I became a suicide survivor on July 27, 2011, when my Dad, Tom, decided to end his life. He rode his bike down the block to a park and shot himself. It still feels weird saying that out loud, let alone reading my words back that I just typed out on this computer screen.
My husband and I were returning from dinner when I received a call from my younger brother. I remember him asking me if my husband was in the car, and after I said “yes”, he replied with “Dad’s dead”—it was so matter of a fact. I don’t think my brother was crying either, I think we were both too shocked. At this point the only information I was given was that the police found my Dad at the park on his bike. Logically, I assumed he had a heart attack. Why would I think anything differently?
I don’t think I cried at first, I think I was to panic-stricken, like someone just took a sledgehammer to my stomach. Luckily my husband and I were 30 seconds from our condo, because I am pretty sure we wouldn’t have been able to drive in Chicago traffic with knowing my Dad just died. After a major freak-out in the elevator up to our condo, I got bits and pieces of information from my brother who mentioned something about a “note” and how he couldn’t go into the house because the police had to check things out. At this point I started to get the idea that a suicide might be possible due to the “note” my brother had mentioned, but it still didn’t even seem like that could be a possibility.
To say my Dad was outgoing, loud, friendly, and loving was an understatement. He made friends with everyone; he had something in common with everyone. He loved Jimmy Buffett, The White Sox, being around friends and family, riding his bike, talking about his college days and rugby at WIU, my brother, my husband and I. He was the most generous person I have ever met. He was in sales so he obviously wasn’t shy and had many connections from his years of work. His line was “I got a guy!” (seriously for anything. My first 2 jobs out of college he actually knew people that worked there, and our fields of business were pretty far apart).
Somehow my husband and I were able to pack some belongings, drive 45 minutes outside of Chicago to my parent’s home that I grew up in. I remember pulling up into the driveway and seeing TONS of neighbors waiting for us to arrive. I get out of the car and hug my brother, talk with our Pastor and then to talked in private to the police officers who confirmed my Dad shot himself. The rest of that night and the weekend was a blur: people stopping by the house, trying to piece together what the hell just happened. Not only was I trying to piece together why my Dad took his life, but everyone else who knew and loved him were looking to me for answers…answers I did not, and still don’t have.
I was lucky enough to hear about Catholic Charities LOSS program (Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide) and started individual counseling the week after my Dad died. At that point if you would have told me that I’d be able to one day talk openly about what happened to my Dad, and that the panic and anxiety about what just happened to you and what your life is going to be like from now on would go away, I wouldn’t have believed you. Luckily though the help of LOSS, I was able to grieve my father’s death.
Unless you have lost someone to suicide, you have no idea what survivors are going through. The degree of hurt, abandonment, betrayal, and confusion we’re left with is indescribable. I found comfort in talking about my grief with members of LOSS; they knew EXACTLY what I was going through. We had similar thoughts, emotions, and stories. Becky, Jessica and I are living proof that you could survive losing someone you love to suicide. We want to share our stories in hopes we could resonate to others who might not have the services we had through LOSS. For us, talking about what we went through with other survivors was the key to dealing with our grief, understanding what happened to our loved ones, and figuring out how we move forward from such a horrible tragedy.