Veteran’s Day is a tough day for me. I think about how my dad loved his country so much and was grateful for all those that served.
Growing up, I remember my dad taking me to Veteran’s Day parades. Just him and I. He had such pride for all the current and past military citizens. There were a few times that he would go by himself to the parade because I was an emotional pre teen that didn’t want to go. Now I wish I had.
My dad would go out of his way to anyone in uniform, to stop and tell them thank you for their service. My dad knew what it was like sacrificing his life and family by being in the military, Navy to be exact. He did not make a career out of the Navy, only being enlisted for 2 years. However, I believe those 2 years had a big impact on his life. He spent 2 tours in Vietnam. He saw things that no one should see. He had fun though too. He told me once that once his chores were done on the ship, he would go down and hang out at the beach for awhile. He missed his moms marriage while he was away at war. My grandpa (step grandpa I guess, I never met my biological grandpa), this man my grandma married was MY grandpa I loved so much. They were together until they died. So he missed a pretty big moment while being away.
I had a dream early this morning about a Veteran’s Day parade. I was lined up to watch a parade in a small town. I was sitting on the side of the street, looking at all the flags lined up in front of the row houses, moving ever so slightly in the breeze. My life seemed to stand still. It was just me, alone sitting on this deserted street. I felt so alone. My dad wasn’t there to see it and I couldn’t feel his presence. That despair and loneliness was so isolating. I was left to cry on that street, alone, wishing my dad was with me.
Sometimes my grief feels like that. Isolated and alone. No one truly knows what I am going through. What I am thinking. What I am questioning. It’s hard. And it’s lonely.
And that’s why I share my story and continue to do so. You are not alone in your grief. We may not have the same struggles with grief or the same outlook, but we still are experiencing all the emotions of this grief. I think our burden lifts a little when we share it. No one wants to feel alone. It’s lonely and depressing! So that’s why I share. We can lift each other up. And to give people hope that they aren’t alone in this grief struggle.
It has been awhile since I personally talked about my grief to someone. I finally did yesterday and it felt so good. Just a small chat turned into an amazing conversation. We found out we shared even more similarities with our grief struggle. It felt so dang good to connect and share our thoughts and feelings!
I hope you have a friend in your life that you can confide in and share your thoughts with. And know that you are not alone, however lonely this grief may feel.
I took this picture when searching the house for answers. There has got to be a note left or something in the house letting us know he was planning this. We needed answers! Found nothing of that sort. What I did find was that my dad tried hard to get help. He didn’t give up.
About an hour after I got the dreaded phone call that my dad was gone, I left my house in Nevada before the sun came up. I had my baby with me and countless energy drinks, water, and jerky to keep me awake. I was running on adrenaline during the 8 hour drive to Arizona where my family lived. My mom wanted me to fly, she worried about me driving by myself with my 6 month old. I reassured her I was fine and I that I just wanted to get there. Whenever I stopped to get gas or tried to find a decent place with a changing table, I felt like, ‘how is life moving on? How are these people shopping, smiling, and going about their day?’. It was so bizarre the feeling I had. That my life shut down and everyone around me is moving on with life. I was in slow mo.
That day was a blur. We stayed in the front room for most of the day. Not daring to navigate to my dad’s bedroom where it happened.
The next day or so, I started to desperately search for answers. I took a picture of what my dad left on the table, everything in place. His glasses were set down like so, his paper and pen were put down where he last touched it, the night before. I read the note he left. I cringed. He wrote down some of the medications I told him about.
As a back story, my dad was not a man of patience. He wanted things done then and there. He didn’t wait. So to appease him and to maybe provide him with some assurance, I researched medications that could be used for men that have hot flashes from cancer hormone therapy. I remember feeling that I may have just made a mistake after I told him there might be some medications he could take for it. He demanded the names and wrote them down, asking me over and over for the correct spelling. I knew he was going to bring it up to the doctor. He was an adamant man at times, so I can only imagine how painful that conversation with his doctor was. He was demanding meds and the dr didn’t want to give it to him.
Another medication that I told him about in our last conversation, 3 days before he died, was an anti depressant. I told him about Zoloft and how it has worked well for me for years. I told him he was depressed and that this could really help him. However, he was worried about the side effects. He already had side effects from the hormone shots (awful hot flashes). He didn’t want to add anything else he would have to deal with. I told him there are little to no side effects. But like the note shows, he wrote ‘no’ and didn’t want to ask for it from his doctor.
My dad had called his doctor on Christmas Eve wanting to get these meds. The doctor said that these medications probably wouldn’t work for him, and then proceeded to give my dad tips on how to deal with hot flashes. I don’t think the doctor could hear the despair in his voice. After that call, my dad immediately called me and said there’s nothing the doctor could do. He was so very depressed and sounded like all hope was gone.
My dad had circled 2 dates on his note. 12-26 and 12-27. These dates were the days my sister could go to the doctor with my dad to see what other options could be done to help relieve my dad’s pain. He had the number to call to make the appointment. I don’t honestly know if he called the doctor to set up an appointment. By the time 12-27 came around, he was gone. He couldn’t wait any longer. The last call with his doctor just really defeated him. Hope was lost.
My dad tried so hard to get help. He talked with friends who had prostate cancer and dealt with some of the same issues. He went to the hospital a few times in pain. He called his doctor because he had enough. He just could not take another day suffering.
My dad did NOT give up. He tried so hard to get help and to feel better. His impatience took over. His suffering blinded him. He couldn’t bear the pain he was going through. It’s takes bravery to reach out for help. It also took bravely to end his life.
I know he didn’t want to end his life like that.
I know he loved us with all his heart.
I know he didn’t want us to deal with the after effects of his death.
I know he didn’t want us to go through the trauma of it all.
I know he didn’t want us to become depressed.
I know he didn’t want us to suffer.
It’s hard to rehash the feelings and emotions attached to my dads death. Its hard to navigate these emotions while still trying to be a good wife and a good mom to my 7 children. I feel like a failure most days. But I am not giving up. This momma might take a break from writing and anything to do with suicide. But that’s how I might heal. The journey on this complicated grief coaster is not easy. So do what is best for you!
Sadly, suicide isn’t going away. What can we do to help those that are effected by suicide? I might have some helpful tips.
Before my dad died, suicide grief itself is not something I’ve had to deal with before. Yes, I’ve known people in my life that have taken their lives. I went to a friend’s funeral that died tragically this way. Before my dad’s death, I’ve been naive to suicide, I will admit it. And I think most people are naive who haven’t gone through this tough grief personally. I’ve said things nonchalantly or in a joking way that I will never say again. I used to say, jokingly, ‘these kids make me want to jump off a cliff!’ And, ‘just kill me now’. Or the hand notion of putting a gun to ones head and pretending to pull the trigger. Those phrases and hand gestures are what makes me wince in pain when I hear them. I don’t want people to feel bad or apologize, but I want people to be aware that it may not be a respectful thing to say. Those effected by suicide may not take it lightly. I don’t get offended when someone says those things because I know that person doesn’t mean it in a malicious manner. However, it still hurts.
Now that I know first hand what it’s like to deal with the complicated grief of suicide loss, I can give you some advice on how we can help others who are dealing with this horrible pain.
– Check in on the person or family that is dealing with this complicated grief.
A short text.
A simple call.
A card in the mail.
A weekly inspiration quote in a text.
A little gift sent to their house.
Show them that they are loved. Don’t get offended if they don’t answer or acknowledge a gift. Just keep trying and keep the communication going even if it’s one sided for awhile. I promise you that person is truly grateful for your love.
– pray for guidance. Ask how we can be a servant to those that are hurting. Listen to the promptings. A text of, ‘Hey you’ve come across my mind, how are you doing?’
– Sometimes it’s hard to reach out because you don’t know what to say. Acknowledge the pain the person is experiencing and let them know you are there to help them. ‘I know that you are in pain and it breaks my heart. How can I help you get through this, together?’ Just letting the person know that you are rooting for them is so helpful.
– People have different needs in their grief journey. Be patient and kind, and be in tune to what that person might need. Meals, chocolate, babysitting, a listening ear.
– Just love the person. When words don’t seem to come out right, offer a hug.
– Don’t say, ‘I don’t know how you are going to get through this’ or ‘I don’t know how you do it, I wouldn’t be able to’. No one asked for this type of grief, and we are on survival mode. We do it because we have to. Not because we wanted this. Just be considerate of their feelings. Their life is shattered and so is their heart.
Here are some books that have helped me get through the beginnings of my grief:
For those that are suffering with the fresh wound of suicide loss, please hold on. I am here to tell you, you will find peace! I couldn’t fathom how I would get through the first weeks and months, but I did. It’s been almost 4 years since I lost my dad. 4! I still miss him and I still have my sad days, but I have over come some huge mountains in my grief journey. It’s going to be a crazy roller coaster, just hang on for the ride. It gets better, I promise.
I had a dream that my dad abandoned us. He was here one day and the next day he was gone. No goodbyes, no I love you’s. He just left forever. I woke up realizing it wasn’t just a dream. It was reality.
Saturday mornings were devoted to lawn work. My dad would wake up early to mow the front and backyard lawn, work on the sprinklers, and work in his garden. In my pre teen years, I so wanted to sleep in on the weekends. But I would often be woken up by the sound of the lawnmower at 7am. No more sleeping in for me. I had work to do. My job was to sweep away the grass clippings and tidy up the patio. I grumbled about this most days but I wanted to please my dad so I did it anyways. At one point, I had to completely take over the lawn duties for a few months. My dad broke his arm from falling off a ladder at work. He had to have surgery to implant metal plates in his arm to secure the broken bone. He had a few months of his arm in a sling along with physical therapy. He taught me how to use the law mower to cut the grass every week. My 12 year old body had a tough time pushing the lawn mower, but my dad was really patient with me even though I was so hard on myself and wanted to give up. I was relieved of my duties (thank goodness) once his arm healed enough where he could use the lawnmower. I was back to sweeping off of the patio, quite humbled that I didn’t have to push the huge lawnmower again.
In my dream (nightmare, actually), I was outside with my dad and he was mowing the lawn. I could smell the aroma of fresh lawn clippings, and felt the warmth of the sun on a Saturday morning. I went back inside for some water. When I went to the backyard, he was gone. I was left with this horrible feeling of abandonment. He left us (my mom, sister, and I). Just completely deserted us. There was no explanation, no goodbyes, and no I love you’s. Nothing. He was there one minute, working on the yard, and the next minute he purposely left us. I was angry, sad, and lonely in my dream. I felt like a huge chunk of my soul was gone. Empty.
Then I woke up. The dream, in fact, was reality. My dad abandoned us almost 4 years ago. No goodbye letter, nothing to tell us why he left this life, or that he was sorry. Just gone. In my dream, I was reliving the abandonment and emptiness I felt when my dad died.
Grief is a funny thing. It likes to keep me on my toes, doesn’t want me to forget the anger, pain, and sorrow of those first few vulnerable months after my dad died. However, I know this is not what my dad wants me to feel. These feelings and awful dream is not coming from a divine, Heavenly place. It’s coming from a dark place, perhaps tucked away in a dark, cold place in my brain labeled ‘dark grief-don’t open’.
I have some options. I can be angry at my situation. I can question why I am in pain and why my dad left. So many deep, dark emotions I can feel. But that will only lead me to a darker place. Another option, which I prefer to take, is that I can sit with these emotions for a little bit. Understand where they are coming from and why. Then I can move on. Tuck the dark emotions back into that cold, dark file in my brain. Hoping to not see them again anytime soon. Now I know those emotions are still there and it will show it’s ugly face when I least expect it, but I am prepared. I have Heavenly Father’s love to get me through it. I have grief experiences and coping skills to help me through it. I have family and friends to help me through it. Times will not always be dark. We have to choose the light.
Ever got a splinter that didn’t hurt? I didn’t think so. How can a tiny, minuscule wooden needle stuck in the tips of our fingers hurt so bad? My dad’s internal splinters overwhelmed him.
My dad went through many jobs when he was younger. Truck driver, computer tech, to name a couple. When I was around 3 years old, he started working at a gas company as a service technician. Working with his hands seemed to fulfill him more than a desk job or driving a truck. He truly loved helping people, so by helping people fix something, it brought him joy. Some days were extra hard. He would work in higher crime areas where he would see things that would tear at his heart, and often put him in danger. During the summers, he worked in the desert heat, coming home drenched in sweat, tired and exhausted. He was a hard worker and took his job seriously. I don’t ever remember him having a sick day.
Some days he would come home with splinters in his fingers. During his days working, he sometimes had to climb over fences and other hurdles to get to the gas meter. The days that he came home with splinters, he got out the magnifying glass, took a seat at the kitchen table and called me over to remove the tiny splinters. I ran to his aid, wanting to relieve his pain. As I would dig into his finger with a safety pin and tweezers, doing my magic (I had become quite good at removing his splinters over the years), he would look away trying to hide the pain. I don’t know why, but touching that tiny splinter with a safety pin sends a zap throughout your fingers and hands! So there were times that my dad would let out a quick moan and twitch his finger. I can remember his face during those times. I hated it. I wanted to quickly help him and make it all better.
When my dad was hurting inside and out from his ailments towards the last year of his life, I wanted so badly to remove the internal splinters he felt. It was so hard not being able to fix it for him, like when I would remove the splinters and put bandaids on his finger. Bandaids couldn’t help him the last months of his life. He tried so hard, and those bandaids would eventually fall off, opening his wound. He would then try a different bandaid. None worked. The internal splinters were just too hard for him to cope with.
We all have internal splinters. Sometimes they are unbearable. And sometimes they aren’t noticeable. That’s how I feel about my grief journey. But I am proud of my internal splinters because I can use them to help others! I can teach others how to minimize the pain. I can help by showing that these splinters are what makes us who we are. We all have internal splinters of life, there’s no way to avoid them. We just need to accept them and learn to live with them.
I will forever be grateful for my dad’s example of hard work. I cherish the memories of him wearing his uniform and his beloved jackets. It brings a smile to my face when I drive by a company truck. I was proud of him and what he sacrificed for his family.
Tell your parents you are proud of them. Too often it’s our parents that tell us that, but what about them? Each person has their own internal splinters, trying to hide the pain. Our parents too.
I am so very proud of you, Dad. I just wish I could have told you that more. Maybe that would have put a bandaid on your splinters, and maybe that would have kept you here longer. Or maybe not. I just know that you are a brave, compassionate, and hard working soul. And I am proud to call you Dad.
The most important thing that I have learned through this grief process (or roller coaster!) is compassion. After the shock of being told my dad took his life, I felt deep compassion for my dad. I felt sorrow, sadness, and empathy for my dad. That compassion I felt reminded me of Christ’s compassion that He has for us, his children.
It’s been a busy time in my life these days and months. Life keeps moving on, like it should. But I have a guilt that eats me up. That guilt is, that I haven’t thought about my dad much. Shouldn’t I be thinking about him everyday and missing him? Lately I’ve chose not to think about my grief too much. I don’t have time to dwell on it, is what my thoughts are. But in reality, I think I am at a healthy place in my grief timeline where I can keep living and I don’t dwell on my dad’s death. He wouldn’t want me to do that anyways. However, grief has a way of creeping up on me. Those feelings of my grief struggle from the first days and months come flooding back.
I’ve learned of a friend’s family member who passed away. She shared with me, almost exactly, how my sister and I felt those first few months. Thoughts such as, ‘We were trying to help him! Doctors appts were lined up for us to get the help he needs!’ And, ‘It must have been a split second decision. Earlier that day, he was having a great day and told us not to worry about him.’ After hearing this, I went to the store and the song playing was by Maroon 5 Memories. I will share the lyrics because it hits so close to home for me.
Here’s to the ones that we got Cheers to the wish you were here, but you’re not ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories Of everything we’ve been through Toast to the ones here today Toast to the ones that we lost on the way ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories And the memories bring back, memories bring back you
There’s a time that I remember, when I did not know no pain When I believed in forever, and everything would stay the same Now my heart feel like December (my dad died in December) when somebody say your name ‘Cause I can’t reach out to call you, but I know I will one day, yeah
So of course that led to me trying hard to hold back tears while shopping for some chocolate to soothe my aching heart. Chocolate always helps me, even just for a moment! I ran out of there quickly and saw another reminder on my way home. A lone yellow butterfly flew by in front of my van. I haven’t seen butterflies in a long time. The yellow ones always remind me of my dad. Then another butterfly flew by seconds later. There comes that compassion flooding back to me! Compassion for my dad, and compassion for others that are going to difficult times.
When I think of this compassion, I think of God’s compassion he has for us and the atoning sacrifice Jesus Christ made. I read a talk by Tad R. Callister called ‘The Atonement of Jesus Christ’. In this talk, he stated that the Atonement “is what gives hope and purpose to our lives.” Jesus Christ suffered for us so that we may dwell with him again. Jesus, more than anyone, knows that we are going through. He has gone through it all with the Atonement! He has felt every emotion and pain each of us is going through or have gone through. His sacrifice has helped me realize that God has compassion for every one of us. He knows my dad and his heart. My dad took his own life, making that decision with his own free will. But that doesn’t mean he is damned. God has compassion for him! And for many others that are struggling. We are not perfect, nor will we ever be in this mortal life. So when I have trials, or worry about others that are going through difficult times, I know in my heart that God loves each and every one of us and has compassion over His children.
In Relief Society in my church this last Sunday, the lesson was on how we get through these hard times. Sometimes we have trials that are not from our own decisions, but from someone else’s misuse of their free agency. A friend in the class related this to Elizabeth Smart. Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped at a young age and was put through 9 months of physical and mental abuse. She is now using her trials as a way to help others. She is an author, speaker, and survivor. She is using her platform and sharing her story, helping thousands of people get through their trials. What a blessing she is to be able to use her pain and anguish to help others.
Like Elizabeth Smart, my pain from my dad’s suicide is not from any decisions I made or my use of free agency. The decision that my dad made in turn has caused unbelievable amount of pain, sorrow, despair, guilt, and anguish. However, this is all in God’s plan, as hard as that may seem. Every person on this Earth is part of God’s interrelated plan. God is using us and placing certain people in our lives for a reason. We are here on this Earth to fulfill His plan by being apart of others’ lives and being the answer to others’ prayers. There have been so many tiny moments where my prayers were answered. A heartfelt letter, food for comfort, and texts and calls at just the right time when I needed it. A simple smile given to a stranger, checking on our loved ones, and listening to the spirit and acting upon those whisperings are all part of God’s plan for us to help uplift others.
By helping others, we heal ourselves.
I will leave you with this quote by Reyna I. Aburto from her talk, ‘Thru Cloud and Sunshine, Lord, Abide with Me!’
“But it is an infinite Atonement because it encompasses and circumscribes every sin and weakness, as well as every abuse or pain caused by others.”
Here are links to the talks I quoted today. These talks are a great read!
‘Thru Cloud and Sunshine, Lord, Abide with Me!’ by Reyna I. Aburto
Time. Time heals. Time helps forget. Lost time causes guilt. One thing that’s constant in life is the continuous ticking of seconds on the eternal clock of time.
Time has so many properties. Time dulls the pain of guilt. The passing of time allows us to forget, compartmentalize our memories and feelings. Time allows us to move on, live life. Time also has a funny way of taking me back to that fateful day. Reliving memories and feelings of my dad’s death. Time has so much power over us. We are powerless to its control. Time also has a power in it, that it can help us realize how much we’ve grown and the many things we have accomplished in our lives. I think back to my grief timeline. The shock of my dad’s death is gone (for the most part). I can see how much I’ve grown. I can’t believe my family and I got through that tough first year. The planning of the funeral. The struggle of grief after the funeral was over and everyone went back to their normal lives. While my family and I had to start a new normal and realize my dad is never coming back.
Time’s control over people are different for everyone. For the most part, I am content. I don’t struggle with grief as I did the first year after my dad’s death. Even when time pulls me back to the past, I can control how I deal with the grief that time has thrown me back into. I am a survivor.
Here’s where I go back in time, remembering my dad at my wedding. His funny, unique dance where he points and does a jig. When he was so nervous to walk his baby down the isle. I had to give him a pep talk in the hallway before the wedding march started. The time when my dad gave a speech, calling Dusty a “man’s man”. Telling everyone the story of how he would show my previous boyfriends his gun collection and reloading station. How those boyfriends never stuck around, but Dusty did.
Time is many things. However it makes you feel, and what memories it brings to the surface, good or bad, just try and endure. Relish those good memories time brings, and endure trough the tough ones.
Hope and despair are polar opposites of each other. But we can’t have one without the other. Hear me out on this.
I believe hope is born from despair. Sometimes we have to go through some sort of despair in our lives in order to really know what hope is. We have to learn from our miseries in this life to feel the true meaning of hope. We can appreciate hope for what it is: a new beginning, a bright light ahead, a positive attitude. If we let hope in our hearts, we will always make it out ahead.
The hard part, is truly believing in that hope for ourselves. I feel like our brains are wired to contradict every positive thought that we have (or is that just me?!). We as humans can have so much self-doubt and guilt. Some questions cross through our minds: ‘Am I good enough?’, ‘I don’t deserve to be happy.’, ‘How can I go on with all this grief?’. These are tough questions. But that’s where hope comes in.
We have to have hope in order to survive.
Life is crazy. It is NOT easy for anyone. Social media has a great way of showing peoples lives as close to perfect. Those are lies! No one has a perfect life. I like to call my life perfectly imperfect. I have my hiccups but its the perfect life for me.
I believe my dad was stuck in his despair. He felt lonely in his thoughts. Ashamed at what he was going through. Nightmares and flashbacks. Thoughts of suicide. He didn’t want us to worry about him. He had peaks of hope that shined through. He told a member of my family, ‘Don’t worry about me and what I said the other day! I feel great!”. Unfortunately, he said that the day before he took his life. Despair won.
Don’t let despair win. So many people care about you, no matter how much negative self talk tells you otherwise.
I miss my dad so much. I wanted to share a few memories that I have of him in order to keep my own hope alive. Hope that I will see him someday and to make great memories with my own family.
My dad used to go for runs after work. I could not keep up with his long Gazelle like legs (as his friend would say!). So I rode my bike next to him while he ran.
My dad caught a tadpole for me and we raised it in the fish tank I had, that he also helped me pick out.
My dad took me to get my first video game set. Super Nintendo! I got Street Fighter and Donkey Kong.
I tease that my dad wished I was a boy. I tagged along with him when he went paint ball shooting. We took karate together. He took me shooting. He taught me how to change the oil in the car. He and I would take the leftover oil to drop off at a local auto shop. He would mumble to himself that no one needed to know his real name and address, so he always used fake names when he had to sign for it (this made me laugh!).
My dad was the one that picked me up from the movie theater (instead of my mom), to tell me the bad news that my grandpa died.
My dad always let me pick a movie from blockbuster every week. It was mostly always a Goofy cartoon, and I loved hearing him laugh like Goofy.
I had to write a thesis paper in high school. My dad helped me with the materials and I wrote the paper on gun control. My teacher left a note saying that her views were changed after reading my paper. Needless to say, I aced the paper. And my dad was so proud, sharing the paper with his many friends at the gun range.
I would cry to my dad when I had a breakup. He would always say there are better fish in the sea. And then at my wedding, he made an impromptu speech saying that none of my other boyfriends stuck around when he showed them his gun collection. My husband did, and he’s a man’s man (we laugh at this too!). He was so nervous at my wedding that he needed to take some calming medicine. We were waiting in the hallway of the church, listening for the wedding march (our queue to walk out). I could tell he was nervous and he was shaking. I said, ‘Dad, you are ok. We’ve got this. Let’s go!’
I loved being my dads little sidekick. No one quite had a relationship like we did. It wasn’t perfect, but it was one of my favorites.
I wish my pep talks helped him. I told dad ‘We’ve got this!’ when he was in deep despair, a few days before he died. Despair sure is one of life’s hardest lessons.
As Dory says, “Just keep swimming!”. Better days are ahead. All you need is hope.
I remember taking this picture of my dad. He was so proud of his trophy and his garden. Happy times.
Target shooting. I went so many times with the my dad in the desert to practice shooting guns. I recently went for the first time in years. It was pretty emotional.
My dad’s hobby since I can remember was reloading bullets and shooting guns in the desert or at the gun range. He would do competition shooting every weekend. I would help collect all the shells and would help reload the bullets in the garage. I would pull the handle, filling each bullet with gun powder, and hearing the ‘tink’ as the reloaded bullet fell into the bowl. This would go on for hours. I often wonder if it was therapeutic for my dad to reload bullets. The sounds could be soothing in a way. There was quiet time to think and process things.
To think that my dad used his own gun with his own reloaded bullet, to end his life, is ironic. And sad. And devastating. I haven’t touched a gun in years. So when I finally used a gun to go target shooting, it was way more emotional than I thought it would be. I wasn’t quite prepared for that. After I shot my first round, the tears flowed. That gun was so powerful in my hands. The sound of the gun firing with each shot was loud and deafening. How could my dad use this method to end his life? He, more than most people, knew how powerful guns were. He taught me gun safety and always made sure that the gun was pointed down and away from anyone, loaded or not. He carried guns to protect his family. So ironic, on that fateful day, he did quite the opposite to protect his family.
I felt so sad and devastated after shooting that powerful gun in the desert. To know that my dad suffered so badly, ending his life using the one thing that brought him joy, is just so devastating. He knew it would be quick. The officers who responded to my moms gut wrenching call, said that it was in an instant that he was gone. He felt no pain. He knew what he was doing. How long did he think about doing this for? The specifics of where he was going to do it and how? Its all so nauseating to think about.
I did not do well with my target practice. I don’t think I actually ever hit the big circle on the target! Years ago I would say that I could do pretty well, hitting bottles and cans from far away. But not this time. My husband asked if I was scared of the gun. YES! I was and still am. I am still recovering from the trauma surrounding my dad and his decision. I am not afraid of the gun itself, but every time I see a gun, I think of my dad and what was going through his mind while holding it. Every time I pull the trigger on the gun, it triggers thoughts about my dad. How alone he must have felt.
Soon enough I will be able to hold that gun and make those targets. I know my dad would be so proud of me with my efforts. Until then, I will retrieve the casings from the dirt, remembering the good times with my dad on many weekends out shooting.
It’s been an easy going past few months dealing with my grief about my dad’s suicide. I don’t get as emotional when hearing his music play, or when looking at pictures of him. But that does not mean this is easy. It’s a complicated grief that I have grown to accept.
I still question everything. Why did he do this? I’ve blogged about this before and I will restate it again: My dad had a GREAT day before he died. He sent this letter and a book to my husband that day when my mom and dad were running errands. They had a good breakfast at their favorite restaurant. My dad told my mom not to worry about him, that he was feeling better. And then that night, in a split second, he walked to the garage where his gun safe was. Grabbed a gun and went to his bedroom, not bothering to close the safe. The last decision he made while on this Earth was a devastating, everlasting decision that would effect everyone’s lives around him. His friends (he had so many) and family members were all in shock.
I remember when my husband called me to tell me that he received the package from my dad. I had already arrived in Arizona to be with my family, dealing with the chaos of planning a funeral and helping my mom make crucial decisions. It was two days after his passing that this package arrived. Sort of ironic and was pretty sad.
Grief has become easier but it is still tough. I am at the point where I don’t think about him as much. And it saddens me. Looking back, I felt close to my dad when I went through the most awful stages of grief. A part of me wants to go back to those emotional stages so that I can feel closer to him. But I am evolving and growing through this grief.
It’s as if a tiny flower is growing from this seed of grief. A seed that I thought would have been covered it dirt and darkness with no room to grow. Roots have grown, stems and leaves have taken shape. There is light and beauty in this grief after all.
I miss my dad so much. I am learning to live and grow without him physically here. But I do know he is with me. He is watching over me and my family. He is finally happy and free. And that brings me peace.