Although the warm, bright sun was shining through my hospital window, it was the coldest and darkest day of my life. I was told that my father killed himself.
As I sat up in my bed and listened to the horror of how he died, I became extremely aware of the words as they grabbed hold of my heart, which was pounding in my chest. I tried to remain calm as I thought about the three tiny heartbeats, beating inside of me. Pregnant with triplets,
Three weeks later, my three sons were born. When my friends and family arrived at the hospital, they congratulated me on the births and in the same breath mentioned how sad they were about my dad’s death. I was terribly confused. Was I supposed to be happy about being a mother or sad that my dad killed himself? I was absolutely torn between my joy and my grief.
I recall looking at the open door of the hospital room anticipating my dad’s visit. How could he not be there at such a special time in my life? I could not understand why he killed himself—until my mother shared his suicide note with me. He wrote that he could not live with his back pain any longer and was choosing to end his life. Painful deteriorating disks in his back caused him to feel helpless and hopeless.
Both of my parents were retired NYC Police Officers my dad had access to a gun. On July 12th he walked into my childhood bedroom, shot himself in his head, and died later that day at the hospital. Although I realized that suicide is an intentional type of death, as I read the note it was difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that my dad really wanted to die.
Soon after my dad’s suicide, I was sitting at my kitchen table painting a watercolor picture. When I was almost finished painting, a glass of water spilled which caused the colors to mix into one another. The flowers I created became a blend of various shades and hues. Since that moment, I’ve thought of how my grief reactions are similar to a palette of grief. The colors on the palette capture the blending of emotional, cognitive, physical, behavioral, and spiritual grief reactions. In the beginning, my emotional colors blended from anger, sadness and disbelief to guilt. Later emotions changed to hope that I would be able to survive the pain. Cognitive colors at first were blaming his doctor, nightmares of his death, and unwanted memories to longing to see him just one last time again. Behaviorally, I still cherish items that belonged to him. Physically, I felt exhausted. I had little energy, insomnia, fatigue, and felt weak. It was difficult to know if what I was feeling was due to my dad’s suicide or caring for triplets. My spiritual colors of loss were many. I was angry at God but blessed to have known my dad. I felt his presence but also felt forsaken. As time passed I reevaluated my beliefs and found hope. And that hope made me realize that grief is a lifelong process that is manageable.
I don’t think that my father’s suicide was a selfish or impulsive act. I wonder about his thoughts before he took his life. I believe he was thinking that his death was more valuable than his life, and he didn’t realize the huge mistake he was making. My father’s hopelessness clouded his thinking. I will always struggle with why he killed himself right before becoming a grandpa for the first time. Although I will never completely get over it, I have gained personal strength that I never knew I had. I did not have any control in stopping my dad from dying by suicide. But I do have control in how I choose to cope with his death and adjust to it. If I had to choose one of the top things that help me the most, it is sharing my story with others bereaved by suicide. Metaphorically, their experience somehow gets woven into mine and together we create this tapestry of sharing, understanding, and meaning making.
As a resilient griever I have found meaning in his death through my cultural beliefs and personal rituals. I have reinv
My Austrian husband and I were living in France when our daughter was born. She was a preemie and when she came home she'd lie on her father's tummy, belly-to-belly, like a little frog. She was so small and he was so big. He'd carry her in a sling against his chest and pat her rhythmically to send her to sleep. I think that's what led to a special bond between them.
My father, in an instant, was no longer my father, but an alien wreck of a man. The bombing in Birmingham had shattered our house in Maine too. This decent working man who taught me to use tools, who took a second job to buy me a Christmas doll, who chauffeured my friends and me to the movies when it was raining without hesitation as if he had nothing else to do, it was this man along with the paranoid bigot whom I ceased to love. I could not separate the two.
I thought I would be the cool mom and hang with my son and his friends. Not. I barely see him. After school, he has practice or games and other social commitments. Those fun dinners are just me eating alone in a silent apartment. What happened to my dream? What happened to getting to know my son? I feel like I don't know him at all.
Money in the Bank!
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Receipt found in the Hamptons displays some impressive numbers in the available balance column
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