Forgiving my father for taking his own life

A student reflects on their dad’s suicide and how they understand and empathize with him now.


CONTENT WARNING: This story contains mentions of suicide and self-harm that may be triggering for some readers.

I still remember the night before my dad died. 

It was a Thursday in 2011. He pulled me aside and looked at me like he was on the verge of tears. He asked me if I loved my mom and my sister. I said, ‘Yes, I do love them.’ He asked my sister the same question.  

I was confused, but I initially didn’t think much of it. Little did I know, this would be my last interaction with my dad.

The next day, when my mom picked me and my sister up from school, she was acting strange. 

Once we got home, she pulled me and my sister aside and told us that our dad had died.

At first, I thought she was joking. How could my dad die so soon? I was only nine, and my sister was only five. I didn’t think I would experience the loss of a parent until later in life. 

It made me wonder how my dad knew he would die.

My dad was in a wheelchair after an accident at work left him unable to walk. I sometimes helped him with daily tasks he was unable to do himself. My mom told me that taking care of him almost felt like taking care of another child. 

She never told us how he died that night, and I didn’t bother asking because I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable. I grew curious through the years, but I still didn’t try to seek out any answers.

In 2016, when my mom, her friend and I legally changed her last name, he mentioned my dad committed suicide. 

When I heard that, my heart dropped. It took five years for me to find out that my dad committed suicide, and nobody told me directly. I only learned by overhearing it in a conversation that wasn’t intended for me.  

While I understood why my mom didn’t disclose this information to me when I was nine, I figured she would’ve told me eventually. But I wasn’t mad. 

I was just shocked that my dad took his own life. I wanted to know more about his mental health leading up to this decision.

Four years later, my mom started to open up about some of my dad’s mental health issues and suicidal thoughts prior to his death. She said he contemplated stabbing himself with a knife because he thought he would be better off dead. 

I wondered if he ever made previous suicide attempts, and I soon realized that he suffered much more than I thought he did when I was young. Besides his physical disability, he had underlying problems with his mental health that weren’t adequately treated, which had a negative impact on his relationships with loved ones and led to his passing.

As much as it pains me to say, I don’t think his death negatively affected me as much as I thought it would have. Whether this is because he was only alive for the first nine years of my life or because the adjustment to only having one parent wasn’t too difficult for me, I’m not sure. 

Of course, I still have moments when I think about how different my life would be if he were still here. Sometimes, I wish I’d done more to show him how important he was to my family.

But what matters most to me is that he’s no longer suffering. I know his disability made it exceptionally difficult to take care of two small children, and I wouldn’t wish that pain on him.

I’ve dealt with depression, generalized anxiety and social anxiety for several years. I’ve also had suicidal thoughts, but I’ve never acted on them. In a way, I feel like my experiences helped me empathize with my dad.  

He didn’t want to upset my family and loved ones. He only desired to escape from his agony. 

Every year on Father’s Day, which sometimes coincides with his birthday, my family and I visit his grave to lay flowers. Although I miss him and wish I’d gotten to know him better, I know he’s looking down on me and proud of everything I’ve accomplished so far. 

I have no hard feelings toward him. I just hope he’s finally at peace.

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