Nov. 30, 2018- August 26, 2008 seemed like any other day.
I was feeling nervous about starting college the following week, and getting ready to meet friends to get our books for classes. My dad had come home early, saying he had a really bad headache and was going to lay down and try to sleep it off. This was pretty normal for him; he frequently got migraines. Everything seemed normal. We spoke about college, which made him a little emotional, but again, this was normal for him. We made plans to get lunch together when I got back, if he felt better.
When I was leaving to meet my friends, he walked me out, and told me how much he loved me, how proud he was of me. He started getting emotional again, but still, this was normal for him. As we said our goodbyes, he told me to think about where I wanted to go for lunch.
About 10 minutes after my friends and I had gotten our books, my phone rang. It was mom. I felt a knot in my stomach, somehow instinctively sensing something was wrong. I opened my flip phone to answer, and heard my mom cry out, “Where is your dad?!”
I raced home. Before I knew it, I was at the top of the driveway. I threw open the car door and sprinted down the hill to our front door, opening it to find my mom balling, saying she found him.
We hugged, and she told me to stay with her.
The rest of that day still feels like a blur. My uncle, my dad’s youngest brother, arrived. I remember trying to comfort him, feeling as if he needed me to be strong. Eventually the police came. I went back inside to be with my mom, while my uncle and his wife left to go pick up my oldest sister from college, which was a few hours away. My brother and younger sister joined us later on. A detective asked my mom and me a few questions; to this day, I have no idea what he asked.
At one point, the phone rang, and my mom gently looked at me, asking me to answer it in another room. My grandma was calling. I remember thinking I had to be strong and do this for my mom: telling my dad’s mom, my grandma, that her son had died.
At some point throughout all of this I learned that everyone, it seemed, had received voicemails from my dad. He had even spoken with my grandpa. I think the voicemails were similar to my experience earlier in the day: him telling me how proud he was of me, and how much he loved me.
At first I didn’t understand why I didn’t have a voicemail from him, myself. But then it dawned on me. He knew my mom couldn’t answer her phone at work. He knew my older sister and brother couldn’t answer their phones during school. My younger sister didn’t have a phone. But I would have answered.
More family and close friends began coming over. It was so comforting to know how much everyone cared. I don’t think anyone will ever know how much it meant to all of us.
The hardest thing in the grieving process for me was accepting how he had died. Maybe I felt ashamed or embarrassed, but being able to say my dad died by suicide was so difficult. Once I was able to do this, though, it made it a lot easier to accept what happened and move forward.
The process wasn’t easy or fast. I prayed to be okay. I prayed that I would wake up from this nightmare and that my dad would still be there. I prayed for help. I prayed for my family. I prayed about everything. I prayed and prayed and prayed.
I learned it was okay to not be okay.
Talking about suicide is not easy. In fact, writing about suicide, telling my story, makes me anxious. What if people judge me for what happened? What if people think differently of me or my family because of this?
One of my biggest takeaways in accepting and being able to say my dad died by suicide is this: it’s best to let go of the, “What-if’s.” We need to use our voice to raise awareness.
Our voices are powerful. We have to share our stories. There are so many people who have lost someone to suicide, or have attempted suicide themselves. We can raise our voices and show those affected by suicide that they are not alone.
So I share my story, and I say to those reading: you are not alone. Your life is worth it. Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide. Together, we can be the voice, and we can make a difference.
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