Two years have passed since the day my daughter Kelly ended her life. That day was the most horrific day I will ever experience. Along with the pain, anguish and confusion were feelings I can never possibly articulate. I was completely lost, disoriented, and hopeless. At 4:00 a.m. the morning after I put my wife on a plane to Asia I got in the car and drove 2,600 miles to my mom’s house, stopping only for fuel, coffee, and two hours of restless sleep when I recognized I was becoming dangerous for the other people on the highway.
Looking back, I believe I thought I could outrun this nightmare, and if I could make it home, my mom would fix it somehow. She had died two months prior, but somehow, she would make it OK, as she had so many times before. After the first night, I understood I could never outrun the reality, and Mom could not fix this.
As the reality of everything slowly began to sink in, the pain that I thought could never possibly get worse … did. More anguish. No sleep. Serious thoughts of ending my own life. Repeat.
But life is a strange thing. Other pieces of reality began to intrude on my thoughts, including financial responsibilities. Two months later I dragged myself back to work, detesting every minute of every day. I saw that other people were going on about their lives like they always did. How could they not understand that the world had ended?
At some point, Life began to seep back in – very much against my will. One day I spoke more than three words to a co-worker. I had a short conversation that wasn’t work-related and smiled a little bit. On another day, my wife and I shared a genuine laugh and didn’t feel guilty. I was moving forward imperceptibly, almost like a glacier.
Many people say the second year is worse than the first. For me it was just a different kind of bad. Nothing can compare with the blackness of the early days and months. I still carried the pain and anguish, but I began to function again. I took on more responsibilities at work and eventually started managing people again. There were nights my wife didn’t sob while I did my best to console her with my own broken heart. We went out to dinner for the first time. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but there were interesting moments. Sometime around 18 months the understanding came to me. This is the way things are and always will be. What happened to Kelly cannot be undone. I will never see her again in this world. It was another heartbreaking but necessary realization.
The comparison has been made, rightfully so, to suicide being the equivalent of a bomb going off for the survivors. There is just a shattered shell of the building left standing. But nature begins to perform its magic. A tiny seed sprouts and begins to grow. Vines start creeping up the walls. A bird builds a nest in the corner and the first tiny flower blooms. The wreckage will always be visible, but maybe something beautiful will grow around it.
I enter the third year at least 10 years older than my biological age and 70 pounds lighter. And that’s OK. I don’t have an appetite for food, but I’m beginning to have a little appetite for life. Kelly lives in a way I can’t comprehend. She steers my life in ways I often don’t understand until time has passed. I heard her voice in the early days; four important things I needed to know that only she could tell me. She was silent after that but made her presence known in other ways. Two days ago, I saw a magnificent sunset and I heard her again. Her voice was a whisper but unmistakably Kelly. “I’m still here Dad”. Yes, you are kid, and you always will be.
If you have recently lost a loved one to suicide and entered the darkness that only survivors understand, my heart breaks for you. It’s impossible to believe now, but you will not always feel this way. Take the next breath, the next step, the next day.
As survivors, we will always carry the pain, but it can be carried along with beautiful memories. As strange as it may sound, pain can coexist with happiness. Life will seep back in. It’s OK to let it happen.
To everyone in this wonderful Alliance of Hope (AOH) family, you have my gratitude and love. Wishing you peace, and may God bless you all.