The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself—that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right. – Neil Gaiman
I saved this Neil Gaiman quote just months after my father died. It was at the time when I had just started to talk about my father’s death with others outside of my immediate family. “Feeling naked” described my feelings of exposure and vulnerability. In grief, a part of me was taken away and made so public that it was impossible to hide. I hope that in sharing my story with others, I am “starting to get it right.”
On February 15, 2017, my dad ended his life in my childhood home. His death by suicide was the first loss I have ever experienced. To say that losing him was as emotionally shocking as it gets would be an understatement. I could write a short book on what life was like that first year—the pain, the constant confusion, the lack of closure.
In grief, all emotions are so complicated and layered. After he took his life, things became even more confusing in the way that I felt relieved that his suffering had come to an end and I felt guilty for feeling this way. Suicide multiplies that and expands the shame and guilt that we feel. Grief is messy and sad, hopeful, confusing and one of our best, yet cruelest teachers. Through grief, I have learned that when emotions start to swirl, the healing begins.
My dad knew that life was short and meant to be celebrated. He always celebrated me. He died 100 days from my college graduation. I celebrated that day anyway because I knew that would be what he wanted me to do.
I have hope because now I can tell my story when I couldn’t form complete thoughts or even sentences a year and a half ago. I have hope because of people, my therapist and others, who allowed me just to “Be”—not be happy, not be sad, not be one specific thing but to cry one moment and laugh the next. I have hope because whereas there are no distinct rules on how to get through grief, there are others who have walked similar paths and are willing to grab your hand and say, “Come with me kid. I know it hurts, but you will get through this.”
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