Abandonment and the Suicide Survivor
Today is the anniversary that I can never remember. I’m not sure why I can never remember this particular day as it holds such a powerful impact and meaning in my life, but nevertheless, every year I have to ask my Mom when it is, because I only remember that it’s in March. Our minds are an interesting thing. They play tricks on us, they help us remember or forget, they tell us stories that most of the time are not even true.
This day 39 years ago my Dad committed suicide. I was 10 months old, my Mom was 18 years old. Both of us abandoned, me a Father-less daughter, my Mom a very young widow. The loss of a son for my Grandmother, the loss of a 3rd son for my Grandfather. The pain unreal, unfathomable and indescribable for us known as the suicide survivors. Our story incomprehensible by others.
Support? There was no support for our little family. My Mom was told things like,
“at least you are still young, you’ll find someone else”
“at least Tara is too young to remember him, she’ll be fine.”
People say the most unsupportive things when they don’t know what to say. As I grew up and began to really feel the effects of Father abandonment, no one questioned why my actions were so rebellious. I was labeled by my own family for being a rebellious teenager, a spoiled brat, and worse. No one, not even my family knew how to deal with my Dad’s suicide, so it was swept under the rug, needing to be forgotten for the pain was too much, because no one knew HOW to talk about it.
I viewed myself as the constant reminder to others of a man who committed suicide and left his family. I was the reminder to my Mom of that fateful day and the man who left her, and to my Grandparents, the reminder of their missing son. Whenever I was with my Dad’s side of the family I heard the whispers, and being empathic, I felt the burning stares around my entire being. In that family I was known as “Danny’s Daughter”. I didn’t get to just be Tara. I had to be the survivor, even as a child.
Born to two teenagers and one of which “committed” suicide, I had lots of pressure to succeed and prove to the world that I was worth this life, worth the pain of this tragic fate of my Father, and prove to everyone that my Mother did not fail at raising me. I became an over-achiever and a perfectionist, with the need to prove my own position in this world as my own individual self. My Mom had lots of pressure to prove she was a strong woman and mother, as she was so young. We struggled together, but yet apart. She didn’t know what it felt like to be father-less. I didn’t know what it felt to be a widow. We had one commonality in this, abandonment by the same person.
As my life continued and I grew into an adult, my adult friends would say “at least you never really knew him so you should be ok.” This could not be farther from the truth. I viewed my Father’s suicide in this way…
My Dad made a decision to permanently take himself out of my life leaving me not only abandoned, but with thousands of what-if questions that will never be answered. It’s not like he was in a car accident and had no choice. He had a choice and he made one. Some people who are Father-less but their father is alive, still potentially have an opportunity to meet them someday. I do not. Not in this lifetime. Ever.
It was in 2009 I stopped the angry mental mind chatter with my Dad. I finally found forgiveness in my heart for him, 32 years later. This was also the year my spiritual awakening began. I found myself talking to him one day and actually thanking him instead of yelling at him. At first I didn’t even know what I was saying or where it was coming from. I’m sure he was equally surprised as I was. I don’t know how it happened, it just did. I didn’t have to force myself into forgiving him, my heart just released him and the situation.
I have always felt my Dad’s spirit around me and I know he is the one who kept me safe in some of the scary situations I have found myself in. What if he wasn’t on the other side protecting me? Would I have still been ok or would I have been hurt? I’ll never know, but I am ok with that. I like believing that he is my guardian protecting me, and who better than him.
We were living in North Carolina when the tragic day occurred. Growing up in Arizona, I have felt a deep desire to return. Now being in South Carolina on this traveling journey my husband and daughter have been on in our RV, it just seemed appropriate that I am where I am today. So, in honor of this day, I wanted to spend it on the beach this morning alone. Getting myself comfortable in the sand and looking out into the horizon at the sunrise, I started the conversation with my Dad. I asked him to give me a sign that he was with me, and just then a dolphin jumped out of the water! He is here. I spent a good amount of time there this morning and later again I asked him for another sign, to which his reply, another dolphin jumping out of the water. My two questions, his two signs. The only two dolphins I saw this morning, right when I asked.
I write this post for other suicide survivors. I know your pain. I understand your pain. Abandonment is real for many, not just for suicide survivors. But suicide abandonment is unexplainable and specific. Find support. Its out there. Find peace within yourself. You can and its possible.
If you are a parent to a child whose other parent died by suicide, reach out to me for help. If you are reading this and know someone who is affected by suicide and struggling, please share this with them. Thank you and blessings, xoxo.