Today would have been your 63rd birthday. You’ve been gone almost 31 years.
I was in sixth grade when you died. The day you died I didn’t feel sad. I felt deep and uncontrollable fear. I felt SO scared. Scared of what was going to happen to me and H. Scared of what was going to happen to Mom. Scared of not knowing if I’d ever feel safe again.
The years that followed were bleak. Family stepped up and helped where they could but things really fell apart. Our family was broken. Mom did her best, but she was lifeless and grief-stricken. Can you blame her? You left her with 2 children to raise. By herself. H did what any other 14-year-old girl would do. She surrounded herself with her friends.
I felt very alone.
Mom remarried a few years after you died. He is a very kind man with a gentle heart. I didn’t like it one bit because the marriage meant I had to move to another state, which was an 8 hour drive away from everything I knew. H got to stay back to finish high school. I was 13. Adjusting to having a new stepfather and being an only child was strange. I hated every second. Because I only had the depth and understanding of a child, I couldn’t see how complicated things were for Mom. I was angry she remarried. I was angry I wasn't her main priority. Looking back I feel a little guilty and sad. Mom deserved a fresh start.
Moving was more difficult than I’d imagined. The new area was not welcoming. I was bullied. My self esteem took a nosedive. I desperately needed to feel enough, yet surrounded myself with people who made me feel small. I made some questionable choices with boyfriends those years. Ugh! It was a very confusing time in my life. Thankfully those years are behind me.
I’m extremely proud of who I am. I’d like to say that time healed all wounds and everything fell into place but it wasn’t that simple. There was a lot of heartache along the way. I had to fight to keep afloat.
Dad, to put it bluntly, your death sucked. I get that you were in pain but did you know how much chaos you’d leave behind? Would you have changed your mind if you did?
Did you know Mom, H, and I still struggle to maintain a healthy relationship? You’d think we’d be close because of all we have endured but the truth is we struggle. Your death broke us. I was a child and I needed my mother. She was left to pick up the pieces of your suicide and had no idea how to navigate it all. I resented her.
H has done very well for herself and I am super proud of the woman she has become. She clings to stability and hates change. She despises conflict and is very selective with whom she gives her heart. Despite trying, we’ve never been very close. We learned to be guarded with each other after losing you.
Me? Well, transparency and honesty are qualities I need in my life. It makes friendships with me difficult because I expect a lot from others. I address conflict even when its super uncomfortable for me because I need to communicate in order to gain trust. I am sensitive and guarded. If you hurt me, it will take loads of hard work to earn my trust again. Trust is everything.
Dad, your death ended your suffering but did you know the tornado of events it would unravel? Your suicide ended your pain, but it transferred it to us. Is that what you wanted?
Happy 63rd Birthday, Dad. All these years later and I am still dealing with the aftermath of your death. This year I’m on a mission to prevent others from passing their pain onto their loved ones. People must be comfortable asking for help if they cannot deal with their pain. They cannot give their pain to their families!!
Dad, I hope you can hear me. We are not better off without you.
Heidi shares personal stories of her ordinary chaotic life. She gives an honest raw look at what it means to be a mom, wife, counselor, and friend struggling to keep it all together. Her personal experiences with grief, relationships, depression, poor self-image, bullying, anxiety, and relational aggression give her a unique perspective on what its takes to overcome tragedy as an adolescent and adult.