The last time I saw my father was January 29, 2014. Unbeknown to me, my father had been battling seriously with mental ill health since at least 1996. I spent a long time asking myself why he didn’t reach out, or if there was anything that I could have done to save him—I suppose that’s the survivor’s guilt.
As I found that my father’s death was by suicide, I found myself angry that I could not see the signs until it was too late. I have spent my life suffering with anxiety and depression, so why was it so hard to recognise the same pain in the person who was my world?
I can’t explain the pain that comes with losing a person suddenly, to something that could have—should have—been prevented. My father was the reason I made it to 18 years-old. He had saved my life countless times and yet I couldn’t save his.
I don’t think that any death of a loved one is easy, but I do know that suicide is a particularly cruel form of death. For those left behind, it’s like a nuclear bomb that keeps going off.
I am not and never have been angry at my father’s choice to end his life; I completely understand why. However, when you love someone so much, you kind of just expect them to be alive forever and adjusting to a world without them is the hardest part.
Grief was a bumpy rollercoaster of a ride for me. Some days I felt fine, like my father could walk through the door any moment and it was all a bad dream. Other days I couldn’t breathe and I felt completely dead inside. I constantly danced between substance abuse, going weeks without being sober and then working hard to find success so that I could make my daddy proud.
I still don’t know how I have made it to where I am today. I suffer with disassociation a lot but I do know that I have survived and that I am allowed to continue to live, even when my father chose not too.
Grief can make you do things that you will regret later. It can make you become a person you are not and sometimes it can be hard to see anything other than the pain that now lives inside and consumes you.
I have found that the key is about self-respect and understanding. I spent a lot of time arguing with people who were impatient with my recovery. I will preach and scream on the top of my lungs now that “we need to grieve in our own time and way” because I fully believe this. No one will understand your grief even if it is over the same person, because we are individual and our minds respond differently to trauma.
I also threw out the “steps of grief” because it is not a one size fits all situation. There is no wrong or right way to grieve; the only thing that really matters is that you are still fighting to live, even when you don’t want to.
I look forward to my future now and I am happy with how my life has turned out. I will still have days where I cry because I miss my father, like when I had to walk down the aisle without the one person I wanted there by my side. However, I can understand that there is nothing I could have done to stop my father’s death. Yes maybe it could have been prevented, but it was not my responsibility. How could it be when I had no idea he was struggling? I also know that my father did not do it to hurt me, he was just in pain and wanted it to end.
Because I have allowed myself to grieve and learn to enjoy life again, I am stronger than ever. Somehow, my father’s death has become a gateway for me to be able to help others and prevent future suicides. For that I believe my daddy is proud. All we can do, at the end of the day, is try to find a little bit of good in even the worst of things. That is called hope.
Charlotte Underwood is a 22 year-old from Norfolk Uk. She is a growing mental health advocate on twitter (@CUnderwoodUK) and is passionate about using her words to support and inform. You can read more of her work at www.charlotteunderwoodauthor.com.
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