My Dad’s Suicide Broke My Heart by JD Doty

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I haven’t blogged in a year. Something happened and I haven’t really wanted to write about it or anything else until now…so here I go.

It was a year ago yesterday that I heard my daddy say “I love you too,” for the last time. And it was a year ago today that I found out he had passed away. Actually, saying ‘passed away’ puts diamonds on what happened so let’s try this again.

It was a year ago today that my daddy shot himself. It’s such an ugly thing to say. It really is. And until you’ve been through the situation personally, lost someone to their own will, will you agree with me. I remember every ugly detail of that day. I remember my mom calling me to alert me what had been seen on Facebook. I remember other people calling me to see if I knew what was going on. I remember some calling to say, “There’s no way J.D. There’s no way.” I remember calling around to see if we could find him, because, I live five hours away…going door to door wasn’t an option for me.

And then I remember the squealing tires of a yellow school bus stopping in front of my house, my husband running through the door with fire and hurt and fear in his eyes. I remember the reluctance behind his face. He didn’t want to have to tell me what he knew, but he did. My poor husband.

I remember having to put my hand over my chest because I really thought my heart was going to leap from my chest. You read about that in books, and hear people say it in movies, but to experience it is a different feeling all on its own. I remember trying to take a shower and throwing up all over the place. I remember feeling as though someone’s hands were all over me and I pushed them away. It could have been an anxiety attack, but I could’ve sworn, in that moment, it was my daddy saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, forgive me.”

I didn’t want that though. I didn’t want apologies. I wanted him.

I remember pulling into Abilene, finding my youngest brother (who’s a foot taller than me), I let his arms wrap around me and I could feel the blood pulsing beneath his skin. And I cried. He didn’t. Not in that moment. Instead he was expressing his anger the best way he knew how and that was with silence.

I remember my other brother ordering me the strongest drink on the bar menu at Texas Roadhouse. He said I needed to not feel for a little bit. So I drank and actually felt nothing. Seriously. The alcohol didn’t effect me at all. I was already numb.

I’ll also remember how his family rallied around each other to be there for me and my brothers. I’ll remember the 400 plus attendants at the funeral. If anyone had tried to tell me my daddy was alone I would have laughed in their face. My daddy wasn’t alone. He had the world…he just refused to accept it…

I’m going to change the subject for a moment to talk about the ways I’ve experienced death recently. I’ve had the luxury to watch someone beautiful die twice now. The first time was in March of 2012. My husband’s Nana passed away after battling cancer. No, there’s really nothing beautiful in that, or death, but the experience…it was beautiful. I watched my husband’s family rally together, hold one another, sing her to her final resting place and bid her goodbye. Every time I entered the room, all eyes were on Nana, her every breath. You could tell everyone wanted each breath to be her last…but not really. If they had the option to hold on to her forever I know they would’ve. But. It was in the moment, when I was sitting on my husband’s lap, a few cousins were scattered around the room, and we were talking and gently laughing about something other than Nana did she slip away. It was as if she waited for the moment when everyone had a smile on their face, and when she knew all would be okay did she go.

The family fell, of course, on their knees, around her bed, into each others arms, to wail and pray. And in every heart breaking moment all I could think was, “this is beautiful.”

At this point in my life I’m watching my father-in-law wilt away due to the effects of ALS. Another ugly ugly situation. But again my in-laws are binding together and finding ways to hold on to every ounce of love they have. My sisters-in-law will smile the brightest of smiles to Gordon’s face and cry the moment he turns around. This isn’t weakness. This is strength and they have it. I’m watching my mother-in-law nurse another soul to the path of heaven with such grace that all I can do is lift her up in prayer. And I’m watching my husband stay busy, and loving, and act every bit as the man of the household…all the while knowing he will be losing two fathers in the span of two years. I’m watching this and again, there is beauty.

However, let’s get back to the ugliness.

I am past the anger phase. I truly am. I know it sounds like I’m still angry, but I think the bitterness is deserved. I loved this man with every beat of my heart. I was a daddy’s girl through and through and I’ve been marked with him quitting on life and on me.

My brother, David, has turned his life around in the last year and a half. I used to think he harbored a monster inside of him as a result of being in the army…which is partly true…but he’s found reason to live, to love others, and more importantly love himself. It’s a miraculously beautiful thing to see and my daddy is missing every moment of it.

Please please, I do not need to hear that “He’s in heaven’s balcony, watching the things we do,” bit. I want him here. I want him to see David. I want him to hug my brother and tell him that he is legitimately PROUD of how he is living his life. David deserves to hear that from his daddy because I don’t think he ever had. It’s one thing to have everyone else tell you, but to live your life in the shadow of your father and then to never hear those words from him is a story all in itself.

Now Michael. Michael has a lot of life left to live and experience. He’s nearly seventeen, and of course he “already has life figured out,” as all seventeen year olds do. Ha! He hurts differently than the rest of us. He has many vices and none of them are good. He finds peace in potions and I do raise my fist at my dad because that pistol caused a lot of this. He’d never admit this, but he lives life with fear taking control of most of his decisions. He’s afraid of new. He’s afraid of rejection. And he’s afraid to feel. He wasn’t like this a year and a half ago.

There is a future in my brother. I don’t doubt it for a second. He has the ability to find the value in his own life and make something of himself…but he has to learn how to deal with abandonment, and it’s not an easy thing to do. He’s going to graduate high school, college, get married, bring children into the world all without the wisdom and advice of his daddy. But, he was robbed.

And me. I’m pregnant. Something I didn’t expect, and I won’t lie, I didn’t necessarily want to happen. But it’s a little boy. Who’s going to teach this kid to pitch?! No that’s not my greatest concern, but hell, it was definitely a dream of mine to have my daddy teach a kid of mine the Slurve…or whatever that is. I am mad and angry and I do hurt, because a year ago when my daddy told me he loved me too, he had promised to come visit very soon. He told me he missed me and wanted to see the new town we lived in. He promised me the world in a ten-minute conversation, said he loved me and shot himself six hours later.

He had SO much to live for and so many people who loved him that I still sit here at a loss. Suicide is ugly! The people that love me will patiently sit by my side and listen to my words but it’s ugly and I hate burdening people with it. I miss my daddy and not one day went by for the last year where I didn’t think of his face, his last moments, and then wonder what more could I have done for him. Well, everything. I could have done more of everything. I could have stood up for his life when he was living and drinking his paychecks away with that woman. I could have told him how happy I was that they broke up because she was never good for him. No good person pushes that much alcohol into your life when you’re depressed at where your life is headed. She did that and I never stood up for my daddy’s life.

It’s possible that I was complacent with the fact that he WAS alive and now that it’s too late, I’ve worked the situation backward to see where I could go back and fix it. But I can’t.

I do know, that with God’s good grace I’ll be able to hug my daddy’s neck once again. I know that all the hurt he felt in the last couple years of his life stopped the moment he pulled the trigger. But it still sucks. And hurts.

I miss you, daddy.


This piece was originally written by JD Doty for her website, Doty’s Dish. Thank you, JD, for your willingness to share your story with us. So many of us can relate to your words.

15 Responses

  1. Julie Harris
    | Reply

    I feel your pain. So much of what you wrote I’ve experienced as well. Just know you’re not alone. Hugs to you!

  2. Dianna Matzo
    | Reply

    Your raw honesty is rare. There is no “sugar-coating” suicide, no matter the circumstances. I hope for blessings in your future. Dianna

  3. Cally
    | Reply

    Thank you for your honesty and transparency. It helps to know we are not alone. I too lost my dad to suicide recently and share many of your same feelings and emotions.

  4. Alyssa
    | Reply

    So insanely relatable as I approach my first year mark without my dad on January 14th, the same day I will be 37 weeks pregnant with our first child, his first grandbaby. My husband also had to tell me the news and my younger brother is only 19 and will experience so much without his dad. Thank you for sharing this. ❤

  5. Asja
    | Reply

    I am in complete tears after reading this. It will be two years this April since I lost my dad. So many things you have said just hit home. I just had our last baby. Yes a babyboy third time was a charm, but he isn’t here to share his love with him. My dad not here has been a struggle. Life goes on and so many times I want to share the good and the bad with my dad…We learn to live with them gone till it’s our time. Suicide is ugly!! We are left so much pain as suicide lost survivors. Sending you hugs and strength.

  6. Vonda
    | Reply

    I lost my only son to suicide 9 months ago, although I knew he suffered from depression I guess/ hoped that the love I had for him would be enough to see him through the darkness and it wasn’t. I have to tell myself daily his actions were not to hurt me but to bring him relief. I cannot imagine the termoil that one must feel to choose those actions. My emotions as a mother are mainly failure!!! I could not protect my son …. I am sorry for every survivor, it’s hard everyday! Big hugs to all

  7. Tammy
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    I feel you!! Suicide is “ugly”. The terror and pain never goes away. My mom- my best friend – and both my brothers at age 18 died from suicide. I had no idea anyone else survived this horror in life. Thank you for sharing your story!! It’s a continuous rerun of a nightmare that never goes away- 20 years later. My heart goes out to you. Still to this day “where are you? WHY” ?

  8. Dena McKenzie
    | Reply

    I felt like this article was written from my heart. My pop also shot himself but the difference is, I am the one who found him. I’ve never felt a heartbreak like the one when I found him. I also lost my brother to suicide 3 years prior to my pop and he is the one who found my brother. It will be 12 years and 9 years this year since they have both left this world. My heart goes out to you!!!!

  9. Jimi
    | Reply

    I can absolutely relate to this post you’ve written. My dad shot himself also in early 2014. The “Why” question still haunts me to this day also. I suppose we as survivors won’t know the answer to that question this side of heaven. My heart goes out to you for posting this blog –you are definitely not alone in this…

  10. Amy
    | Reply

    I lost my dad 4 years ago . He was my hero my best friend .. he married my mom young he was 21 my mom 17. He often reminded me how I saved his life and kept him out of the war. When my parents divorced after 15 years I moved in with my dad … I loved him and trusted him . Now I am an adult 4 kids later and a marriage of 28 years. No note .. the examiner said they could not find any disease that he was in pain from .. and how sorry he said he was . I currently I think am doing well but, at times I go way to a dark place of grief …and guilt and blame . It is so hard to bring myself up from this .. I often think about Suicide although I love my husband and children to much I could never cause them any pain … I just don’t know how to get past the pain of my dad . I truely loved and admired this man since I was born . He will always be my hero , my dad , my friend

    • brandylidbeck
      | Reply

      Amy, I am so sorry to hear about your dad. So tragic. Please make sure you get help for yourself. The pain you feel after your dad’s suicide is the same pain your kids and children would be left with. Take care of yourself. Call the Suicide Hotline if you continue to have those thoughts. You matter! 1-800-273-8255

  11. Sam
    | Reply

    My dad committed suicide 6 days ago. He was my best friend. It’s horrible. The Lord will give us strength!!!! I will now make it my life mission to prevent this from happening to anyone else. I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone, no matter how bad of a person they are

    • brandylidbeck
      | Reply

      Sam, I am so sorry to hear about your dad. My condolences to you and your entire family. So so devastating!

  12. Colby Petty
    | Reply

    My dad shot my mother, then himself when I was 15. Feel the same numbness without alcohol as I do with it still today as well I’m 28. I’ve been told in my marriage I don’t have feelings anymore. I feel like I’m dead inside even though I’m here.

    • brandylidbeck
      | Reply

      Colby, that is so horrific. Our condolences to you and your family.

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