Henri’s story on Reaching Milestones Coping with Losing her Father to Suicide
Apologies in advanced if I have not done the English language justice, as I am a mere doctor who’s writing experience is limited to GCSE English and amateur scientific papers. I will just write my thoughts….
Father’s day was not a day I remember with great significance. The four of us children would always of course send a card, and often head home for a big family dinner for Dad’s birthday that fell on the same weekend each year. In fact, I sit writing this on what would have been his 60th birthday. Since his death, father’s day has become one of those unexpected days that sneaks up on and winds you. However prepared you feel for it, content with life around you; the predictable hollow feeling the days brings is unwavering. His birthday, the anniversary of his death, Christmas; are much the same. Father’s day somehow feels like the hardest to weather. I often wonder how a day like any other, a day spent at work, or with friends, can feel so inherently different. How can an entirely different day, 365 days later, re-ignite the same feelings of loss? I wonder if I were exploring in the jungle, loosing track of the date, would these titled days still creep up on me with such force.
Perhaps this is because birthday’s and anniversaries can past silently to others. It was only me on the ward round this morning who would have know my eyes were prickling with tears when writing the date of my father’s birthday in each of the patient’s notes. There is no such luck with father’s day! I make no exaggeration that as soon Easter weekend is done with; the display of father’s day cards explodes across the nation. I should know, I notice them now! I have been caught off guard many a times in May, innocently perusing cards shops for an engagement card for a friend. I cannot count the amount of emails I have received over the last 6 weeks reminded me that father’s day is imminent, and to make sure I stock up on that all important gift. In fact the email from a drinks company titled, ‘Your Father Deserves a Drink’, left me (after a couple of drinks of my own) emailing customer services to tell them just what I thought of this insensitive subject title. Of course this was a generic marketing email, with no attempt to offend, but the kick in the heart when I saw that subject amongst other emails took me off guard.
Talking of kicks in the heart…the best advice I have given a friend recently who lost her father suddenly was, ‘Do not under any ANY circumstances go on social media on fathers day’. In fact avoid it 2 or 3 days before, and after, to be safe! There is something utterly heart breaking about reading people posting pictures of their treasured dads and how legendary they are. I have been known to break this rule, to cry into my laptop reading all the emotional posts. I am dangerously sounding like a bitter scrooge now; why shouldn’t my friends post pictures of their gorgeous dads. Of course they should, perhaps now I know how bloody awful it is to lose a dad, I should encourage them to share there love for their fathers. In truth I should feel fortunate that I had 25 years worth of father’s days, and ‘every’ days to spend with my dad before we lost him. I am so very aware that others haven’t had that precious time.
I have reflected a lot recently about what it is to lose a parent so early in your life. The only bittersweet thing about going through it is that you are somewhat prepared for guiding your friends through the inevitable, but much to premature journey. I lost my father unexpectedly through suicide, one day he was here, the next gone. The trauma of the suddenness of his death, and not having the chance to tell him all the things I wished I had, has stayed with me. My dearest friend lost her father in an equally traumatic way last week, a dreadful accident that left him with just an hour to have a lifetime’s conversations before he died. I cannot imagine where you would begin to find the words. Another friend watched her immensely proud and talented father wither away in body and mind following an aggressive brain tumour. My conclusion is that there is no ‘good’ way to lose a parent so young. Many people try to console with well-meaning comments such as, ‘at least it was sudden’, ‘at least you said what you wanted to say’, ‘at least you had more time together’- all circumstances are equally as cruel for different reasons.
This father’s day will be spent with my family, all together raising a glass in memory a man that is missed dearly every day. We will talk about him with great fondness and create new memories with our ever-expanding family; a grandson he did not get the chance to meet, and boyfriends that have become son’s-in-law at weddings he missed. I hope one day the day will have a new meaning when we have children of our own, and I can walk into a shop a buy a father’s day card for my husband without feeling sadness.
As a family we talk more than ever about the journey we have been through together, and the challenges we all still face individually.
The marathon, and our involvement in the Heads Together campaign really has felt like a milestone for our family. It has enabled us to talk honestly and openly about mental health, offering support to each other and our wider family and friends. We want to be part of the national conversation on mental health; reducing the stigma and empowering people to get the help and support they need.