Weathering the Fog

Jordan Langley articleI ended up donating the pink terrycloth robe to charity. I couldn’t stand to wear it again since my aunt and uncle visited our house and sat me down to tell me my dad had taken his own life. My growing belly stuck out of the middle of the robe and I sank lower and howled with my whole body.

The pink robe bore the scent and memory of that moment and it had to go.

Suicide carries a social stigma. Movies and television are filled with modern Shakespearean tragedies. The “tribute” magazines stacked on store shelves endlessly exploit suicide victims. Why? How? Questions need answers, now, now, now.

In its simplest form, suicide is an act of killing oneself.  The hurting person feels that, in their own mind, the solution to all problems would be to die. They believe they are relieving the pain in themselves and the people around them. Afterwards, the act is no longer singular. The web of the loss spreads, reaches out its tentacles and changes lives.

I’ve learned it’s how you handle the outcome that makes all the difference.

The death of my dad formed a gray fog over me. I was pregnant with my first child at the time and I since I had married and lived across town, I saw only the façade he put up in public. The shock of his suicide actually stopped my morning sickness for 48 hours. I had no idea he’d been suffering.

As with most loss, friends and family came to our aid with prayers, pot-luck dinners and offers of “anything we can do to help.” We were so grateful and really could not have started the healing process without them.

The fog continued to follow me long after the phone calls grew quiet. I’d been a daddy’s girl and my unborn child would never know the wonderful man who pitched softballs to me or spun yarns at the kitchen table, sparking my love of story writing. The world continued to turn, school bells rang, airplanes departed, but my heart still beat slow and ached for my dad.

What was surprising were the people who lacked self-control of their own curiosity, harshly prying into our family life even before offering a heartfelt condolence. Within the first week of my dad’s death, my family and I received the following comments:

“How’d he do it?” All of a sudden, everyone was a crime scene investigator.

“Why? Was he seeing another woman on the side? Did he have a gambling problem?” Neighbors we hadn’t talked to in years wanted the inside scoop. Co-workers wanted a piece of the drama.

“Did he leave a note?”

I couldn’t believe the audacity!  The shock was so fresh from my dad’s passing and I was in such a vulnerable place, that when these comments were made to me, I then worried about those aspects too. The extra anxiety was unhealthy for my baby and often in suicide, as in our case, questions of my dad’s last moments, his feelings, would never be answered.

The best way to get through that time was to distance ourselves from those busy-bodies that didn’t “get it.” We had lost a wonderful husband and father and to focus on anything more than that was counter-productive to the healing process. We may have lost relationships along the way, but in hindsight, we wouldn’t have wanted to stay friends with such insensitive people.

Now I don’t mention the suicide of my dad often. The stigma lives on and I feel that others might look at me crossways and judge me somehow, like I’m unstable too and might jump off a cliff at any moment. But I’m proud to stand up for my dad’s memory and revel in our past. I try not to think of the future he could have had.

Every time someone said only time would heal my pain, I wanted to smack them in the face. I didn’t want to feel better. I never wanted to get over my dad. The grey fog gathered hail stones, lightening and lots and lots of rain. But ultimately, they were right. I don’t sob until my ribs hurt anymore. I’ve added another child to a very fulfilling and distracting life. I smile.

That doesn’t mean birthdays, holidays, a movie clip we laughed at or the melody of our father/daughter wedding song, are any less painful.

It means I can share my experience of suicide with others and say, “You’re not alone. My loved one was hurting inside and took his own life, too. What a terrible, terrible situation. That doesn’t mean you are crazy. Don’t listen to what thoughtless outsiders say. Wrap friends and family and counselors around you and let them be your armor. Tears release chemicals that help your body. Cry and get rid of them, if you must. One day, you’ll think positively about something again. A commercial on television, the dog trotting across your yard, double scoop ice cream. Mark that down in the history books. Healing takes time. Feel free to smack me.”

A special thanks to Jordan for sharing her story with us.

Photo credit.

9 Comments:

  1. Michele said on September 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm ... #

    Thank you for sharing your heartbreak. My children lost their father to suicide almost one year ago. Fall and falling leaves will never, ever mean what they meant before he died. We miss him everyday. I still do not know where the dust will settle in their healing. Losing a father to suicide is unimaginable, unless it’s happened to you. I lost a husband, my grief is different than my children’s. That web of grief does reach far…he left behind 7 siblings that I can’t even begin to know how they are feeling. Our memories, our wishes, our hopes, our dreams surrounding our loved ones – all different, but somehow all the same. Thank you again for sharing…michele

  2. Jordan said on September 20, 2013 at 7:48 pm ... #

    Michele,
    thank you for sharing your story. I know it’s hard to talk about because his loss is so recent and painful. Even though you are experiencing a different sort of grief than your children, sticking together and being able to talk freely to each other is very important. It’s healthy. Hello Grief and Comfort Zone Camp are good resources. I wish you nothing but the best of luck and though it may seem far away, happiness.

  3. Rachel Young said on October 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm ... #

    I wish i had read this and known of this website when my cousin passed away 4 years ago. Recently a few days ago my friend has committed suicide and this site has helped me a lot. I hope anyone reading this knows theyre not alone and to get help in a loved ones passing. i was close to suicide myself when i heard my cousin passed and i felt it was my fault. I would blame myself for not being a better cousin and i hated myself for it. i even started cutting but my lovely friends helped me stop. So if anyone has any of these problems know your not alone

  4. Gray said on October 27, 2013 at 11:41 am ... #

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I feel much the same. I lost my only child to suicide 5 days before last Christmas. The beginning of each season is awful. We just went through his birthday a few weeks ago – he would have been 26. I dread the anniversary of his death. I still slip in and out of disbelief. I was not able to have other children, so there will never be any other children or grandchildren to distract me or for me to love. I lost my younger brother 18 months to the day, before my son died, and my son’s 14 year old dog died 4 months after he took his life. My husband functions better than I do. I too suffer from depression.I find myself having to reinvent myself and my life, but being at a loss to do it. I have no energy and my type A personality and organizational skills have evaporated. I have a hard time socially. I just put on my “face that I keep in a jar by the door.” Everyone says that things will slowly get better, but I haven’t seen that yet. And sometimes I don’t want to get “better”, I don’t want to leave him and forget things. I would rather stay in my little cocoon of misery.

  5. Amanda said on February 9, 2014 at 12:56 am ... #

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am a 20 year old college student and I lost my father to suicide a little over a month ago. Reading your story lets me know I am not alone and that I can get through this. One of my biggest fears is getting married and having kids without him and I dont know how I am going to do it. Thank you for showing me that it does in fact get better and that with time I will be able to live on, because currently I cant focus on school or all of the other things I have been left to deal with. Thank you

  6. Sue said on February 18, 2014 at 12:05 pm ... #

    I was shocked to find that suicide made me so angry with him that I really struggled to cope at first. I had so many unanswerable questions. Why didn’t he talk to me? Could I have stopped him? Why did he do it? How could he leave us like that without saying goodbye? Gradually I calmed down but almost 30 years on I still hurt when something reminds me of him- which is all the time. I hope we will meet again so that I can ask him. I hope it was not because of me.

  7. Sherrie said on March 29, 2014 at 6:40 pm ... #

    In the last 6 months, My youngest daughter took her own life. One month later her ex shot himself, within less than 7 weeks my only grandson @20 lost both parents.
    Now my husband has died, 7 years after he suffered a stroke. We were living apart at the time. He wanted a divorce and I wanted to stop the suffering on both sides. His suffering has now stopped, and I pray he is finally healed and happy where he is. Acceptance is a strange bedfellow.

  8. Vanessa said on May 27, 2014 at 2:53 am ... #

    I lost my husband six days ago. I think he did it believing that he was a burden and that this was the best solution. I forgive him and I hope he forgives me, as I never got up that evening and I could see he was in distress. I like to believe we will meet at those pearly gates and have a big hug and a cry and apologise for the huge and silly mistake we both made. I just can’t tell our 10 year old daughter what happened. I know all the professionals say to tell, but she is so sensitive. She will blame herself, want to know how and where and then get freaked out about things. I am afraid it will cause a depression in her.

  9. Liza said on July 31, 2014 at 2:37 am ... #

    I recently read that tears of grief consist or different biochemicals than years of joy. Fascinating. It seems the world should stop:BILLIAM DIED! STOP EVERYTHING!! I feel your pain. My lungs betray me & take that next breath against my will. Could he have ended his life knowing how much pain it would cause? Did he think he didn’t matter? Please, everyone, no judgement. Not for you or your father, not for me or my Bill. Depression, loneliness, suffering. Let’s show one another kindness & compassion. Let’s honor those we loved.

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