Losing Dad

21 March 2018
By Charlotte Underwood

[Trigger warning: suicide]

On January 30th 2014, I woke up to find that my father was missing. I still remember my mother coming into my room in a panic and telling me he was gone. I was so shocked that I tried to reason and said he’d gone to town, but it was only 6am. Then I looked at my mother’s eyes and saw the genuine worry, this was not an overreaction. She confided that the month before, my father had tried to end his life and he was not sick with the flu, he was struggling.

It was as if the world zoned out and all my feelings went, it was a lot to process and I couldn’t understand it at all. I suffered myself from mental health conditions and I knew my dad had some difficulties from being a medic in the army, working as a prison officer, as well as a part time hypnotherapist, all whilst being autistic and his jobs being emotionally demanding. I suppose I just became ignorant to the fact that my dad would ever feel like he needed to end his life.

My father and I were very close – I had been a daddy’s girl since day one. He was so loving, he loved all his children; he was a man who would light up the room and everyone he met loved him. I think the shock came from the fact that my, our, future had been ripped from me. Dad always told me how he’d struggle to give away his little girl on my wedding day, that we’d decorate my first house together and he’d become the best grandfather one day. We even spoke about going to Alaska to see the Northern Lights together after I turned 18. I had no idea that when I turned 18, instead of going to Alaska, I would be saying goodbye to the most important man in my life.

The shock came from the fact that my, our, future had been ripped from me

He was found on March 3rd, it was ruled as a suicide by the coroner. I was on Skype to my boyfriend at the time and I heard a knock on the door at 11pm. I just felt it was ‘the news’. As I headed down the stairs I could hear my mum’s pain, her screaming and I just turned away, I knew.

His death did not affect me until his funeral. I had been so strong for everyone else; always doing the shopping and chores, planning the funeral and a house move because everyone else was in such deep grief. Like my father I always put others first. The moment I felt my loss was as I walked past the hedge in our front garden that Dad would cut like a castle. I saw his coffin and I broke, I couldn’t look up from my lap the whole journey because I could see coffin and it hurt so bad.

My grief spanned a good three years. It was a rollercoaster as I had suffered trauma from my father’s death as well as dealing with my own issues. I have depression and anxiety, which have become worse after his death; I find I am more aware of mortality and have a tendency to manifest symptoms of illnesses I fear, such as ovarian cancer which I swore I had last year.

I have found there is little support for those left behind as well as those with mental illness seeking help

I went from substance abuse, suicide attempts and toxic situations, to finding my husband, moving out, writing a free e-book on my father’s death and slowly becoming a mental health advocate with the goal to prevent suicide. I have chosen to advocate for mental health as I have found there is little support for those left behind as well as those with mental illness seeking help. I feel the stigma is still controlling appropriate treatment and support which can lead to fatalities.

I’m now in recovery but it took a long time and lots of work, I work every day to keep myself free from harm, through writing and communicating with others. To readers I would say this: no grief is the same, we all need to grieve in our own time and way and there is definitely no wrong or right way to grieve.

If you’re struggling and would like to talk to someone, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123. Alternatively, if you are coping with the loss of a loved one, you may wish to contact Cruse Bereavement Care freephone on 0808 808 1677.

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