Something completely different today. A person I’m honored to call my friend, Ryan Haack, recently lost his father in the last way he ever imagined. A way even his father probably didn’t imagine. Ryan’s piece is poignant, brave, heart-breakingly fresh, and I think says a lot about what we as humans go through when we lose the people we love in unexpected ways. Here’s Ryan:
On November 12th, 2014, I wrote a post titled “How To Talk To Someone Struggling With Depression.” It was about the stigma that still exists around issues of mental health and how we can help each other communicate appropriately. In it I mentioned my Uncle Ed’s suicide from nearly 30 years ago. I didn’t publish the post because I thought I sounded like a jerk and wanted to figure out how to rewrite it with a more encouraging tone.
On November 17th, 2014, my father took his own life.
This post is part of my process, part of my healing. It’s not all-inclusive and I don’t have all the answers.
But, I do have my experience. And maybe my experience can help you. I pray that it would.
I know for me, it was hard to believe that what happened was true. I have never used the word “unbelievable” more literally in my entire life. It’s strange what your brain does when you lose someone unexpectedly. For the first few days there were times I fully expected him to walk in the room and everything would be ok. Even at the visitation when I saw him laying there, I had this feeling he was going to open his eyes and say, “Hey! Why the hell am I in this box??”
But he didn’t. It was true. And it’s still true today.
I have lots of questions. This seems pretty obvious, but my head was spinning with questions. Why did he do it? Could I have done something differently to prevent it? Believe me when I tell you that if I had one million dollars, I would have bet it ALL against my dad ever doing something like this. With zero hesitation. None. At all. As I’ve written about before, my dad’s closest brother took his own life nearly 30 years ago and my dad has been upset about it ever since. He went through the experience of losing a loved one to suicide first-hand. He loved his wife and my brothers and me and my wife and kids. He was a proud father and grandfather. Five days before the incident, he was honored by over 150 people at a retirement party held in his honor. He was to receive a plaque from the city he worked for the night after he did it. He and my step-mom had plans to go to Florida to continue enjoying retirement together.
All of this made it so confusing, so shocking. And it always will be.
It’s also the one thing that kind of scares me. If a guy as strong as my dad, who had every conceivable reason in the world to not do this…did it…what about me?