Alice’s story: Bereaved by suicide

Alice’s Dad took his own life in March 2019. In the run up to this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, Alice shares her story with us.

By Alice · September 7, 2022

It was all really sudden. There were three of us; myself my sister and my brother. And none of us were expecting it or anticipated that he was struggling.

My Dad lived abroad and had done for a number of years. Unfortunately, at the time of his death I didn’t have a relationship with him. I hadn’t spoken to him for quite some time, which I found really hard initially.

It was the biggest shock I’ve ever dealt with, ever, I don’t think you can put into words how it feels. We know now that it was meticulously planned. And he was planning it for months, which actually in itself gave us some peace. It’s given me a little bit more closure, knowing that it really was what he wanted.

Questioning everything

Dad’s death was the first major bereavement I’d ever had. I was 24 when he died, and my whole life felt like it had fallen apart around me. I just felt lost. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I felt angry with him because of what he’d done. I felt angry at myself, because I thought ‘could I have changed his decision?’.

You question everything. Had I picked up the phone and rung him the week before would that have changed his decision? I’m never going to speak to him again. And then I’m angry because he’s going to miss me getting married, buying a house, and he’s going to miss my sister getting married, and my brother has two children and he’s going to miss them growing up. But the bottom line is, it was his decision, so how can you be cross as he must have been in such turmoil to have done this?

Friends and family’s reaction

Strangely enough and very sadly, my Dad’s brother also took his own life, but before I was born. My Dad was one of five, a really big traditional Yorkshire family. So when I had to tell his brothers and sisters I think they were kind of reliving what had happened 20 odd years ago, and they actually didn’t believe it had even happened.

My Dad was a bit of a ‘diamond geezer’, a dodgy guy sort of thing, so they said ‘oh in 20 years he’ll come knocking on the door’. One of his sisters needed literal evidence. She was really adamant that he wouldn’t have done this. So we actually had to send her photos of him in the chapel of rest.

My Mum and Dad weren’t together for eight years before dad’s death, so my Mum was sad for my Dad, but more sad for myself, my sister and brother. She was brilliant and really supportive. I have a long-term partner, and once he’d got his head around it he was fantastic.

And you get the other side of the coin, some people just don’t get it, and think suicide is really selfish. I’m like ‘OK but you can keep that opinion to yourself.’ Some people just don’t understand.

Getting Cruse support

A few months after Dad died I got to the point where I was so confused about how I was feeling, I felt I just needed to speak to somebody. I needed to be functioning as human being again. So I spoke to my GP, who was great, and gave me lots of options including Cruse.

There was a huge amount of apprehension and I don’t think I would have done it had I not had friends behind me saying I think it would be a good thing. But with my Bereavement Volunteer, I instantly felt at home. Straight away I felt as if I’d known her for ever, and she was just part of this huge community of people around me, even though I’d only known her for five minutes.

After the first session I felt generally lighter as a person. Like I could sort of begin to understand how things were going to go, and that everything was kind of going to be OK. When you think about grief, everyone expects you to grieve then be OK and fine. Somebody dies, you grieve, then life just carries on. And I completely thought that too, I thought I will grieve and then my life will carry on and I’ll be OK. But as it transpires that’s not what happens. So I learnt that, which was enlightening.

There were sessions I had where we’d cry and cry together and it would feel long and heavy, and the hour would feel like a day. But other sessions we would just laugh together and I’d leave feeling lifted. I looked forward to my sessions. That’s how it became, it was just really lovely, I know it sounds silly, but it was lovely.

Remembering always

I now completely understand my grief and how I feel. At first I couldn’t even say the words ‘my Dad had taken his own life’, but if somebody asks me something about him now, it doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t hit me in the stomach any more.

I feel more sadness now than crossness, and it’s not constant. I don’t feel depressed any more. There are so many unanswered questions and I’m never going to get all the answers, so why dwell on it? I’m 26 now, I can’t spend the rest of my life feeling angry and mad with him and sad. On a day-to-day basis I’m generally OK, and I don’t think I would have been, had I not continued seeing my volunteer. I’m so grateful for everything she did for me.

Even now, I talk about my Dad every day. There’s literally not a day where he doesn’t come up in some conversation, and I think people still feel awkward about me talking about him. He’s still a huge part of my life, he’s still my Dad, and just because he’s not here anymore doesn’t change that fact.

There are so many things that I do and that I think that are so ‘Dad’. My Dad loved the beach. We frequently go to the coast and it’s my way of feeling close to him. People say that doesn’t make sense, but when you’ve grown up around the beach it does make sense to me.

“If you’re thinking of approaching Cruse just do it. Grief is so all consuming you just want to sit at home and do nothing, but doing nothing won’t help you. Making that first step can be so productive. I don’t think I knew what I could do.”