Sitting across from the other two girls in what was to be our final meeting, drinking tea and laughing it was hard to believe how far I had come. The bond between us was instant and the friendship I don't doubt will last our lifetime. Each of us branded with our new identities 'Survivors of Suicide'. And survivors we are indeed.
Bonded through tragedy and despair, each looking for answers and frantically pursuing peace.
Just 18 months before this final meeting I found myself in the centre of the 'complex grief' suicide dumps on top of you. The force of which I felt immediately upon discovering my dad's death. It was like a force so strong it literally pushed me into the ground. During the dark and bitterly cold winter in January 2013 whilst my mum was in hospital, my dad, Trevor, took his life in what we understand to be a moment of despair. Our lives changed forever. And at that moment you feel like you are frozen in time such is the overwhelming feeling of incredible loss and disbelief.
For me personally, the shock of suicide reduced my ability to accept the demands of daily life. I felt like I had lost my connection with the person I had once been. I knew I had to do something with my grief, but I didn't know how to begin. I was heartbroken, your entire being literally aches from the pain of the loss of someone so precious to you. I felt so alone, isolated, and dazed.
Statistics say that if a child loses a parent to suicide they are three times more likely to take their own life. Thankfully for me I never reached this point but it is easy for me to see how, without the right kind of support and guidance, someone could end up drifting down that road. In the days following on from my dad's funeral, I did what so many people do after losing a loved one, I went back to my life, the daily grind of living, all the while doing my best to accept my new adjusted life. But however hard I tried, I couldn't adjust. And I was far from accepting.
A pivotal moment in my healing was when I joined a support group. They taught me that you have to surrender to your grief in acknowledgement that the only way to the other side is through it. The best thing I ever did was to reach out to others for help. It saved me. I spent time with others who have been through losing someone to suicide, they have walked this walk and they encourage your need to grieve yet at the same time give you hope for healing. Having unsuccessfully completed counselling previously to this I felt uncertain if this would work, but I was desperate. I was desperate to talk about what my dad had done. The thing I felt people, including counsellors were depriving me of. "Don't dwell on that; you must remember the good times; don't let suicide be the thing that defines your relationship with your dad." But ultimately it was and still continues to be.
My dad made a decision to end his own life. And whilst that sentence is still incredibly painful to write I can now understand the reasons why he made that decision. I may disagree with his decision but I now understand that it was his decision to make. I may still feel pained by his decision but I now understand how I can live side by side with those emotions without feeling ashamed or guilty.
I still have exactly the same feelings and regrets I had 3 years ago, no amount of counselling can stamp out those. What the counsellors and other members of the support group did was to provide me with the gift of freedom. The freedom to openly grieve, openly question and openly answer. Even when you don't like the answer.