A little over 10 months ago, I published a blog piece about coming to terms with suicide which has been read nearly 1,000 times by people from all over the world ranging from the USA to China, Argentina to the Dominican Republic. Now that's not a bragging right, after all there are bloggers out there who receive hundreds of thousands of views every single day, however, it's an achievement to me.
To me it means 1,000 people have been made aware of the aftermath a suicide carries. 1,000 people are now slightly more educated about depression and mental illness. 1,000 people now have a better understanding of the fact that mental illness is extremely common and it can affect anyone at any time. 1,000 people now know my story.
As you read this we have come full circle and reached one whole year since my wonderful, caring, and self-less dad was taken from this world by suicide. 365 days I have spent reliving the day I found out he was gone forever. 8,760 hours spent torturing myself about what I could've done to stop the inevitable from happening. 31,536,000 seconds trundling through life without my very best friend.
The only word I can accurately use to describe the past 12 months is 'exhausting'. The worst year of my life has also been one of the best, yet at the end of it I'm feel so mentally drained, more than I have ever felt before. With my dad passing away exactly two months before I was due to go to university, things in life got a whole lot harder. I mean, my dad never even got to see the university I was going to, never mind actually taking me there and watching me start a new chapter of my life.
He never got to see the beginning of my future and I think that's probably the hardest thing to come to terms with, for me. Despite his passing and myself moving to a city 70 miles away only being separated by eight weeks, deciding to proceed with going to university was an easy decision to make. After all, he was the person who encouraged me to study Journalism at degree level. It was something he wanted for me and he yearned for it with such a passion. I couldn't let him down. I didn't want to let him down. Now 10 months down the line I've completed my first year at university with the equivalent of a 2:1 - something I never thought I'd be able to do 12 months ago but I'm here and I did it. I did it for him.
My first year as a fresher was one of the best of my 20 years of life, I gained my own independence, started a degree and met people who I will be friends with for the rest of my life. It's been incredible. Truly. But it has always been overshadowed by that dark cloud that follows me round everywhere. Nobody else can see it, it's something that is exclusive to me. To remind me of the constant pain and sadness I'm faced with every single day because I lost the one person who I held closest to my heart.
See, the thing with moving to university after my dad passed away is that the people there have no idea about the person I was before we met. They have no idea what the true me looks and behaves like. So I don't have to be me. They don't know any different. They don't know how much losing my dad has affected me. But that's ok. Yet, being in a new city with new people and new surroundings has almost made it impossible for me to grieve. Impossible.
The constant distraction stopped me from feeling. From showing my emotions. It stopped me from being... me. Now 12 months on, I'm writing this still with so much hope that my amazing, hero of a dad will walk through our front door at six o'clock at night after a long strenuous day at work, asking what he's having for dinner.
Having been away from home for so long, away from the constant association and connections my home (and surrounding areas) have with my dad, away from the memories; it's made me prone to pushing all of the sadness to the back of my mind by pretending what happened this time last year simply...didn't. And I know deep down that's a terrible, terrible thing. That one day the grief and reality of it all is just going to hit me square in the face and make me feel like I've just gone six rounds with Mike Tyson. So to my university friends who may be reading this (and any friends I still have left at home) - be patient with me. I'm a little mixed up right now and probably will be for a very long time. I know it's been a year but please don't expect me have gotten over this or come to terms with it because that's simply not how it works. Just because you see me smiling or laughing or even partying, that doesn't mean I'm not hurting. I'm just trying to remember how to live. Which is an extremely difficult thing to do when such a huge part of you is missing.
To grief, 12 months is nothing. It may as well have happened yesterday because I haven't even started the proper grieving process yet. I'm still trying to figure out how to process the fact that I am never ever going to see my dad ever again. I'm not going to hear his voice ever again. I'll never get to cuddle him. To tell him I love him. To laugh with him. To hear him call me his little girl and tell me he loves me. He won't see me graduate. He won't walk me down the aisle when I get married. He won't get to see his grandchildren. He won't ever get to hear me say thank you. For being the greatest dad a girl could ever ask for and more. For loving me more than any man in this world ever will. For showing me the kind of man I should fall in love with and not to settle for anything less.
I never thought I would lose my dad at a young age, let alone to suicide. To anyone reading this who may be going through the same grief, you're not alone. Don't let anyone tell you that grief has a time frame... it absolutely does not. Take all the time you need. It's ok to be selfish.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41