Firstly, I would like to say I am so unbelievably sorry you are going through this extremely tragic and confusing loss. I see you and the indescribable heartache you carry.
Secondly, don’t let this silence you. Don’t let the world and the stigmas keep you from talking about the death and battle with mental illness . Mental illness is something we need to keep talking about, keep bringing up, keep advocating for, keep fighting for. Use this experience to let it change you, because it will. You will be insanely aware of the public health crises that is mental illness. You will never be the same but you will be stronger than you ever thought possible. Whether you go on to advocate for mental health awareness on a large scale or incorporate daily random acts of kindness more often to make an impact, either way you are making a huge impact and honoring your loved one’s life in the best way possible.
It has been one year, 365 days since my father lost his battle with mental illness and took his life. I remember the exact moment I felt something wasn’t right. I was doing makeup for a bridal party that day and I felt an indescribable shift in my body. It was like I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t necessarily put my finger on it. I knew my father was going through an extremely difficult time. I knew he struggled with mental illness for quite some time but he always kept going, pushing through. It was that Saturday I sent him a message asking how he was doing. The next morning there was no response which I thought was odd but I was starting a new job the next morning, I had a 9 month old, and life just kind of swept me up that day (it will forever haunt me that if I were to call someone, do something, could someone have saved him?). The next morning I went to my job and everything was just off. I was on a lunch break and stopped at my neighbors house. I remember telling her that I think something is wrong with my dad. I went home to find my husband in our bedroom working on something. I called my dads phone a few times with no answer. That is when I realized something was very wrong and in that moment I got a phone call from a number that I did not recognize.
It was the police officer telling me that they had found my father dead. All of a sudden I couldn’t breath. My mind was racing. The whole entire world just stopped. My father, the one who was supposed to be coming for my daughter’s baptism soon, the one who I called about almost everything, the one who growing up treated me like I was literally the princess of the United States, one of my biggest fans/supporters, one of my biggest encouragers, my dad,is gone. He’s dead. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I still can’t sometimes and you probably won’t be able to for quite some time either.
In the next few days it was all business for me. I just had to stay focused. I made arrangements for my daughter to be taken care of, booked flights for my mother and I, and started figuring out all of the funeral arrangements and all the other little and big things you do not realize you have to do when someone dies.
My mom and I flew out to North Carolina where my father was residing and met other family members there. That is where I found the note and it started to really sink in what he had done. We had a very intimate and special service up on the mountain tops of Wiyah Bald where I spread his ashes. Growing up he would always say that when he died he wanted his ashes spread there so of course I honored his wishes. I took a box of things from his home to take back with me. I was completely numb.
The next few months that followed were agonizing. I struggled with severe anxiety attacks, insomnia, and nightmares when I actually could sleep. I don’t even know if you could call it coping. I literally just did anything I possibly could to get through each day. It was like the whole rest of the world kept going around me and I was just standing there watching it all happen, feeling completely helpless. On top of this I still had to be a mom, a wife, a business owner, and keep up with my second job. There were days where I would go to call him and then it would hit me like a freight train that he was gone. I still do this a year later. I will randomly see someone across a grocery store or when I’m out running errands and think it is him and then it will hit me that he is gone.
The months have gone on and I’ve found some peace by holding on tight to my faith, talk therapy, and trying to focus on celebrating his life rather than his death.
I wish I could tell you it gets easier. It gets more manageable. But easier, no. Things will never be the same since my father decided that he would/we would be better off without him on earth. Oh how I wish I could go back and tell him I love him just one more time, tell him how proud I am for fighting this long, tell him how I know he’s tired and feeling defeated but you can get through this.
He would have been the worlds greatest grandfather on the whole entire planet. I watch my father in law interact with my daughter and can’t help but think how absolutely amazing my father would have been. My father was extremely invested in my childhood and I know he would have been in Eva’s as well. One of her biggest fans, biggest supporters, and make her feel like an absolute princess. So for now I will just have to keep the memories close, share them with my daughter every chance I get and keep his spirit alive for as long as I live.
I am still just as heartbroken today as i was 365 days ago. I guess I’m still trying to figure out how to continue living life while a piece of me is gone. You will figure it out too. It’s just going to take time.
Rather than curl up and focus on all the bad, try to put your energy into making this world a better place, being a vessel for the Lord, and letting God work through you to advocate for those that don’t feel like they have a voice, those who need immense healing and restoration.
Lastly, let this change you but don’t let it harden you, don’t let it make you bitter or angry. They did not choose to end their life because they wanted you to be hurt. They chose that because they genuinely thought the world and themselves would be better off if they were gone. Let this change you, make you stronger, more empathetic, less judgmental, more caring and compassionate. And most of all honor their lives by doing some good with a really awful situation.