I am a daughter of a suicide victim, who wants to share my story with others and hopefully help someone know they are not alone.
In all that was going on after my dads suicide, and trying to begin to heal myself, we didn’t realize the effects it would have on my girls. They were newly 2, and 3. My oldest daughter, even though three, was always very sensitive. We noticed at a very young age her sensitivity and when her sister was born it really brought her personality and true self out.
The morning that I had found my Dad, I was in such a fog that I couldn't even start to explain what had just happened to them. About three months after his death I noticed little things in my daughters. My three year old was and still is very inquisitive. She knew something happened because Pappy wasn’t around, and when we would go to my moms house he wasn’t there. My two year old always stood at the back door waiting for him to come home, and she did so the first time she was in the house after everything settled down. I noticed small things like the separation anxiety. I couldn’t leave the room to let the dog outside without my three year old running after me and hanging on my legs. She would scream and cry if she couldn’t see me. I will never forget the day we went to the post office to drop off some packages that I had sold. I parked the van directly in front of the mailbox but I couldn’t open the handle from inside the van. I got out and opened the passenger door and she went crazy. Literal sobs. When I got back in she had made herself so overheated and red that we had to stop for a drink to cool her off. It was then that I saw that she was having the after effects of suicide.
Things continued to get worse. I never explained to her how he did it, what he looked like, or anything about the nature of the day. She started to have dreams about 3-4 months afterwards. When id go into her room in the morning she would always tell me about how she saw Pappy in her dreams. She always told me how he told her he loved her and to tell mommy I love her too. The first time she told me this I thought it was a fluke. I mean she always heard us talking about how we missed him, but never anything more. I was always cautious because kids feed off of what they hear. I always remembered that first time she told me. After about three weeks she was still telling me this, and then I started to wonder more of what she knew. One morning I decided to poke her a little more and started asking vague questions like, “Did you have great dreams last night?” Her response was, ”Yep Pappy was in it again and he said he loved me and Sissy.” I have to say I was never scared when she would say this stuff, I always felt somewhat at peace.
It was one morning though that my feelings were a little unsettled. When she woke up she wasnt herself. She was always in a great mood, but this particular morning she was very quiet and just not her usual peppy self. I asked her if she wasn’t feeling well and she said, “Yep I feel fine.” It wasn’t until lunch time that she actually told me what was going on. We were sitting down for lunch and she started to ask me questions. Questions that a three year old shouldn’t be asking an adult. Her first question to me was, “Mommy when Pappy went to heaven why was he wearing a green shirt?” I literally felt the worst pain in my stomach. I never told ANYONE what he had been wearing. But he was in fact in a green shirt. It was his work shirt. He had gotten up that morning and had gotten dressed for work and put his usual fluorescent green shirt, jeans, and white socks. Then the next question really made me want to throw up. She asked me, “Mommy what was all over his face? It was red or something.” I wanted to cry because next was,”And what was between his eyes.” My dad had shot himself between the eyes. It was like she knew something. But WHY and HOW did she know this? I answered her very vaguely and told her I wasn’t sure, but I knew she knew I wasn’t telling her he truth. I reached out to a counselor because I not only wanted to talk to someone but I had to know why she knew this stuff. I did research before my appointment because I didn’t want to sound like a crazy person when I went to their office. I found out that kids had almost what was a sixth sense. Like they felt spirits and felt things. I was a total unbeliever in this stuff. Like ok who did she hear this from and is she just telling us this stuff to make us feel better? But the stuff she said was all true. In doing more research I also found out that the dreams she was having could be read several different ways. Most of the time (according to www.ryanhart.com) this could mean that she is seeking approval for attention. Which she did have a hard time accepting this but that was two years ago now that she was born. I also thought maybe she was seeking attention because we were so engrossed, for almost two weeks, about his passing and trying to get back to normal. I’m a stay at home mom, so I knew the attention was there because if not for my little girls, I probably wouldn’t have made it through his death. They kept me going and helped me to “distract” my thoughts during the day. We stayed busy most, if not all day, playing. I didn’t want to read into anything else because I didn’t want to misinform myself, as hard as that was.
When my appointment came up with the therapist she told me pretty much what I had read online. But she also told me that it could be him coming to her for her approval and acceptance for his untimely passing. I chose the latter because honestly the last thing I wanted was be worrying myself sick about her mental health. The therapist had told us to keep up with the positive reinforcements about my Dad. We still continue to watch her to this day.
She continued on with talking about her dreams, and telling me and sissy that Pappy loved us. That Fall we chose to put her in a preschool program to help her meet new friends and keep her mind busy. Again this was a horrible start. She screamed and cried and didn’t want me or daddy to let her go. We knew she was in great hands but we also felt like she needed the social interaction as well. As time went on she started to do very well and we began to see a lot of progress. She started to come out of her shell and started to be very social and was liked by so many kiddos. I never put her in any type of therapy for kids because we saw so much progress that we felt like she was doing well. We sat down with her every night before bed and asked her if she had any questions and let her know we would help her if she did and she was safe to talk to us. Even at now four years old she would ask us very in depth questions and questions that even a teenager may not ask. We would and still do answer her with age appropriate answers and if there is something we question we tell her that we will let her know.
Our youngest daughter still to this day doesn’t quite understand what happened. She knows that Pappy is an angel (which I’ve called him since he left us that day) and she knows that she wont see him again for a long time. I always try and show my girls pictures, and tell them nothing but positive stories, particularly funny stories. I’ve learned just how much children’s brains are like sponges. They absorb absolutely everything. The one thing that my therapist had always told me at the end of my sessions, was to stay positive and never speak bad of people particularly family who the kids see all the time. They start to become confused and when children are vulnerable they start thinking what is said is true. I always try and look through the eyes of my children. I try and think about how they think and how they are thinking and try and use that for any explanations. I want my girls to stay positive and I want them to never be ashamed of how my dad passed. Suicide isn’t shameful. It’s not embarrassing. It happens to many people who are young, middle aged, old. It doesn’t matter what race someone is. Suicide is suicide. I want my girls to always speak positive about my dad, and want them to be proud. I want them to love him and continue to love him. But most of all, I want my girls to know how amazing of a man he is. Not was. Is.