It’s been a year. My dad died by suicide on September 3, 2014, his 65th birthday. It’s taken me this long to say that out loud to more than a handful of people who didn’t already know this to be the case. I didn’t find out until September 5th which has been recorded as his death date on the death certificate. For me, those details further complicate an already complicated situation. As the one year anniversary approached, I dreaded the date(s). I dreaded the anticipation of the date(s) even more. The calendar seemed to drag on endlessly. I begged for October to come.
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The days following my dad’s death by suicide were the loneliest of my life. In a roomful of people, in the midst of a hug, in the middle of a conversation, the resounding thought I had was that I was alone. No one had the relationship I did with my dad, no one knew all the struggles he had endured that he shared with me, and no one could possibly understand the shock, sadness or emptiness I was feeling.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) logo is a life preserver. I think the idea is that the organization brings people together who want to preserve life and prevent suicide. For those of us who have tried to help a loved one who has to navigate life with a mental illness, the idea that you, personally, are a life preserver for someone else is likely not part of your thought process. At least it wasn’t for me. Compassionate listener, mood tracker, financial supporter, worrier extraordinaire – those are the roles I filled as my dad fiercely battled bipolar disorder.
I am a lawyer and former middle school teacher living in Chicago. My dad battled Bipolar I disorder most of his adult life, unbeknownst to me until 2008. He died by suicide at age 65 in September of 2014. My dad was quick witted, unfailingly kind and generous, the life of the party, and loved me very much. I miss him every day and hope that writing these posts helps me through the grieving process and prevents someone else from having to navigate it.