Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Amy, a 30-year-old woman from Pennsylvania. I work from home for a baby and toddler goods brand so I can spend more time with my husband of seven years and our two children. I love geek culture, especially Star Wars, Doctor Who, and video games.
I had a pretty normal upbringing. I am the oldest of three and was always seen as the responsible one, but was also a bit of a stubborn know-it-all, and often butted heads with my dad who had the same traits. However, my parents were always there as a support system. I saw my dad as having all of the answers and he bailed me out of many bad decisions (though not without dad lectures!) He was my superman.
My dad had a very big personality. He loved corny jokes (“You know what really burns my ass? A flame about this high!”) and was the kind of person who could leave any situation with a new friend. He was also a very generous and giving person and did volunteer work and gave a lot of his time to his many hobbies. He would drop everything to help a friend in need.
I didn’t know he was struggling. He had mentioned that he had a significant loss of income due to the recession, but since my brother and I both had out first children during that time, he spent more and more time with them which seemed to uplift him.
He left us a letter and video summarizing his financial problems and we discovered the scope when preparing paperwork for his estate. He was self-employed in a financial field and, we discovered, would fall behind on paying his taxes during lean years, but then catch up when business was better.
I received a phone call from a man identifying himself as a police officer and asking me to come to my mother’s. I was having trouble grasping what he was saying because something seemed off but it didn’t register until later that he asked me to come to my mother’s house rather than my parents’.
In the weeks right after, I focused my energy on my family. My mother had asked us to move in with her and I spent my free time either spending time with her, making room in her home, or packing and then settling my family in.
I did everything I could to try to take the pressure off of my mom but managed to neglect my own grieving for the most part. About 10 months later, I ended up having a breakdown because I’d suppressed so much of my grief and sorrow, and I finally started counseling to deal with grief.
Has his death affected other aspects of your life?
His death affects every aspect of my life, I think about it every day. Whenever anything happens, good or bad, I wonder what my dad would say. My husband and I were trying for our second child at that time and dealing with secondary infertility. I felt a lot of irrational guilt, like if I had gotten pregnant right away that my dad might not have done it.
I know the stress did not help our fertility issues. When I eventually did get pregnant and had my son two years later, it was difficult to think that this was a child my dad would never know and vice versa. My son looks a lot like my dad and absolutely has a personality like his, and I feel so sad for the relationship they would have had.
I do worry about this. I had issues with depression and anxiety prior to my dad’s death and have heightened concern since my father had also lost a brother to suicide. It wasn’t something he spoke about often but was still held very close in his heart.
The single most helpful things was that my best friend just made herself available and showed up. That kind of support system is fantastic since it took the pressure off of us to ask for help, she stepped in wherever she could.
I know it’s terrible to say, but I felt alienated when people tried to relate by bringing up a non-suicide death or the suicide of someone they were not close to. It felt like it was dismissive of the many layers of this kind of loss. The hardest part for me was knowing that my dad chose this, and knowing that he died feeling the way he did.
It helped to hear people who had known him tell me about happy memories with him, especially reminders of his amazing personality. People who didn’t know him helped a lot by allowing me to talk about my grief, or by asking what he was like. His death did not define him, and knowing that he left his mark on the world was a huge source of healing.
Thank you so, so much for sharing your story, Amy. Have any of your experienced anything similar? And if so, what helped you to work through it?