Father's Suicide... eleven years ago.

by Leanne

When I was ten, my dad died. I was told that he died of a heart attack - and we received his life insurance benefits, so this is in fact the official story. Even though he was only 50, this was a fairly believable story. He wasn't terribly healthy - he was overweight, a smoker, and had been fighting cancer for years.

I'm 22 now, and last night my mom told me that my dad had, in fact, killed himself. She knew, because he had sent suicide notes to us (my mom, myself, and my brother) the night he died.

So... now what? It's been so long, and it was such an integral part of my childhood that my dad had a heart attack and died so young. I'm confused, and hurt, and angry, and confused some more. On the one hand, it's plausible that my mom could be lying - and it's not like he's here to defend himself. But what would be the motive? They were always on good terms, even if they did divorce. On the other hand, if he did kill himself... why? Why would he leave us like that? I was ten, and my brother was only seven. We needed him to be there. It doesn't make any sense to me.

It's like a wound that I thought had completely healed suddenly opened up to reveal a massive infection, and I have to start the healing process all over again, with an injury that's even worse than the one before.

What am I supposed to do?

Ben's Answer

I'm so sorry for your loss. I can only imagine how painful it must be to learn the truth about this. Something like this takes time to process. Just as with grieving for someone lost to sudden death, this new information is like a new loss. In any loss it there is shock, disbelief, anger, sadness, despair - and sometimes guilt. In the case of a loved one committing suicide, it's common for people to feel some sort of guilt, and anger too.
You have to allow yourself to have whatever feelings come up for you. There are no wrong feelings to feel.

As to the question of "why?" This is always the hardest question people are left with, when a loved one dies this way. Sometimes we never know. But I can tell you, as one who has heard many stories of suicide, known many who have attempted suicide, and counseled loved one's of suicide victims - when a person comes to the point of taking their own life, they have reached the lowest level of despair and at that point, usually believe that the world, and their loved one's would be better off without them. Of course this is completely untrue, and irrational. It's a massive distortion of reality. Especially when a person leaves their family - their own children behind. But this is what most people think when they are in that state of mind.

I've know people with Bipolar Disorder, for example, who when they are feeling good, absolutely love life, love their friends and family and would never even consider the thought of suicide; yet when they become depressed, they completely forget all of that, they feel completely empty and hopeless, they see no value in themselves, no purpose for living and cannot see how important they are to those they love.

Sometimes people suddenly commit suicide, having given barely a single clue to those around them, that they were in such a desperate state. Or sometimes, as in the case of Bipolar Disorder, a person can go from feeling good, to feeling suicidal within a day, and nobody would ever guess what's going on with them.

Your dad had serious health problems, and may have believed he was not going to beat his cancer. He may have envisioned himself becoming gravely ill and didn't want his wife and children to watch him die a slow and painful death from cancer. Maybe he thought this way would be less painful for everyone.

It's not your fault.

Give yourself time to digest this and be easy on yourself.

I also suggest you use meridian tapping as a tool for alleviating some of this emotional pain faster.

I wish you peace and healing,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT

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