I recently had someone tell me that I was a ‘survivor’. I had never used that term to describe myself. She helped me see that, yes, I am a survivor and this is my story.
My father killed himself on November 24th, 1977 in Texas. My parents were divorced at the time, dad had visitation rights but we didn’t see him and my stepmother much since we lived in Colorado. It was Thanksgiving Day and my mom and grandmother were cooking dinner and my uncles were chatting when the phone rang. I raced to answer it. On the line was my dad’s brother, my uncle Jim. He didn’t sound quite right when he asked me to let him speak to my mom. How I knew what had happened escapes me to this day. Call it intuition, ESP, foresight, whatever it was sent me into my room with a horrible feeling that my dad was dead.
The next thing I remember was my mother hugging my older sister and I, sobbing, repeating over and over, “This cruel, cruel world!” I remember crying a lot that day but not much else. I know she must have told us he did it himself because I have carried that with me to this day.
Being it was winter in Colorado and dad was buried in Kansas, my mom chose not to drive us girls to the funeral. We never got a proper goodbye but it turns out my mom’s decision was a blessing. Apparently there was an ugly scene at the funeral between my stepmother and uncle. A lot of blame was tossed around. But there’s really only one person who is responsible for his actions and that’s my father.
34 years later I still carry the shame, stigma, guilt, and anger of my father’s actions. I don’t really discuss it much because it makes people uncomfortable. I don’t discuss it with my sister because it tears her up worse than it does me. And my mom, God bless her, just doesn’t understand why I am not over it yet. As each year passes, it gets a little easier to discuss, a little easier to face and a little easier not to blame my 11-year-old self. And each year I hang for dear life to the loved ones that surround me and hope they never have to experience suicide as up close as I have.
So yes, I am a survivor of suicide, and I am proud to have come this far. If I can do it, anyone touched by suicide can do it. Hope floats to the top, you just have to grab on and believe in the ride.