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Five Stages of Grief After a Parent's Suicide

I'm a daughter of a parent who died by suicide who wants to help others know and understand that it’s okay to feel the way we do afterward.

My dad died by suicide three years ago. Here's my experience of going through the stages of grief and what I've learned about grief itself.

My dad died by suicide three years ago. Here's my experience of going through the stages of grief and what I've learned about grief itself.

Five Stages of Grief

Even after almost three years I still find myself going through the stages of grief after losing my dad to suicide. There are many days when I am happy and content with life. I smile, am in a great mood, and feel like myself.

But there are also days when I feel like I did the week of and after. I’ve learned though that no matter how bad my days are, I am still blessed with amazing children, family, and friends.

I personally don’t think I will ever be “over” that day. If you’re not familiar with the five stages of grief, they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial

I've been in denial now for almost three years. I still don’t want to think about my dad actually being gone. I also find myself denying the fact that he was “that bad.” I, like most kids, talked to my dad every day. If we didn’t talk on the phone, we'd text. He told me things about his feelings and thoughts, and I’d always walk him through the process.

In the time I’ve had to reflect, I still think back to some of our last conversations. He did tell me how unhappy he was and that still bothers me. I know there were a lot of underlying issues between him and my mom, but I didn’t know the extent.

I had asked my dad to come to stay with us, but he didn’t want to because his job was almost an hour from us, and I also think he was scared of what my mom would do or say to him if he stayed with me. I often think about what would have happened if I had pushed him a little harder, and he'd come to stay with me.

My therapist always said to not “dwell” on how things could’ve gone—to look at the positives and try and stay happy and stress-free. It’s very hard, but after struggling for so long, I began to understand the denial I was in. These were things that I wanted for him. These were the things that I thought would help him and make him happy. But these were all superficial things to him. None of these things even touched how deep the pain was.

I thought getting him away from the main problem would help, but in actuality, it was making it worse for him because he may have felt that I was trying to pull him from his comfort zone. Although I will always have a small denial phase, it will never be as hard as it was right after his passing.

Anger

This is another form of grief that to this day I find myself feeling at least once a month. I initially was angry because he left me and his granddaughters. I wasn’t just angry; I was pissed that he left the girls. They were so young, and at the time of his death, he was the only grandfather that they were very close to.

I was angry with the entire situation, but then it dawned on me: I was mad at something that I couldn’t control. It took me almost a year to not be angry at certain things. I learned to not be angry about how things happened.

The main person I was angry at was my mom. I was mad because she didn’t see that her actions caused this, and she was going around pinning things on other people, other than herself. I had to really seek a lot of inner peace to bite my tongue and not lash out. I remember going to see a therapist and just sobbing and crying. I was so angry at everyone, but my mom was at the top of my list.

I remember lashing out to the therapist and blaming her and just crying and not understanding how someone could act like this. She said something to me that really hit home and made me really start to calm down and understand. She said to me, “Mandy, she is grieving too, and although you two are grieving differently, it’s still the same pain.”

I sat and thought about what she said. You cannot change someone who constantly thinks their actions were correct, and you won’t be able to change how they think. I remember being so angry some days that I literally wanted to go to her job and just spew thoughts and opinions to her.

The anger part was so hard. It was actually the hardest to get through. I was using my anger to make someone else upset because I couldn't find the outlet I needed.

As I work through my anger (which is still an ongoing process daily,) I always think to myself about how my anger was not solving any problems. It was making things worse and making enemies instead of finding acceptance.

Anger will never go away in a situation like suicide. There will be so many days where your anger takes over but gets you nowhere. It took a very long time, but my anger turned into just wanting peace. I was tired of the constant fight between myself and something that will never change. As hard as the anger stage was and still is, I find myself slowly getting better at managing it and learning to cope with things at my own pace.

Bargaining

I found myself in this stage of grief right after his passing. What if I could’ve noticed the signs? How could’ve I helped him more? I wanted so badly to look back and see something that I missed.

Right after my dad's passing, my mom was accusing everyone else of things like treating him unkind, lying to him, and making him worry too much over things.

When I was in that vulnerable state, I often found myself bargaining and wondering, ”What if I changed, or what if I was different.” As the healing process started to occur, I started seeing that these were all normal questions, and I, in fact, was not wrong about how I felt. Meaning, accusations make you feel even worse about yourself, but knowing deep down in my heart that I didn’t do anything that was being portrayed helped me see there was much more to the situation.

In this stage, there was a lot of back and forth with not only myself personally but mentally. Bargaining can really do a lot and can really affect a person's well-being.

After I started to come out of the fog of everything that had just happened and was able to sit back, the picture became clear. No one could change the situation, and we couldn’t go back to that day now. He chose to do what he did, and he was so far into his thoughts that in fact, no one would’ve been able to change that. Sure I will always think about what-ifs, but I no longer look at things deeply, and I no longer read into things because constant dwelling and worrying will not change the situation at hand.

Depression

This is a hard one, mainly because I knew my dad was depressed and that led to his passing. Depression hit me very hard. I remember thinking to myself, “Ok, you need to get up and do this for the girls.” I felt like I was okay for the first few months after my dad's passing.

But one day, it hit me hard enough I knew I had to see a doctor. I felt defeated and felt like I was giving in to something that I could treat on my own. I remember sitting in my living room one day, and not wanting to move—not wanting to do anything.

All the phone calls and texts asking how I was doing had stopped. People had stopped randomly popping over for a visit or check-in and friends who had been messaging me had stopped as well. I felt like everyone else had moved on, and I was stuck in a rut. I started blaming everyone else for my feelings.

In this time, my mom had also started wanting and needing constant attention. Every time I’d see her she would let her emotions bring me down, and when she left, I was left thinking more about situations—thinking harder on the issues that I knew we’d never have answers to.

My fiancée came home from work one day and got very upset with me. He was upset because he worked long, hard hours to keep our business running, and I was slacking. He wanted to come home to a nice home-cooked meal, happy kiddos, and a “clean home" (as clean as could be with a 3 and 2-year-old). I remember him saying that I need to get ahead of this because he didn’t want what happened to my dad to happen to me. It was with those words I knew I had to get help—help to not only feel better but also rediscover myself.

When I made that call, I knew I needed help but also felt ashamed because I couldn’t do this on my own. When I called and made my appointment, they asked me a simple set of mental health questions to see how severe my symptoms were and how urgently I needed to be seen.

I remember being upset because all my answers were “every day." For example, how often do you feel down and have bad thoughts? When the kind lady on the other end asked me to hold and not hang up, I remember thinking, "Just hang up, just hang up." As quickly as she put me on hold she was back, and I had an appointment the very next day.

The doctor was very kind and didn’t look at me any different. She went through my family history and some paperwork and questionnaires. We sat and talked about how I felt, my sleeping situation (how much and if any,) and what we could do. She wanted me to continue therapy which I had agreed but she also suggested medications. I was skeptical because of my family history of being on antidepressants, but we sat and chose two meds and talked about the effects. She listened intently and told me what her thoughts were.

I chose to start on Prozac and a sleeping aid. To this day, I can’t express how much this had has helped me. Although these medications are not for everyone, I am glad that I took the leap. I am very happy, and my doses are adjusted accordingly. I have also started an anxiety medicine to help with my anxiety/panic attacks.

I feel happy again and found myself and am able to move forward and continue to heal.

Note: I was also very nervous because my dad had been put on Xanax and antidepressants. It was later determined that his Xanax dosage was way off from what it should’ve been, so medicines scared me.

Acceptance

Although it was the hardest part of grief, finding acceptance started right after I had started feeling better and feeling more like myself. I found the acceptance that I needed. It took months, but eventually, I have accepted my dad's untimely passing. I had put things into perspective and found that accepting his death was much easier once I was able to look past some things that were out of my control. And again, like everything else, once I accepted it, I felt like a heavy weight was lifted off my shoulders.

Although I will always live in a bit of denial, it will never be as hard as it was right after his passing.

Grief Doesn't Go Away, But It Gets Easier to Live With

I have found that even though signs of grief peek through at times, it's all normal. I will never forget how he passed, and never forget things that happened in the following weeks and months after, but accepting things truly has helped me move forward. And it has made me become a better fiancée, mom, daughter, and friend.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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