Five things I want to tell my Dad after his suicide

Here is a story not very many people know.

In my third year of university, when I’d just turned 21, I came home for the Easter holidays.

On the Saturday, my Dad and I washed my car together, (or rather, he washed and I tried to look like I was helping), then he bought us all ice cream which we ate in the sunshine.

On the Sunday, we had an Easter meal with the whole family, and he made me laugh with funny stories. Later I went on a night out with my friend from uni who was visiting, and he sent me a text at about midnight to say he’d made up the spare bed so we didn’t need to do it when we got back.

On the Monday morning, he told my mum they’d have breakfast on the patio because it was a beautiful day, but instead he went into our garage and he took his own life. He was just 49.

I have never written about this publicly before, mostly because I am terrified of what people will say, but it’d be really hypocritical of me to encourage other people to be open about mental health and never explain why that’s so important to me.

I don’t even know how to begin to write this because I don’t think I’ve ever made sense of it, not really, or made sense of the world without him in it.

So I’ve written it to him instead.

Dad, here are some of the things I wish I could tell you about your suicide.

1. Sometimes I’m really mad at you
Untitled…and then I’m overwhelmed by guilt because I shouldn’t be mad at you. No one gets mad at people who die of cancer. No one would have said “How selfish of Kevin to have that heart attack, how could he?”

know, of course I know, that yours was an illness like any other. And yet there are times – like when I bought my house and realised how desperately I needed your help with the DIY; my graduation day only two months after you died when your empty seat was all I could see; Becky’s wedding when mum walked her down the aisle and it should have been you – yes, there are times when I feel so angry with you. Times when I wonder how you could do it to us, why you made that decision in spite of what it meant for the people you left behind.

But I suppose it’s okay to be angry sometimes, understandable perhaps. Even if that’s just to highlight what a mountain there is to climb before we can truly understand mental illness. Because mental illness really IS just like cancer and other physical illnesses. Just like cancer, it doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care how many people love you, or how successful you are, or how much money you have in the bank.

And just like cancer, mental illness can be terminal. You can fight it with everything you have and you can still lose. So I think I understand, Dad, that what might feel like a choice to other people, was not a choice for you.

2. There was nothing anyone could have done

IMG_8782I think this is the thing I’ve struggled with most. Why didn’t we spot the signs? What if I’d just got out of bed earlier that morning and made you a cup of tea? What if the last thing I ever said to you wasn’t “I’ve got my keys,” but “I love you” instead? Would any of it had made a difference?

Maybe it would. Maybe I could have caught your life by the tips of my fingers. Maybe I’d even caught it several times before. Maybe I’d have saved you for another day, and maybe another day was all you needed to get better.

Or maybe not.

The heartbreaking truth is that when it comes to depression no one can ‘save’ anybody else, not really. We can offer help and love and support but no one is responsible for another person’s life. In the end, Dad, your depression was bigger than me, bigger than you, bigger than all of us.

3. I wish more people asked about you

IMG_9352Death makes people uncomfortable however it happens, but if there was a hierarchy of the kinds of deaths people don’t like to talk about, it’s fair to say suicide is somewhere near the bottom. So maybe that’s why people don’t ask me about you very often.

I wish they did, because then I would tell them that you were funny and clever and selfless and kind.

I would tell them about the time you were called a hero on the front page of the Blackpool Gazette because you saved 50 people’s jobs. I would tell them how you dressed up as a member of the Village People and took part in our dancing show just to make us laugh. I would tell them of the many times you got out of bed at 4am to pick me up from a night out because I couldn’t afford a taxi but you didn’t want me to miss out on having fun with my friends.

I’d tell them how you loved The Office and Alan Partridge, how you supported Leeds United, how your record collection was wonderful and eclectic and ranged from Madness to Elton John to the soundtrack from The Last of the Mohicans.

I’d tell them that you were an identical twin, how I used to cringe because your ringtone was The Apprentice theme song, and how I still put tomato ketchup on my cheese and toast because of you.

I’d tell them how every year on my birthday you’d send me a text at the exact time I was born, 08.46am. I’d tell them how, on my 21st , you signed that text off with: “Happy birthday Lo, here’s to the next 21 years xxx.”

Only the next 21 years would never come for us, because six weeks later you would be dead.

And I even want to tell them about that, Dad, because it’s important that we talk about it. It’s important that they know that it happens to men and women as wonderful as you.

4. I am so proud of you

img_9437Suicide is not considered a hero’s death, but you are a hero to me.

To some people, the method of your death might suggest selfishness or weakness. Which is so wrong, because I know how strongly you loved us, and how hard you fought to stay in this world.

You might have noticed that I don’t always tell people how you died, and I feel so guilty about that. I don’t want you to think I’m ashamed of you. I’m not, I could never be. It’s just I’m scared of their reactions, which can range from embarrassment to complete and utter shock. Because we were ‘normal’, weren’t we? Nice, even. Suicide doesn’t happen to families like ours.

Except it does. It happens to lots of families. More than 6,000 in the UK every single year, to be exact. 6,000 nice, normal families, just as broken-hearted as we are and probably feeling, just as I did, so terribly terribly alone.

Because we don’t talk about mental illness, and we especially don’t talk about suicide. It is the kind of death that is spoken about in whispers when really we should talk and shout about it and then talk some more, because that’s the only way we can even hope to make people try to understand.

But then who could possibly understand your reasons, Dad, when no reason would be good enough? The thing is, suicide is never about reason. It’s about a person’s pain and suffering being so great that it feels like there is no possibility, no hope. Depression is often called the Black Dog but it seems like it’s more of a black hole; one that swallows people up to the point they think their only solution is to disappear altogether.

For that reason and so many others, Dad, I think you were the bravest man who ever lived.

And perhaps other people thought so too, because at your funeral the church was so full that there were people standing at the back.

5. I am proud of me, too

IMG_9351For a long time I was frightened that, because of how some people view suicide, they saw me differently to how they did before. I was terrified that people might think I was damaged; that our story made me the kind of girl people didn’t want to be friends with, or have a relationship with, or employ. I was wrong, of course, and I am forever grateful to all the wonderful people who helped put me back together when my world fell apart.

But here’s the thing: I’m stronger than I realised, Dad. We all were. Your death – heartbreaking and unbearable and incomprehensible as it was – showed me inner strength I never knew I had.

In some ways, I think what happened made me a better person. I am more compassionate, more understanding, more empathetic than I was before. I am more driven and positive because I understand that life is short. I try to live for the moment because I have seen first-hand that we have no way of knowing whether or not we’re on rations.

Importantly, Dad, I think your death gives me an opportunity to speak out about the terrible, silent illness that killed you. To bang a drum and raise awareness about mental health, because that’s what you would have wanted, isn’t it?

I’m not saying I have it all figured out. I don’t have the answers, or even a plan. But I do know that people with mental illness need kindness and understanding, not judgement and stigma. And more than ever, I know that mental health, as the biggest killer of men under 50, desperately needs funding; it desperately needs to be de-stigmatised; it desperately needs to be talked about.

And even though I feel really scared to put this out there, I think I should lead by example. So this is me. Talking about mental health, the way I’m forever urging others to do.

This is our story, Dad. I hope I make you proud.

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57 thoughts on “Five things I want to tell my Dad after his suicide

  1. Your words are honest and beautiful and your dad would be proud of you – not just because of the words you have written but because of the amazing woman you are x

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story Laura, it gives us an insight in to the pain you have suffered of losing someone you loved so much and you’re right, your Dad would have been very proud of his little girl. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A truly beautiful letter to your dad, he would be so proud of you I’m sure. Mental health is a silent killer, no matter what anyone tells you or writes about it and when people feel they are faced with no other alternative it’s heartbreaking not thoughtless or selfish. Keep smiling and living your life to the fullest you’re doing an amazing job xxxx

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  4. Be proud of who you are , your dad would be . he may be gone but sure he is not forgotten. Mental illness , is a sad and oh so cruel illness, no one can see it , but it hurts and the pain is deep.
    Carry on your fathers memory and stay strong

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  5. This is absolutely beautiful.
    I lost my dad to suicide in september (in Blackpool, funnily enough!). It was like reading exactly what was in my own mind.
    Thank you for standing up and helping to shout about what needs to be shouted about.
    Best wishes to you and your family x

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    1. Thank you so much. I’m so sorry to hear you lost your dad in the same way, and so recently, but I’m so glad that what I wrote resonated with you in some way. Being a few years down the line now I can promise you that it does get easier with time. Sending lots of love to you and your family too x

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      1. I also lost my dad to suicide in Blackpool, it’s like you wrote down every emotion I have ever felt. The bit that resonated the most was the part about feeling guilty about not telling people how he died. I no longer live in Blackpool and haven’t told anyone where I live now about how he died, I just don’t want that judgement from people that didn’t know how wonderful he was, and like you say people then don’t want to talk about him. I love talking about my dad and there no awkwardness discussing him when people don’t know he took his own life. I’m so pleased you wrote this, it’s helped me and I’m sure lots of others understand that they aren’t alone. I am so sorry you lost your dad this way too SMW but i absolutely agree that time definitely helps.

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      2. Thank you so so much for your comment. I know exactly what you mean – especially about not wanting judgement from people who didn’t know how wonderful he was. It’s one of the things I’m most scared of – that people will think badly of him. I’m so sorry you lost your dad but so glad this helped you, sending you lots and lots of love xxx

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  6. This is amazing Laura. Everything you’ve written is so true. I can’t imagine a more cruel way to suffer than not understanding why your mind is telling you to feel so low. You should feel really proud of yourself, every time I read something you post about mental health it hits a core and there will be so many other people you know but don’t realise it is helping. He must be so proud of you. X

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  7. Were do we begin , your story is so sad to lose your father like this , the guts it must take to do this is beyond belief, ive been close to it , but not that close im still here , theres no doubt in any immagination what it must take for a person to end there life , i know 3 people who have , its the most desperate measure in life to decide or just want to end your life, were and what takes place , your family your friends your existance on earth , well thats mental health issues for you , it aint bright and breezy in our world everyday , no by far it aint , so how like Laura do we understand why , and if only i could of done this or that , im a strong believer if you want to do something you will do it whatever gets in your way .. the most amazing thing is why would you carry this out , what goes wrong in our minds , again im looking at the bigger picture of Lauras father , its horrific and beyond words , sadly it happens everyday all over the world .. Laura your father sounds an amazing man .. take great pride that you loved him and he was your father , very sadly something got the better of him ..
    Im so sorry for you loss and your families loss to .. sleep tight and god bless ..
    Kind regards
    Darren Abey

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    1. Thank you very much Darren, he really was an amazing man, as so many others who suffer with this horrible illness are. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve suffered too but glad that you can talk about it openly because that’s a big part of the battle. Sending my thoughts best wishes to you x.

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  8. Hello, I read this, and I couldn’t help but tear up. I was suicidal almost three years ago, and I never imagined how much it would affect the ones left behind. Your story is so undeniably, touching and heartbreaking.
    Your father sounded like such a loving Dad, and that he adored you. The memories you have of him are so beautiful.
    Mental illness is most certainly the same as cancer. It can eat away at you from the inside out. In most cases, it goes undetected because a person can hide it so well.
    I am truly happy I came across your story, and how eloquently you wrote this.
    God Bless You Sweety.

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    1. Thank you so so much, it means so much to me that you are happy to come across it, especially as someone who has suffered yourself. I’ve had a look at your blog which is so touching too – sending you all the love and strength in the world x.

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  9. Beautiful words Laura. Very sad to read but so important to get your words out there. I’m sure it will inspire many people. Your mum must be extremely proud of you both as I’m sure your dad would be too. Thankyou for sharing

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  10. Thank you for sharing your story, I’m sat here in tears reading it. It’s 3 years ago on Wednesday that my son who was nearly 24 took his life. So much of what you have said is how I feel, I have 2 other children probably about your age, I’m going to show them your words when they get back from work. Your Dad will be always with you and I’m sure he would be very proud of you as I’m sure your mum and rest of your family are. Sending love and best wishes to you and your family x

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    1. I have read this message over and over because while I’m so heartbroken for you on the loss of your son, I’m so glad that you want to show my words to your children. I felt so alone when it happened to my family and one of the reasons I decided to write this was in the hope that it might maybe help somebody else who felt the same. Thank you so much for sharing this with me and sending all my love to your family too. I will keep you in my thoughts on Wednesday x.

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  11. Beautiful, eloquent and poignant Laura! It’s hard to read in places but it should be!
    It takes courage to share something so personal and devastating but I’m sure it will help many who read it. Xxx

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  12. Thank you so much for sharing. This is a beautiful and at the same time a heart breaking letter. I know people who are really struggling with depression. You have shared what a lot of people feel and maybe can’t share. Thank you . Love and best wishes

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  13. Wow, this is beautifully written and so strikingly honest. I’m sure your dad would be incredibly proud of you, as you clearly are of him. The more people that get talking, about mental health the more those uncomfortable conversations happen and the more people will know it’s ok to get help. You never know, you might’ve just saved someone’s life.
    xx

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  14. What you have written about suicide and your dad is incredibly important. I am a retired nurse, and a daughter. I was moved to tears throughout your writing. As a nurse it breaks my heart that another wonderful human being has been lost to mental illness.
    As a daughter what you and your sisters are going through is heart-wrenching. We want and need our dad throughout our lives. We adore our dad’s and feel safer when they are in our world. You are a gifted writer. I ended up caring about you, your family and your father’s struggle. I wish there was something I could do to ease your pain. Blessings to you and your family.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment, I really really appreciate it. The kindness I have received from strangers has meant so much and has reminded me that, although there is still stigma and that’s still a problem, there’s also a lot of love and understanding in the world too. Thank you once again x

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  15. I’ve just read this for the second time and this time for whatever reason has connected so much more.

    You are incredible. Your words are beautiful, honest and real.

    Be proud, everyone else is x

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  16. It was really beautiful… One of the rare blogs that you don’t want it to finish yet you have a sad smile that this person has been through alot and look how strong they are… He’s looking from upstairs sweetheart, and really proud of you

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  17. Wow this has moved me to tears . How brave you are , such honest and loving words about this important subject. You are very lucky to have had such a wonderful dad.
    I saw his “village people “ routine and it made me smile x

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    1. Thank you so much Nigel, that’s so kind of you and it means a lot. I do feel very lucky to have had him even for a short time. I’m so glad you remember his Village People routine! It’s one of my favourite memories of him – he just always wanted to make us laugh 🙂 x

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  18. We recently loss my brother to suicide also in Blackpool.
    His two Sons won’t be ready to read this but in the near future I honestly do think this will help them in some way.
    Mental health is such a cruel and painful illness that needs more awareness not just in society but also in the nhs…
    thank you for sharing this.

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    1. I’m so sorry I have only just seen this and so deeply sorry to hear about your brother. I really do hope this helps his sons in the future, even if just in a small way. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment when you must be dealing with your own rollercoaster of emotions – the words of people who have experienced similar honestly means the world. Keeping you, your brother and his sons in my thoughts x

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  19. I wholeheartedly feel every single word and feeling that you have so delicately put. I lost my dad in the very same way nearly 11 months ago.

    Everything you spoke about resonates with me, and I know that our dads would be proud of how we handle the never-ending rollercoaster of emotions. I don’t think anyone can truly comprehend the inner turmoil you feel, even when you have days when you’re doing ‘well’.

    Thank you for making me feel normal. Thank you for making me think about how brave my dad was. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. My dad was my hero too and always will be.

    Laura x

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    1. I’m so sorry I have only just seen this message but it has touched me in so many ways. I’m so very sorry you have been through the same thing but so glad that this helped you in some way. We are normal – more than we realise I think because it affects so many people. I have no doubt your dad was a very brave man and he will always be your hero. That’s what’s important I think, keeping the wonderful men that they were alive in our memories and stories of them. Sending you all the love in the world xx

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