Today marks 19 years since my father hanged himself. For more than half of those years, I hated him. Intensely. Fiercely. But now, having been right to the same metaphorical ledge he stood on (but stepped back and resolved never to get there again), I feel desperately sad for him. I miss him. And I love him.
My father was 35, lived in regional Victoria and had four sons, the eldest three of whom (I’m the eldest) didn’t live with him. His marriage failed when he walked away from it, and we saw him only on school holidays.
He didn’t talk much about his feelings, not with me anyway, and certainly not about the depth to which they had overwhelmed him and allowed the black dog of depression to bite right into him.
A part-time taxi driver in his latter years, my father was smarter than his education ever recognised. He didn’t finish high school and he worked in auto retail for most of his adult years. He was a big man, strong and skilled at football.
My dad was the person whom I most wanted to be like, in spite of the flaws I knew he had. But then he left me. Permanently. And I have been broken, on and off, all the time since.
As a father of three myself now, also with a failed marriage and an uncertain place in the world, I have long feared that I was doomed to follow my father’s script. The one he wrote and which I felt I was playing out. But in the past six months especially, I’ve realised my fate is something I CAN influence. I don’t have to follow anything – no one’s example, no one’s expectations, and no-one’s directives. I am my own person entirely.
And having been on the losing side of the parental suicide equation, there is no way I could ever inflict that on my children. No way at all.
In the past 12 months, my life has changed almost completely. Some of it within my control, some of it not. But all of it, when viewed holistically, points to a clearing of the slate. A fresh canvas. A new opportunity to build a house of contentment for me and my children.
It’s hard, challenging, and yet exciting, this building a new life thing. It feels like a long and complicated dance routine with barely-celebrity judges commenting on my every move. But I can see and feel a much happier time and life, and I know it’s unfolding a little bit at a time.
I miss my father. But I’m also thankful. That his black dog fatally mauled him, means I have learned to wear some protective gear and try not to feed the vicious beast. My father gave me the greatest example of what NOT to do. I am thankful for that.
Today I simply remember the happy memories I have of my dad. And there are many of those, for he loved me as much as I loved him. We will always be father and son. And I am comfortable now that I will be the one to have lived a happier and much, much longer life.
Shine on, beautiful diamonds xx
Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I’m glad you’ve made good choices in difficult times.
I too have been touched by the loss of a loved one by their own hand. It was my grandmother who had put me on a pedestal and made me the centre of her life. At almost 12, I was devastated that she could leave me alone. I didn’t understand how she could do that to me, how she could leave me, why I wasn’t enough…Now as a grandmother I know I will do anything to get any help I may need in order to not inflict such trauma on my grandkids and break through the dark times which with such a legacy are inevitable.
Thank you for sharing, Jenni. That must have been a very difficult thing to work through.
I had those same feelings about my dad. About why I wasn’t enough for him to stay alive, about whether he really loved me enough. It’s normal to think that and we shouldn’t feel bad for it.
The other side of the coin is that the fog of depression, especially long-term unshakeable depression, distorts all rational perspective. I know now my dad just wanted to have peace from his pain. I forgive him, but I do still wish he was able to stop and breathe for a moment before he did what he did.
How beautiful you are a grandmother yourself now. An opportunity to be what you missed and create special memories for your own grandchildren.
Take care and stay hopeful xx
My father hung himself back in 2011. He always said to us as kids, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. The irony of that for some peculiar reason puts a smile on my face. I was not well liked by my Dad. All this has made me see things differently to others but in a good honest way.
Thank you for sharing and I’m sorry to hear about your father. Heartbreaking, isn’t it?
There is some irony but more sadness in his saying what he did and doing what he did.
I’m pleased you feel it’s given you a different and more honest perspective though. That’s something xx