A Letter to My Father Three Years Later by Deborah Greene

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Dear Dad,
April 20th is coming. I hear it, like a soft drumbeat in the distance, inching ever closer. Soon it will be three years since you died. I blink, and it feels as if time has just flown by. I draw a deep breath and it feels like only yesterday. How can it be that the passage of time exists with such duality?

This year, the blanket of trauma that once enveloped me, has slipped from my shoulders. I still carry it, but it does not bear the same weight it once did. It did not happen magically, rather I have done the hard work of grief, peeling it off inch by inch, layer by layer, stitch by stitch. They do not call it grief work for nothing, this unscripted test of endurance, courage, resilience, strength and fortitude. I have discovered that I carry within me an abundance of these traits, a wellspring so deep and seemingly without end.

Yes, time and process have been like a salve on my many wounds. Some have begun to heal, others are now covered by a thin scab, yet even three years later, some remain open.
Grieving your death has been far from simple. I pass from stage to stage, and back again. It’s as if I exist in a play, a story I never could have imagined. Each act reflects my journey through the valley of the shadow.

Act One
The ground beneath me shifted, and there I stood amid a psychological autopsy, searching for the reasons why you ended your life. My days were spent in hindsight, searching for the missed signs, the things I did not see, the questions without answer. Was there a prelude to your tragic end? Foreshadowing? Guilt and regret consumed me, as the questions played on a never-ending loop in my head. The rearview mirror was like an appendage, a prop that accompanied me every moment of the day.

Act Two
Swept under by the tsunami of trauma, I tried desperately to reach the surface. Wave after wave of anger and abandonment swept over me, and there was a pain so deep I could feel it pulse through my veins. I spent my days fighting the undertow, flailing about, feeling vulnerable all the time. It was a victory if I could simply tread water and stay afloat.

Act Three
On my knees, I began to pick up the pieces of my shattered self. Gently I gathered them together and held them to me, cleaving to the remnants of what was, mourning for what would never be again. Laying them all out, I sifted through each piece one by one, searching for what still fit, what was now unrecognizable, unsalvageable and what might be different but still had a place in this new mosaic of self. It felt awkward, uncomfortable, unfamiliar to carry those fragments, taped together, separated by every fissure and crack that was now a part of me. I wondered if it was even possible to feel whole. Would I always be a stranger to myself?

Act Four
This is where I stand today. Having navigated through layer after layer of trauma, a long, arduous and painful excavation, I have finally revealed the grief. What I feel most now is the sorrow of missing you, not because of how you left, but simply because you are gone. The never of it all breaks my heart.
Never will I …
Hear your voice
Dance with you
Tell you that I love you
Feel the comfort of your embrace
Never will you…
Call me by my nickname
Tell me you love me
Bear witness to the life that I have built
Celebrate the milestones of my daughters
Laugh with me
Cry with me
Reveal your stories to me
Allow me to better know you
Grow into my friend
Answer the question of why you left
The list of nevers goes on.
Three years have gone by. So much between us was left unsaid. Like a silent interlude, there was no goodbye. The conversations we shared ended abruptly, never to be resumed, revisited; there will be no picking up where we left off.
The acts will go on, and time will not stand still. It is unfathomable to me that your story will never have another chapter.
I miss having a father in this world. I miss the certainty of your presence. I miss the belief that we would always have tomorrow. I long to pick up the phone and hear your voice. I still want another chance to save you from yourself. I miss all that was before your final, tragic bow.
My grief has no intermission.
April 20th is coming. The drumbeat grows louder with each passing day. I am healing. The journey is getting a bit easier.
The eternal truth is this Dad, I miss you very much. We were both flawed characters. I loved you the best that I could, and I know you did the same. I forgive you for the way that you left me. I will carry the sorrow of your loss every day. But I am learning to carry the joy and sweetness as well. Thank you for being my father and for the complex, imperfect, at times tempestuous, wounded, but ultimately resilient, enduring, deeply held love that we shared. That is the truth that remains, the encore that follows every act, the final curtain call of our story.
I miss you so very much Dad.
I love you always.
D

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This piece was originally written by for Reflecting Out Loud. It is there that Deborah shares her journey after her father’s suicide with fellow survivors. 

13 Responses

  1. Kris
    | Reply

    Oh, my! A beautifully written piece. Thank you for your heartfelt honesty.
    I also lost my father. Your words describe my experience as well.
    Please keep writing.

  2. Gloria Carrera
    | Reply

    As the April 28th one year anniversary of my brother’s suicide looms before us, and I prepare for my trip to Ohio to be with my niece, this piece touched my heart so deeply. I hope to share it with my niece but only if she is ready. It is so beautifully and soulfully written.

  3. Mandy
    | Reply

    I cried when I read this, for I too experienced every word you wrote. I hit the three year mark of my dad’s passing this last March 19th. There is something significant about three years, it’s quite a long time but still so new. I’ve rebuilt myself but I’ve come out the other side different and I’m not too sure how I feel about that person yet. Thank you for this lovely piece and I’m so very sorry for your loss ♡

  4. Diane
    | Reply

    Wow. This brought tears to my eyes. Very well written. So many of the emotions you wrote about ring true for me as well. Thank you for your words. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  5. Julie
    | Reply

    Amazing and absolutely beautiful.

  6. Anna
    | Reply

    Dear Deborah,

    Such an incredibly well-written and poetic expression of your experience. I have also recently passed the 3 year mark in my journey of the loss of my brother and I can’t tell you how well you’ve hit on so much of the processes we go through in healing.

    It is so comforting to read your words and they resonate so deeply with me.

    Thank you so much for your bravery in sharing this.

    Anna

  7. Kim Reinbott
    | Reply

    Oh my goodness this made me cry so hard but yet is so true is my day is March 22nd it was 2 years and I just feel like now I’m able to pick myself up off the ground but thank you so much for this passage it means a lot to me

  8. Denise Varga
    | Reply

    My father passed 61 years ago. I wrote him a poem. I was only 5 when he actually died. I didn’t find out until I was around 12. I found out by mistake overhearing a conversation. No one talked about it, no one explained anything to me. At any age suicide is hard. You did a good thing by writing your feelings to your dad. Writing is healing. My writing and my faith has helped me. God bless. Denise

  9. Deborah Greene
    | Reply

    Thank you all for your kind words and heartfelt responses to this piece. I am so moved to know that it resonated with others who have lived this loss. I wish us all continued strength and healing, comfort and courage, hope and wholeness as we continue to navigate this road. Thank you for sharing in a piece of my journey and sharing some of yours in return.

  10. Tricia
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I am coming up on three years in October of my son’s suicide. Recently, I, too have had thoughts of suicide, so I read your letter from my surviving son’s perspective. I want to continue to have a life with him. I want to call him by his nickname.

  11. Rhonda
    | Reply

    If I substitute the word husband for each time you write father, this is about me. Beautifully written and, oh, so accurate. As one who is 6 years down the road, I have so much joy and compassion that I thought I’d never feel again. But that grief work had to be done to get me here. Thank you.

  12. Mags
    | Reply

    I’m approaching the three year mark as well of my father’s passing which will be in July. It’s even harder now being pregnant with my first child (baby girl) that I know he will never get to hold. Every word hit home with me and I thank you for being so courageous and sharing your feelings with the world.

  13. Glenda Novinger
    | Reply

    Dear Deborah, my heart aches with yours as I read your story. Though I lost my husband to suicide 18 years ago, my 4 children lost their father. I did my best to help them through such deep waters but it wasn’t enough. Tomorrow is mother’s day and I am very sad not to have contact with my children at this time. I believe one of the greatest comforts is knowing we suicide survivors are not alone…no matter what.

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