Today is February 13th, 2021. This is an important date here at Stand Strong, because today marks 10 years since I lost my father to suicide. If you’ve been following along with Stand Strong, you know that this event is what lead to the creation of this organization. This day is important, and I am writing this to recognize the “why” behind this brand, and to allow people to see how suicide affects the people who are left behind.
I had just turned 18 when I lost my father, now here I sit at 28 looking back on all the things that have happened over the last 10 years that he missed out on. So many important life events that I can only wish that my father would have been here for. I think about all the times that I needed my dad’s advice but never could get it, I think about how many problems he should have been there to help me solve that I had to figure out on my own, I think about how much different my life would be if he were still here. I also wonder how much different everyone else’s lives would be if he was still here, my family, his friends, and the relationships he would have made if he would have stuck around. As far as I’m concerned, there is no telling how much different life would be if he didn’t do what he did. I know that one thing is for sure, Stand Strong would not have come into existence.
When my father took his own life, it flipped mine upside down. I wish that there was something that could make the pain go away, I wish I could say that it has gotten easier. No amount of medication can fix this problem, no amount of therapy can make you forget something that’s burned so deeply into your mind. February 13th marks the worst day of my life, a day full of memories that I wish could be removed from my brain. Long ago, I realized that I couldn’t run from this, so I found it to be more effective to face the problem head on, and recognize that this is my reality, this is a problem that I have to live with, and I have to overcome it.
With every year that passes, I wonder if it’s ever going to get any easier, I wonder if I will ever live a normal life that’s not haunted by unanswered questions and flashbacks. To be completely honest, I don’t think a single day has gone by in the last 10 years that I haven’t thought about that gruesome experience. When I close my eyes, I can still see his face, I can still remember the entire scene in such vivid detail that I wonder how I’ve gotten this far without losing my mind. Any little thing can bring me back to that day, a song, an image, a word, a number, literally anything can send me right back to the very moment when I found his body. When it happens, I try to keep my composure, I brush it off like nothing happened and, on the surface, you wouldn’t know anything was wrong with me… but on the inside I am screaming. I thought that after 10 years that somehow, I would have gotten over this, but all I’ve really done is got better at living with it. Before any of this had happened, I never thought much about suicide or how big of an impact it made on the ones who were left behind, but now, it’s hard to not think about. I take no pleasure in sharing this story, I don’t like to make myself relive this experience, but through this story, I hope that it helps someone else out there who is thinking “my family would be better off without me.” because I can assure you, they won’t. I am living proof of that. I’m sure that this thought had crossed my father’s mind, and if he could see how things played out, I am certain he would think otherwise.
I’ve been at war with myself for 10 years now, thinking about what I could have done to save him, faced with questions I will never get the answers to, looking at how everything and everyone around me has changed from this one event. I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself in a dark place, wishing I could do something to make it all go away, but I know I can’t do that, I won’t go out like he did. I have to remind myself every day to stand strong, this is not just a phrase to me, this is a mentality that I live by. This mentality has gotten me through the hardest times in my life, and I try to use the negativity as fuel for something more positive. There is nothing I can do to bring my father back, but if I don’t make something good out of this situation it will haunt me, if I don’t do something, I will feel like my father died in vain.
I do this now because I want people to understand how serious of an issue this is. You’ll never see it coming until it’s too late. My father showed no signs of what was about to happen. Never in a million years did anyone think that my dad would go and do something like this, and when it happened, nobody was ready for it. Even if there were signs, this is something that you could never truly prepare yourself for. Knowing that someone you love felt so alone that death was the only way out that they could see, is one of the most painful thoughts you could live with. I know that at the end of the day, his decision was his own, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.
As I write this, tears stream down my face. I sit alone in my office with my dog where I escape from the world while I pour out my thoughts and emotions into this work with the slightest bit of hope that my words will help someone else who is out there struggling. There is nothing that I can do to change the circumstances of my life, but there’s a lot that I can do to change the circumstances of someone else’s. I am no professional by any means, my experience with mental health was purely a sink or swim situation, but I’ve taken what I’ve learned, and now I share that with you.
If you are reading this, I just want to say thank you, not only for taking the time to read what I have to say, but for caring enough about mental health to even click on this blog post to begin with. Never stop fighting to normalize the conversation around mental health. I believe that the only thing that can truly change the outcome of these situations is to make people feel comfortable with sharing what they’re going through. Nobody should ever feel afraid to reach out for help, and if you’re going through something right now and need help, check out our “get help” page for a list of resources. Don’t give up, your life is worth living, and there are people out there who love you and care about you, even if you can’t see it right now. No matter what life has thrown at you, stand strong, and take care of your mind. You are NOT alone.