I know when my grief started, I know why, I know how, I know who… But I don't know how long it will last. June 17th 2008, my father took his own life. I don't know when he found his resolve. I don't know why. But I'll always have my own ideas.
I think it started with his injury in 2004. The Taser was introduced to his police department. The deal was, if you want to carry it you have to know what you're carrying. So he let them tase him. And I'll never forget his screams of excruciating pain when he came through the door that day. Who knew when he left that day, he was going out into the world to be broken.
Fractured vertebrae, muscle contractions, pain for a couple of years. He'd wake up in the middle of the night, screaming in agony. He sued the police department, settled, divorced my mom. At some point, she got custody of me. And 2008, he decided he would leave on his own.
I still remember what it felt like, the scream that ached in my throat that day. My mom walked up to me completely devastated and, told me he was gone. Sometimes I still feel that scream, it's like it lives in my chest. At any moment, I could let it out and feel all of those things I felt that day. First, physical pain, I fell to my knees and my body ached for a long while. Second, numbness, my whole body buzzed, like, when you lay on your arm for too long. Third, tiredness, I wanted to lay down and possibly die in the grass. I couldn't bring myself to my feet and definitely wouldn't have been able to lift anything. These feelings persisted for weeks.
I remember feeling like it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that time just kept spinning, everyone kept on with their normal lives and I was expected to do the same. It wasn't fair that he couldn't be there. It wasn't fair that he felt he didn't deserve to wake to the warm sun, to feel the water quench his thirst, to eat a delicious meal. It wasn't fair that I got to. I didn't taste food anymore. It was like my taste buds went numb with the rest of my body. But my mind kept spinning, especially my dreams.
I dreamt of him every night for years. It was all I had. It was the only time I got to see him. I longed for sleep. I wanted to sleep as long as I could for days. I went as far as lying about dying of cancer—so I wouldn't have to wake up for school anymore. And then I tried to kill myself, in hopes that I could join him in the abyss. Hoping I could see him, feel him and hear him again. But the abyss didn't want me.
I went downhill. I was 14, I couldn't just walk to the liquor store and buy a bottle of whiskey to drown my sorrow in. I had to find people. Which led me to fucked up places and fucked up situations. Any drug, any kind of alcohol, anything I could use to bury my grief as far down as I could. For as long as I could.
Maybe, all of these suicides in the news triggers something in me. I don't know why I do, but I go out looking for what people say about those who take their lives. They're selfish, they didn't care about anyone, they didn't love anyone, they hated themselves, their family wasn't there for them, they aren't there for their family. And it is so fucking easy to be angry and call these people selfish. But until you lose someone in this way, someone whom you truly love, who you would die for, who you would kill for, who you hurt for and live for… You haven't got a damn clue. None.
Calling my dad selfish and being angry with him, it's like swallowing a nail. A nail that gets stuck in your throat and it just sits there and you wait and wait for it to go down. But it doesn't, so you spit it back up. Because you know you shouldn't be swallowing that nail. That nail isn't the truth and it sure as hell won't fix anything where it's trying to go.
Devastation, betrayal, abandonment, emptiness, loneliness, despair, anger, frustration, darkness, sadness, hopelessness, guilt. God, the fucking guilt. You could have stopped it, you could have called, you could have asked, you could have stopped being an asshole, you could have listened, you could have hugged more, you could have been there.
I dreamt of him many, many nights. For years. And it was always the same. I'm walking around the back of my house and there he is on the deck, in that green and cream striped fold out chair, with his gun in his mouth. His face is wet with tears, and I scream and scream and nothing comes out. And then he pulls the trigger. His brains splatter all of over the window behind him. And I snap awake, panicked, and there is my scream, loud and clear.
I tried so hard to bury this grief with drugs, alcohol, sex, toxic friends. Nothing ever worked, eventually, I stopped trying. I found a man who loved me and understood me and we have a beautiful daughter. But it's been ten years, and that grief still lingers around. Some days, everything is fine, but then I'm standing in the kitchen doing the dishes and my dad is in my head. And I relive those emotions and I relive those situations, and the dreams start again.
Grief is like a dead body—you can bury it as deep as you want and it will decompose over time but there will always be something left.
I made room for my grief. Without it, there would be nothing left of him.