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To My Dad, One Year After His Suicide

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Dear Dad,

Dad. I repeat it over and over in my head.

I take a moment to whisper it to myself once more just to remember what it feels like coming across my lips… Dad. D-A-D.

One year without you has felt like a lifetime. I guess I always thought you’d live forever.

The true reality of this is that it hurts. Losing you felt like a bomb had dropped on my life. It’s the kind of loss that has rearranged my entire world. I will never forget the chaos that was happening around me in those first moments, days, and weeks without you. I stood there in disbelief thinking this can’t be my reality, this can’t be yours.

My first thought after hearing the news was that I could rescue you. My mind raced back to all the times I had saved you, as if I could go back to that moment you felt so alone and save you one last time. My heart thought I could bring you back. If love alone could have done it, you’d be here right now. When I realized that wasn’t possible, I thought somehow you had faked your death and you’d come back to us when you had healed from your struggle.

Over and over I’ve imagined you in your last moments, picturing all of us one last time. I had always hoped you’d think of me and that eventually the time would come when you’d finally choose me. My mind continues to replay those final moments hoping for a different outcome. I’ve put myself there, standing next to you, wondering what you were thinking. Were you sad? Were you scared? But all the questions, doubts, and fears are answered with silence.

It feels like when I lost you, I lost my voice. Like no one can ever put into words what happened or the way I’m feeling. How can I ever tell someone that my dad died by suicide? What would I even say? Your absence has made me feel like a shadow of who I once was. Like I’ve been left alone to piece together an explanation for your death while the rest of the world kept moving. For the first time, I knew what it felt like to have the world around me keep going while mine abruptly stopped.

Thinking back to life before you died seems like a whole other lifetime. The person I was before now feels like a stranger. It’s as if every thing in my life — every object and every memory — has become a piece of the past. A symbol of the life that used to be and what might have been. There is no place this loss hasn’t touched.

I look for you in every passing car and every face in the crowd. When I close my eyes I can still hear you singing next to me, always one word behind. And I can still hear your laugh from across the table after another one of your inappropriate jokes. You leaving has been a hard thing to grasp. And I don’t just mean losing you but everything you took with you. All the memories that I’ll never have. I’ll never again pick out a Father’s Day card for you. There won’t be a present with your name on it at Christmas time. I’ll never get another “happy birthday kid love ya” text two days early. There won’t be a father-daughter dance at my wedding and you’ll never get to yell from the sidelines at your grandkid’s soccer games. Every day is another reminder that you’re not here.

Shortly after you died, I read that the second year after losing someone is the hardest. I couldn’t understand why because all of the “firsts” without you really sucked (of course).

Now I know. You expect the first year to be hard but it’s almost like you subconsciously believe that once you get through the first year, it will magically get easier. But it doesn’t. The moments you’ve missed just keep adding up. And that will never be easy.

I want you to know I love you as fiercely now as I did then. Twenty-five years of knowing you was enough to fill me with a lifetime of love, but it’s not nearly enough. They say that grief is just love. It’s all the love we wish we could give. And what I am living, as hard as it is, is love. My heart has been broken in ways that cannot be fixed. There is no amount of time, no amount of love, no person, place, or thing that could ever fill the brokenness I still feel in my heart.

I am proud to be your daughter. I wish you knew how much of you is in everything I do. Because of you, I am a probation officer. Because of you, I am certified in mental health first aid. Because of you, I love a little harder and forgive a little easier. Because of you, I’ll always cheer for the Huskers. Because of you, I’m an advocate for mental health and addiction. Because of you, I survived, Dad. Just like you taught me to do. I promise to make sure the world knows you are more than this.

I’ll love you forever.

I can’t wait to see you again someday.

But until then — give heaven some hell.

Getty image by Shanina

Originally published: January 21, 2022
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