This morning my daughter was interviewing me for a school assignment. She is preparing for an oral report on her family history. After much debate, she decided to base her report on my dad focusing on his service in the US Army.
There were moments during the interview when I became overwhelmed with sadness while trying to describe who my dad was as a father. In the end, I was surprised by how many times I had to pause and collect myself before finishing my sentence. I never became overly emotional but I definitely found myself struggling to maintain my composure.
We wrapped up the interview and I rushed both of my girls to school before heading to receive acupuncture. I first began receiving acupuncture over seventeen years ago shortly after I lost my dad to suicide. At the time, I was in college and I discovered an odd and unexpected side effect. On the days when I would receive early morning acupuncture sessions I would spend most of my morning classes trying to contain an uncontrollable bought of the giggles.
My acupuncturist informed me that acupuncture works as a method to release energy. Energy is traditionally released in two ways; laughter or tears. He told me to be glad that I wasn’t crying through my morning classes.
Today was the first time I ever experienced an acupuncture-induced emotional release through tears. I could feel the energy building as the needles were being placed. What I wasn’t expecting was the sudden burst of tears the moment my acupuncturist left me to rest. As I laid there on the table with my body covered in acupuncture needles, I felt every ounce of sadness pour out of me. Sadness I wasn’t even aware I was holding on to.
As I cried, thoughts flooded my mind; thoughts of my dad before he got sick. Memories of who he was to me and memories of moments we shared; moments which shaped who I would become. I cried so hard it hurt to breathe. Every muscle constricted in my body as I gasped for air. With each breath I could feel the energy flowing between the needles.
The sadness I felt was intense and unexpected. I talk about losing my dad to suicide as a profession and as a means to help others. It is not often that I get emotional when talking about my loss. As I began to cry less I also found myself wondering what triggered this emotional response.
It is hard to describe the clarity that can come during an acupuncture session, but easy to tell you that it isn’t subtle. Almost instantly I stopped crying and realized my tears aren’t about losing my dad to suicide; my tears are from missing my dad. I was struck with the realization of how little I speak of my dad within the context of him being my dad.
Sadly, for many of us, losing a loved one to suicide is more than just physically losing someone you love. It is as if the person you lost never existed because talking about your loved one has to potential to stir up unwanted and overwhelming pain for yourself or for others. Reminiscing feels unnatural given the gravity in which they died.
I have overcome the pain associated with losing my dad to suicide, but I struggle with the pain of not being able to openly speak about him with my mom and siblings. I miss my dad. I hate that I can’t openly talk about how much I miss him with my mom. I wish it was easier to pick up the phone and call my siblings to say, “Hey – do you remember when Dad did …” My heart aches to feel his arms around me and to hear his voice just one more time.
My dad was so much more than his illness, and so much more than his death. He was brilliant and kind. He was direct and honest. He was intentional and when he had something important to share, he took his time. He had a dry sense of humor which I rarely understood. He loved a good adventure. He had high expectations for himself and for others. And yes, he was flawed – for no one is perfect, but on the rare occasion in which I feel safe enough to openly share about the dad he was to me, I would rather focus on what I loved most about him.
It is my hope that we can change the way we talk about depression and suicide in order to change the way we respond to those impacted by it. We must recognize depression as an illness and suicide as the result of an illness. By speaking more openly about our loss and recognizing that our loved ones died from an all-consuming, often misunderstood illness, maybe we will once again feel free to reminisce about those we’ve lost. What would you like to share about your loved one?
Blessed │ Wife │ Mom │ Friend │ Founder of GOOD │ Author │ Public Speaker │ Golf Fanatic
It took me years to find my voice and even longer to learn how to use it so that I’m creating GOOD rather than just fighting the bad. Now I use my voice to heal myself and hopefully others along the way.
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Sending love to all those who struggle with mental health and/or have lost a loved one to suicide.
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