Taming the Beast of Grief 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.
Lack of humanity has fueled my hate recently, but I must admit I’ve been looking for something to despise. It’s been two and a half years since my dad killed himself and my struggles with grief are not lost on me daily. Two and a half years later the screaming has stopped, but maybe that’s because my desperate shrieks are now stuck halfway between my throat and my heart. Nestled like a powerful, angry beast settling in for a long grief ridden nap.
Most of the time my grief is in a hibernation state. It’s become my norm to function in a world that gives suicide survivors apathy and expects us to perform accordingly. Humanity and understanding is missing for survivors. There are times we need to awake the beast no matter how much it might scare you. I need to scream and shout from depths only the most painful grief could hollow. I need to cry myself to sleep or obsessively scrutinize over every detail of my dad’s last days like a detective looking for a conviction. We need more humanity. We need to be ugly and messy at times and we need your understanding.
My beast rages on the inside although you’d never see it through my determination at work or my laughter with loved ones. It’s a juxtaposition of heaven and hell within my body; my body, a shell that attempts to contain the nightmare within. Stuck between frantically wanting to know more and feeling exhaustingly overwhelmed. But many survivors like me have worked hard to tame the beast and be as socially acceptable as possible, even teaching the beast some party tricks and general obedience so you don’t feel uncomfortable or offended. Inside though, the beast still exists. We crave humanity and understanding yet are often met with indifference and shame for what many suggest is our “dramatics.”
When my father died, a local newspaper couldn’t wait to publish this “juicy” story. Suicide and two kid’s grief was apparently front page news in the small Texas town I grew up in. The beast arrived. I called the editor and pleaded in ways I’ve never asked of another human being. I was met with general stoicism and a reply that it was in fact “just news.” The story was published. My beast wanted to burn every copy of that paper and scream in the faces of those that gobbled up the story like small town gossip whispered from ear to ear. Instead I choked on my anger and sat in the helplessness of being misunderstood.
The beast tempers at the fake apologies or worse unsolicited explanations I receive when folks learn of my survivorship, but it is stopped by the permanent impenetrable roof I’ve placed in my throat where the beast is housed. I smile and offer gratitude for your social politesse, but still inside my beast roars.
Entire conversations can be had with members of my family that also experienced the loss without ever mentioning my dad. I rage. The beast rages inside. I don’t want to forget how he always smelled like fresh laundry or that he only bought Colgate toothpaste. These are the conversations I want to have yet we discuss lightly how our lives have been going touching on various intricacies of our days. I grit my teeth to tell them about my new job because the beast is sitting on my tongue. The beast and I want to scream about how my dad always seemed a little sunburned because of his rosy cheeks or how he wore the same Texas Longhorns belt for as long as I can remember, but the lack of humanity causes me to swallow the beast whole.
My beast is pain and grief and torturous emotions. It is both a consequence and a cause. It is the result of my aching and loss and it is the trigger of the world’s comfortability and lack of humanity around suicide. The beast may be scary to you, but it is to me too. The beast is all the untrue things I know about myself and my dad’s suicide. I know it wasn’t my fault and I know no matter how much I may question it, I could not have saved him. That doesn’t stop me from obsessively wanting to know what could have been different.
All of these falsities have become my shrew; the inner beast inside with a violent temper and desire to burn anything to ashes. Survivors of suicide often attempt to heal in the face of inhumanity, ignorance and general coarseness. Many of us fight false beliefs and general misconceptions of the public as well as what we believe to be true ourselves.
So I ask for more humanity. I ask that non-survivors educate themselves. I ask you allow us to wade through the mess we are trying to make sense of and please, bear with us as we tame our untrue.
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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