Honoring My Dad A Year After His Suicide

A friend told me that when she was growing up her mother would dial her ex-husband’s number and as soon as she heard him pick up, she’d hold the phone out and tell her daughter, “Your dad’s on the phone.” Whatever hurt or anger she felt towards him, she still wanted her daughter to have a good relationship with him.

I wish I had thought to do something like that for my kids with my father. He knew about them because he’d found photos of them online. My aunt said he seemed so happy when he’d talk about them, but he’d never met them. We never exchanged letters or phone calls. I didn’t tell my kids anything about my dad until I found out he’d passed away.

I had my reasons, as people do. I was afraid of my father. He’d never threatened me, but I knew he was capable of violence. The last time I saw him, he was serving time in state prison for shooting a drug dealer who owed him money. Still, that shooting happened over 10 years ago. He did write some mean things about me and my mother, but now that I think about it, he probably couldn’t have hurt me or my kids after he got deported back to Hong Kong.

I can’t reach out to him anymore. He killed himself a year ago. He apparently left a note saying that he didn’t have anything to live for. In my head, I know it’s not really my fault. I didn’t make him swallow the pills, and I didn’t break off communication with him just to hurt his feelings. I genuinely felt scared that he would hurt me after he got out of prison.

Still, I regret that we weren’t even writing letters when he died. I wish I could go back and send him photos of my kids and stories about funny things they said or did. I like to think that my staying out of contact with my dad was to protect my kids, but I wonder a bit of that was just an excuse. He was hard to be around. He was demanding, verbally abusive, and usually running away from the law. But he was also suffering from undiagnosed depression and anxiety. Before I got into treatment, I was pretty hard to be around too.

I don’t know what would have happened if I had reached out to my father. Maybe things wouldn’t have worked out, just as I suspected. Maybe we could have found a way to put the past behind us and just enjoy Zach and Kaylee. I wish I could go back and find out.

I’d like to think that some essence of my father, untouched by his anxiety and depression, is still around. I’m not sure I believe in reincarnation, but as physicists say, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.” All the energy of my fear and hatred of him is gone. What’s left is a deep ache of sadness.

My family will be celebrating the Day of the Dead at a friend’s house and also at Zach’s school. Whatever differences my dad and I had, he still deserves to be acknowledged and honored.

A rare photo of my dad and me happy together

My dad and me when I was about 8 years old

Have you lost anyone that you had a difficult relationship with? How did you cope with your loss?

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5 thoughts on “Honoring My Dad A Year After His Suicide

  1. RageMichelle October 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm Reply

    This is a lovely tribute.

    I have a very strained relationship with my father, he’s brain damaged now, so it’s probably more difficult for me than it is for him. honestly, it’s probably always been more difficult for me than it was for him.

    I really appreciated this blog post.

    • Frankie Laursen October 29, 2013 at 10:30 pm Reply

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I remember trying to explain to my dad (through letters) why I had always been so angry, and he totally couldn’t understand because he remembered things so differently. I realized we were never going to agree on what happened.

  2. Emily Fenicle October 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm Reply

    Thank you for sharing such raw emotions and feelings. I have had a very similar relationship (or lack of) with my father as you described. He spent time in prison as well. I, like you, feel like I am protecting my children from his behavior. Maybe it is an excuse? But I also feel like I am protecting myself. He also said and wrote some pretty horrible things, especially during out last contact when he was in prison (about 8 years ago now). I often think what will happen when his time comes in whatever way that may be. Will I regreat it? Right now I think I will mourn for him, but not about the fact we did not have a relationship.

    • Frankie Laursen October 29, 2013 at 10:34 pm Reply

      My husband reminded me that towards the end of my contact with my father, I asked my husband to screen the letters first and then throw any future ones away. I think I especially feel sad because my father killed himself. I probably would have felt differently if he’d died of heart failure or diabetes.

      Thank you for sharing your story. I really feel sometimes like I’m the only one who has lived this way. But of course, when I visited my father in prison, there were lots of wives and children visiting there. I started a blog post that I never finished about how Sesame Street has even created a puppet who has a parent in prison. I should look into writing about that again.

  3. […] engaging in illegal activities or to cure his depression and anxiety, which ultimately resulted in his suicide. The next time you’re irritated when someone offers to help, consider that they might share […]

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