My dad made a decision that would forever change MY life. My whole life was destroyed. My world was turned upside down. My heart was shattered. My chances of making new memories with him were over. My, my, my…
I couldn’t see past these thoughts. I was consumed with how much my life was affected, that I didn’t even notice my husband was grieving the loss of his father-in- law. When I finally stepped out of the “my” fog, I felt incredibly selfish that I had taken a chance away from my husband to grieve with me. I’m not great at opening up about my emotions and thought I should grieve on my own in private. When I made that decision, I then made a choice that affected more than just myself. I realized I was no different than my father in that way.
My husband needed me to let him in so that we could grieve together. Not only did he need me, but I needed him as well and hadn’t even realized it. I wasn’t strong enough to grieve alone and make it out on the other side. My staying silent tore us apart. There was this giant cloud looming over us that neither would acknowledge.
Over a year went by and we were still stuck in the same place. He couldn’t mention my dad without me instantly breaking down in tears and completely shutting down. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him because I felt it would show weakness. The thing was, I was weak. I was emotionally exhausted. I was burnt out on trying to hide my tears. I woke up one morning and realized that this was not how we should be coping with my dad’s suicide. That’s when the words started pouring out. When I couldn’t say anything else, my husband started talking. I realized that he was feeling a lot of the same emotions I was. We were BOTH angry. We were BOTH confused. Most of all, we were BOTH heartbroken. Hours went by and eventually, our tears turned to laughter. We began reminiscing about my dad. We told stories that neither of us had heard before. I finally understood that my husband had a unique bond with my dad, and it was unfair of me to downplay his grief.
Making that decision to open up was one of the best things I could have done. I don’t regret trying to grieve on my own. It’s just who I am. I try to fix everything first, and if I can’t, then I call in reinforcements. I just wish I wouldn’t have waited so long to let him in. We did need each other to make it through such a difficult time. Letting him in also gave me a chance to learn about a different side of my dad. Sure, I spent 20 years of my life with him, but I didn’t have the same kind of relationship with him that they had.
Drew knew my dad in the same way a son would. It was the little things that they did that made an impact. Drew would invite my dad along to get a haircut and grab a beer. I can honestly say that those are things I would have never thought about doing with my dad. They would work on the Mustang together, and enjoy it. I’m pretty sure my dad would pretend to enjoy me being out there with him, but I mostly complained when it came to working on the car. Drew was able to fill a void in my dad’s life that no one else could, and for that, I will be forever grateful to my husband. I know my dad looked up to him and told me numerous times that he was so happy I found someone like Drew to spend my life with.
Drew and I have since been able to have conversations about my dad together. At times, we still cry together when we speak of him. He was a huge part of our lives and still is. My dad somehow makes his way into our conversations almost daily. We finally enjoy talking about him. Sometimes it’s just memories or laughing about little things my dad would say or do, but occasionally, we like to imagine what our future would have been like if he hadn’t made the choice to leave. It’s refreshing to have someone to share these moments with, especially since suicide has become so taboo in society. I have noticed that I tend to make people uncomfortable when I mention my dad. I don’t do it out of anything except habit. It’s become natural to me to bring him up. My hope is that others will be able to feel comfortable with talking about their loved ones who chose suicide. We shouldn’t feel ashamed of a decision they made, nor should we stray away from the topic.
Ashley Gamble writes over at Riding Without Dad. You check out her blog for weekly posts about her journey after losing her dad to suicide.