That terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day turned into terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weeks, that stretched out into months, and quickly approached a year — maybe longer.
I graduated from high school and briefly went to college in Louisiana with my high school best friend. Even though my dad died a year prior, I wondered why I had been so sad. Maybe I didn’t remember them before, but shortly after leaving for college, I began having dreams of my dad. Lots of them. They were vivid and they bothered me.
They weren’t scary dreams, not by any stretch of the imagination. It was the type of dream where he was very much alive and it was a very typical day. I saw him moving, I heard his voice, I saw him alive. Then, something random would happen in the dream and I would jolt awake only to realize that I was not really in my childhood home, or riding in the car with him.
It sucked. Grief sucks.
I did a pretty good job at hiding how sad I truly was, my sadness- my depression, was shown to the world as detachment or irritability. I would tell my best friend that I was going to study in the library, and yes, I did truly go. But instead of studying, I would spend most of my time there numbed out and sad.
I decided to go to see a counselor at the university. I don’t remember her name but I remember her being a tremendous support to me. I will eternally be grateful to her for her validation, compassion, and guidance.
“I don’t know why I’m still sad about it. It’s been over a year.” I stated this to my counselor in a very matter-of-fact way. I sincerely wondered why I was feeling so sad about something that, as far as time is concerned, happened so long ago.
I remember her looking at me astonished, “That was your father Vena, that’s why! Why wouldn’t you still be sad? No really, Vena. Why wouldn’t you be?”
I broke down crying.
An ugly cry.
A much-needed, cry.
An ugly cry nonetheless.
She was the first person I admitted to having the sense that my father’s suicide was my fault. I refrained from mentioning it to other people because I was terrified that someone would agree with me.
I only met with her a few times. I could only get so close to the depth of my pain and true magnitude of my loss. I was wise enough to know, at the time, that I had to be gentle with myself.
Even though it might have been a small feat, talking about my father committing suicide to a stranger took Herculean effort. But I did it and I’m proud of myself.
According to the Kubler-Ross model, experiencing a state of depression is a typical part of grieving. It is an appropriate response to experiencing a great loss. In this stage, there’s no talking yourself out of it, it’s not something that can be fixed, it’s one of those things that one has to move through while praying to make it to the other side of it as soon as possible.
Eighteen years have passed. I now know that many, if not all, suicide loss survivors blame themselves for their loved one dying. At the time of writing this, I know it was not my fault that my father committed suicide. And if you are a suicide loss survivor, please know that it is not your fault that your loved one died either.
I promise you, it isn’t.
I am a curious soul. Always have been and always will be. Funny enough, I remember my father telling me that I asked too many questions.
Interestingly enough, some people tell me the same to this day.
My questions during this phase of grieving was simply ‘why?’
Why did this happen? Why did this to happen to my father? Why did this happen to my family? Why did this happen to me?
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” ― Zora Neale Hurston