suicide. Now, they hold so much meaning. In my pain, I learned life is too short to settle for mediocre. I recognized I feared that I would one day end up like him. When I found that fear, I decided to fight it. In a way, I feel like I am conquering the pain by making a conscious effort to find authentic happiness in this life.
6. I learned to forgive.
This was a big one. I found that forgiveness helped release a great deal of pain. Like most relationships, my father and I did not have a perfect relationship. There were painful moments in our past. Moments that he sought forgiveness for, and never fully received. I was holding onto the pain from our past. Forgiving him for his past mistakes helped me free myself from the pain. The only way to fully release the pain, is to forgive. Forgive the people you thought would be there. Forgive the person who left you behind. Forgive yourself for not being able to do more. Forgive.
It took me awhile to learn from my pain. I hope the lessons I have learned can help you find your own healing within your pain. There is always, always, always something to be learned. It just takes a little time to find it.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Unsplash photo via Jiri Wagner.