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Dear Dad,

Tomorrow would have been your 74th birthday.  I still felt the impulse to buy you a card, then I passed the display and instead, began to weep. I thought this second birthday without you would be easier, I was wrong.

I remember when we reconciled, I learned to cherish & never take for granted the simple act of picking up the phone on a holiday or a birthday, to share in good wishes and special sentiments of love & joy. After all, we had endured six years of special days coming and going, marked only by our absence from one another and the silence that filled the void. Yes, it truly felt like we were embarking on a brand new chapter in our relationship, full of promise, forgiveness, rebuilding and a love that felt deeper, stronger and even more authentic because of what we had endured. But that chapter came to a violent and abrupt end 18 months ago. Now our story can only be told in the looking back. And the thought of all that could have been, the pages left unwritten, break my heart.

Eighteen months; I know it’s been a year & a half, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to count it in that way. I’m not ready to put the word year in that space. Isn’t that silly? It is, I know. I wake up almost every day at 3:00 in the morning Dad. We never did get a time of death for you, another missing piece to the puzzle of your suicide. My mind is still trying to make sense of it all. But how do you make sense out of something so very senseless. And yet, my eyes open at 3:00 in the morning and I wonder, is that when you died? Are you trying to give me something to cleave to? Are you trying to answer one of the myriad of questions that occupies my mind at some point each & every day? I’m beginning to believe it.

Oh Dad, I thought getting through all of the firsts would make these seconds without you easier to bear. But I’m told that the second year can be even harder than the first. That darn grief does not follow a linear path, that much I have learned. It’s a constant dance of forward, back and side to side. Right now I feel like I’m just spinning, dizzy, unable to find my center. Tomorrow is just another day I feel like I have to get through. Then some balance might return.

I wish I could have helped you more. I wish that I knew then what I know now. I wish that all that I have learned and all that I have done in the aftermath of your suicide, could help you. I wish it could bring you back. I wish, I wish, for so much I wish.

Why did you go Dad? What happened? What was that final straw that took you from us? Why didn’t you tell us that you were feeling suicidal? Why? I hate that word. Because I will never have the answer. I know the truest answer lies in the illness that consumed your mind. But why didn’t you feel like you could keep fighting on? What made that morning different from all of the others that you had pushed through?

Listen to me; it’s the eve before your birthday and I’m rambling on about me & what I feel. But what about you? Are you at peace? I hope so. Do you know, do you see how much you are missed? I hope so. Do you know how much you were loved. I pray you did.

Tomorrow is your birthday. I wish I could say that I’ll celebrate you, but I just want to get past it. Your suicide has made it deeply complicated to remember you in life, to touch upon the good memories and reminisce.  Maybe one day that will come. I’m told it will. It would be nice to savor a shared moment of joy without having trauma barging in on every darn memory I try to access.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t help you more Dad. I tried my best. I believe that you know that. But you didn’t tell me your whole truth. You kept a mask on and allowed me only to see a portion of your pain. Were you trying to protect me? You didn’t. You know that now Dad, right?

But I love you. I’ll always love you. And most days I forgive you. Other days I feel like you abandoned me. I can’t lie. You were not always easy, and goodness knows you could be a deeply complicated man. Ours was not a relationship without perils and pitfalls & for a long while we walked on separate paths. But we stood at a fork in the road and found one another again. I am eternally grateful for that. And even in your last months and weeks on this earth, stripped down to your most vulnerable self, you allowed me to know you on a deeper level. I felt like I understood you better, and I came to see that just like me, you were shaped by your own upbringing and all of the dysfunction that you endured. In short, I knew that you did as a father, the very best that you could with what you knew. Not every child gets to see that in their parent no matter how old they get. I thank you for that. I thank you for allowing me a glimpse into your own very human journey. I only wish I could have seen more.

Tomorrow is your birthday. So I’m going to try to end this note with a birthday wish for you…

I wish for you that the peace that eluded you in life, is now yours. May your soul be at rest. And may you always carry with you the knowledge that you were loved, even in your most broken state. Even when darkness blinded you to it, You were loved. And even when you felt most alone, you were loved. I wish you were still here. I wish that I could pick up the phone and call you. I wish I could give you a hug.

And it is my fervent wish that the love we shared can transcend

time & space

pain & sorrow

life and death

So that all that I’ve written can find its way to you with God’s grace.






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One of the hardest parts of losing my dad to suicide is how the trauma has impacted my ability to remember him. I look at pictures or videos, or I simply reflect upon a memory of the past and within moments images & thoughts of how my father died come racing into my mind. My therapist assures me that this is normal, that one day the walls of trauma will recede and allow me to remember my father in life without always having those memories tainted by his death.

I tell my husband that trying to remember my dad, feels like looking through a kaleidoscope. I can see fragments, but no matter how I turn the lens, I can’t access one whole, pure, loving memory. And that feels like another layer of loss.

And yet, the one way that I feel like I can remember my dad, free of the trauma and the pain, is through food. It’s not surprising for those who know me. I am more than an avid foodie, with a passion for cooking. For me, food is the truest & most authentic expression of love. It nurtures, it heals, it awakens the senses, it brings pleasure, it eases sorrow, it is comfort, tradition & family. For me, food is memories. It’s intimately connected to the moments we share with those who matter most to us. It’s the one place I can find my father in a way that feels pure and whole.

It’s ironic of course, that my dad and I had very little in common when it came to food in our adult years. I’m a vegetarian. He was far from it. I cook & eat mostly vegan, and my father, while always a good sport when staying in my home, needed the occasional restaurant fix of meat or chicken to sustain him through the visit. I am all about organic foods, locally, sustainably & ethically sourced wherever and whenever possible. Processed foods don’t get much play in my house and every label of every box and bag has been read. My dad? He just wanted the foods that tasted good, that were familiar to him, the flavors that he knew. It was a source of pride for me each time I fed him a homemade meal and won him over, even getting him to like brussel sprouts at the age of 70. Though he only liked them, the way that I prepared them. That thought still makes me smile.

As a kid, I have certain food memories of my dad. I remember going to the diner and being introduced to one of his favorite desserts, waffles with vanilla ice cream. I remember family outings on summer evenings to get ice cream & thick-shakes at Carvel. I remember how much he loved noshing on pretzels and the holidays when he carved the roast chicken or turkey that my mother had prepared. I remember his love of pastrami, or salami & eggs at Wolfie’s Deli. I remember when he stood up for me and my brother when my mom tried to get us to eat liver, remembering his own unpleasant childhood memories at having been forced to do the same. And who could forget the New York City hotdogs he would buy for me when I would go into Manhattan with him? And there are more….

Then there is the memory of the Entenmann’s NY Style Crumb Cake that would often be in our house when I was a kid. That familiar white box with the blue writing and the many mornings that my father would carve out a piece of cake and have it for breakfast along with his coffee (before cholesterol became a concern). That’s one of the memories that comes to mind most often. I don’t know why, it just does.


So today, after another hard night touched by the images of my father’s death, and on the heels of a day that seemed to be weighed down by unknowable triggers, I decided to honor that memory the best way that I know how. I turned on the stereo and piped my father’s first cousin and one of his favorite artists, Barbra Streisand, through the house. Setting the music to shuffle, it took my breath away when the very first song that came on was “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark
Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

And in that moment I let myself believe that my dad was talking to me. He chose that song, as has happened before, to remind me that even when it’s hard to find him, he is with me. And seeing my swollen puffy eyes, and my broken spirit, my dad wanted me to know that it won’t always hurt this way, that golden sky will follow the storm. And never, ever, am I alone.

With that, I turned on the oven and took out my best ingredients, setting about to make my own New York Style Crumb Cake, just like that Entenmann’s cake he used to love, only better because mine would be made from scratch. I didn’t go vegan, I wanted to make it the old-fashioned way, though every ingredient reflected the values that I bring to my cooking and baking. And while Barbra played on in the background, with flour, butter, sugar, eggs and spices, I took a memory and brought it to life in my kitchen. And as the cake was baking, a delicious scent filled my house. I couldn’t help but hope that my dad might be able to breathe it in somewhere. And that he remembers those same breakfasts that we shared at the kitchen table and the myriad of other food memories that we shared.

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Later on today, I’ll pour myself a cup of instant coffee, because that’s what my dad used to drink. Mine won’t have Splenda or Half-n-Half, but some organic cane sugar and almond milk instead (hope you don’t mind Dad). And with the music continuing to play, I’ll have a slice of crumb cake and I’ll savor the memories that food allows me to find with my father, unspoiled by trauma & pain. And I will let that touch of sweetness nourish my spirit and bring me some comfort. Because food is memories and food is love.

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This one is for you Dad.

I adapted this recipe from Fine Cooking to make today’s food memory.

I threw myself into cooking today. It was partly because we have a guest coming to share Shabbat with us. But that wasn’t the whole reason.
Yesterday and today I’ve found myself really missing my dad a lot. I miss his voice, I miss knowing that I can call and talk to him, I miss the way he called me “D.” I just miss him, his presence in my life and here on this earth. And the missing is always compounded by the painful notion that the way he died, the way his life of 72 years ended, was so tragic, so violent and just so wrong on every level.
It’s not just that I want to call him so I can say “I love you” or hear him say it in return, it’s that I want a chance to dispel every notion he carried to the grave with him: 
That he was worthless
That we were be better off without him
That his depression & anxiety were something to be ashamed of
That he was weak
That there was no hope that things would/could get better
I’m going to services tonight. And in truth, I’m reluctant. Faith is still a struggle for me, even though I have forgiven God. The language of prayer still trips me up at times and when I am feeling vulnerable, it can open up the floodgates. And tonight, I feel vulnerable.
Yes, I spent the day in the kitchen today preparing a Sabbath meal. I did it for our guest and I did it for me. Because cooking is meditative for me. And I found myself feeling very weepy  throughout.
I know that sixteen months in I have longer stretches of days where I don’t cry, and where the joy is far more front and center than the pain. Still, the pain of his death at his own hands is ever present, like a dull quiet ache. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of how my dad died.
Yesterday and today, that quiet ache got a little stronger and louder. The missing so palpable and the inclination to call him was at times overwhelming. I don’t know what the triggers were, we’ve passed the 20th, it’s not a holiday or a special day of remembrance. It’s just me, a daughter missing her daddy. It’s just me trying to remember him in life and be able to smile, even through tears. It’s just me wishing that his end, if he had to go, could have been peaceful, surrounded by those who loved him most, free of pain & suffering. He deserved at least that. So did we.
I miss my dad, so much that it hurts.

The home should be the treasure chest of living. Le Corbusier

Leaving my childhood home today for the very last time, I have so many mixed emotions. I am grateful for the love that lived there. I am grateful for the childhood that began in that place after our move from Brooklyn, when I was in the first grade. That house that saw family celebrations, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and more. That house that knew anger, sadness, loss and pain just as intimately. That house where I found friendship, first crushes, first romance and even first heartbreak. If those walls could speak, they would tell so much of my story.

And I am grateful for the reconciliation that it was witness to. After six years had passed, in the driveway of my childhood home, I shared a first emotional embrace with my father and my mother, and healing took hold. Yes, I am grateful for the joy and even the hardship that shaped me into who I am, so much of it in that place that I once called home.

But I am also grateful to let go of the place where my father ended his life, and the palpable pain & grief that brings each time I enter the space, where he drew his final breath. The house haunts me only with sorrow now, it is filled with what was and what should have been. I look for him in every corner, out on the porch basking in the sun, sitting in his recliner in the family room or his favorite spot in the living room. I can’t even bring myself to sit in his chairs. I hear his voice on the answering machine and he still sounds so very alive. He recites the phone number I’ve committed to memory and he says that “we” can’t get to the phone right now, but “we” will get back to you as soon as “we” can. But my mother is a widow now, and we will never hear his voice in life again.

So fare thee well house. I’ll hold the good you gave me close and in leaving you, I hope to leave behind some of the pain. Be good to the next family that calls you home. A new chapter begins for my mom and for us. Another door closes, and somewhere else a window opens…


To live a life of meaning is to know that nothing is ever set in stone. Possibilities dwell on each new horizon and even the setting sun is touched by the promise of tomorrow.

And yet today, 14 months after your suicide we dedicate a stone that stands in stark contrast to that notion of hope and promise. This stone feels so very final, noted with a beginning and an end. The words speak of who you were to us in life; a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother and friend. But there is no space or place to honor who or what you might have become. The finality is undeniable and in truth, still unfathomable.

And then there are those fourteen words, meant to share what mattered most to you, and how you will be remembered. What did you value in your time on this earth?

To bask in the loving warmth of family and friends was his greatest blessing.


They can be used to build bridges or be a source of destruction

They can trip us up, placing obstacles in our path, or be the foundation of a new beginning

They can be collected as remembrances of new places we visit and memories we make

They can be polished, smooth, turned into ornaments

They can be rough and jagged, worn down by the elements

They can weigh us down if we try to carry too many of them on our own, a truth we know all too well

And …

They can mark a final resting place

An eloquent monument for a loved one we’ve lost, whose death didn’t have to be.


Dad, today I lay on your footstone a piece of my home

Stones, shaped like hearts from the flatirons of Colorado

Lovingly gathered for me by friends that you will never get to meet

From the mountains so beautiful, that you will never get to see.


Mother Theresa said:

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

We who loved you are the ripples

The continuing legacy to that stone your life cast

And it is in those ripples that we must find you and carry you forward

This stone we dedicate today will stand for eternity

It is heavy like grief

Yet strong like the human spirit

It will not wither

Neither is it left untouched by passing storms

It is not where we find you, but where we instead honor you

It is where we come to remember, to cry, to talk and to feel as if we are with you.


And as we strive to move forward in a world without you

One where so many others know the same pain that you felt

Suffering in silence and feeling alone

I offer you one last promise

It won’t be for nothing nor be without meaning.

No stone will be left unturned

No matter how deeply rooted they are in shame or stigma

If even one life can be saved from telling our story

Then the ripples of your legacy, your life

And even your loss

Will be without end.

July 5, 2016


Today I am sharing some reflections on one of the final and most heartfelt conversations that I had with my father, just before his suicide.  Words that bring me some understanding, even if they can’t ease the pain.

“My father’s suicide was not a selfish act. It was not the act of a coward. It was the act of a man who was in agony and didn’t want to hurt anymore….”

To read more visit Our Side of Suicide


Lowell BM pic

Dear Facebook,

I know it is coming.  On April 20th, you will remind me of what I posted “One Year Ago Today.” But I need no reminder. I have been learning to live with and accept this truth every day since I wrote it.

These are the posts that announced my father’s death…

My Father’s Death (written 4/20/15)

Early this morning, my father lost his battle with mental illness. My heart is broken. May his memory be for an eternal & abiding blessing… and may he know how grateful I was for the gifts of reconciliation & healing–I got these last few years with my father, and that is a gift I will forever be grateful for. I will miss him more than words can say… I only wish I could tell him how much he meant to me, one last time. To hear his voice, to say I love you–and if only I had another chance to remind him-that it would get better, to hang on to hope even if only by his fingertips–but instead, I travel with my family to New York, to say goodbye to a beloved father, father-in-law, grandfather, friend, brother and husband–and to return his soul to God. I love you daddy!

He is Gone (4/20/15)

My beloved father Lowell Jay Herman. I want just one more moment–one more hug-one more I love you–I want to wake up from this horrific nightmare and know that you are still here–that the despair you were feeling, the depression–did not truly take you from us–but I will not get that. My heart and soul ache with a sadness I cannot even put into words–Depression robbed our family of so many years–so many joyous moments yet to be, so many more opportunities to say I love you–and I feel as if I am stuck in quicksand–barely able to breathe, to think, to process. My father, my friend–how can it be that you are gone? I will cherish and miss this smile for the rest of my days. I only wish your last moments on this earth were not filled with so much pain–I love you daddy–always! I hope your soul is finally at peace…

Facebook, the memory that you share is a traumatic imprint that is forever a part of me. And in truth, I still stand in disbelief at times waiting for this nightmare to end. Because there are days I think to myself, “This can’t be true.” But it is. 365 days have passed. The pain is still sharp. But some healing has come. I miss him every day. I wish with all of my heart that love had been enough to save him. So thank you for the reminder, but my tears beat you to it. And I won’t try to stop them, I will simply let them flow.

April 20, 2015 the day my life was forever altered, the day I became a Survivor of Suicide Loss. One Year Ago I lost the first man that I ever loved. My father, my friend, oh how I wish I could rewrite the end of this story. Oh how I wish you could have stayed.


My family and I were estranged for six years. The reasons are complex, as are most families. But thankfully, the family ties that bind, though frayed & tattered, were never broken. It was Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year) when our healing began. It was Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement & Forgiveness) when we spoke for the first time. And it was Thanksgiving, when we were reunited for the first time.

I remember so well as my husband, the girls and I pulled into the driveway of my childhood home; my father came around to my side of the car. I stepped out of the car and we embraced. He cried, I cried, and we held one another so tightly. And, in that year, as I sat around the dinner table with my own beautiful family, my brother and his family, and my parents, I got to live out in full the truest meaning of Thanksgiving. Yes, we lost six years. We will never get those back. But our story did not end there. It was not the final footnote. And from our pain, our hurt, our anger and our journey through forgiveness, we grew stronger, better. We loved more fully, more honestly, more openly. We became strongest in the very places that had been broken.

Soon, it will be one year since my father’s suicide. It is a painful day for me and my family to contemplate. I feel as if I’ve lived a lifetime without him, and as though he left us only yesterday. Yes, I count my blessings daily and I have found laughter once again. Yes, I am present for my family and my friends, and I turn towards life each day. But the loss has forever altered me and I am still putting the pieces together. But I am so profoundly grateful that I got three and a half more years with my father. I am grateful for every memory that we made, every laugh that we shared, and for every time we said, “I love you.” And I am grateful that I found the courage to reach out in that first letter, that letter that opened the door to a future together, and allowed us to leave behind the hurt, the anger and the sadness that had touched our past.

Life can change on a dime. Mine did when I got the call that my father had taken his own life. I guess my message is, where you can, if you can, and however you can, find forgiveness. My father left this world knowing that I loved him. And I know that he loved me. That might not have happened. And I cannot even begin to imagine what that would have felt like.

Families will hurt us, disappoint us, frustrate us & wound us. Some of those things I know are truly unforgivable. But, if they are not, if they can be overcome, looked past or let go of, do it. I regret many things, and I regret deeply that I could not save my father from himself, from his pain, from the depression and anxiety that plagued him. But I do not have to live with the regret of words left unspoken, forgiveness left unoffered and love left unshared. And for that, for the 3 & 1/2 years I got with him, that my children got with him, and for the love that we shared, I am profoundly and wholly grateful. Forgiveness is a gift. Offer it to yourself. It may be one of the most precious and meaningful things you ever do.

me and aaron with folks

My brother Aaron, my mother, my father and me. The last time we would all be together.

This piece was also published on The Good Men Project


My daughters with Grandma & Grandpa on a visit to Long Island.

I remember the first time that I heard my mother’s voice after I found out my father had taken his life. I was in the back of Whole Foods, where I had received the devastating news, sitting with my friend Pam. My husband was on his way to me. But I needed to speak to my mom. So, with my hands shaking and an endless flow of sobs and tears, I dialed the number to the house that my father and mother had shared for over forty years.

My mother answered, and as she recounted what had happened, we sat on the phone crying. And she said to me, “Deborah, I don’t want the girls to know how their grandpa died.” When I asked her why, she answered, “I don’t want them to think he didn’t love them enough to stay.”  We both knew that we could not keep this from them. And even more, that we could not possibly grieve a lie. That wasn’t truly what my mother wanted. Her words were not born of shame, but rather the fear that my children would come to see their beloved grandfather as selfish, or perhaps see themselves as “not enough” to keep him here.

I promised my mother, vowed to her in fact, that I would make sure my daughters knew how much their grandpa loved them. I would tell them the truth about how he died, but I would remind them of all that they meant to him in life. Somehow I would find the words to impart all of that.

My husband took me home. And soon after, our daughters began to arrive from school. They did not all come home at the same time. And while it would have been easier to say the words only once, and to have them all together, it was obvious to them, as they walked through the door, that something was terribly wrong. There would be no postponing the conversation.

It began with my middle daughter, who was beaming because, on that same day, she had gotten her braces taken off. A friend had picked her up from school so that she could keep the appointment. And it fell to us to rob her of that smile, as we told her that her grandpa had taken his life.

Then we told our oldest, and finally our youngest.

We began each conversation with the reminder that I promised my mother I would give. “You know how much Grandpa loved you, right? He loved you so much and he was so proud of you.” As the words came out, the expressions on each of my daughters’ faces quickly changed. They could see in our faces that something was wrong. We then tried to gently frame the harsh news that we were about to deliver, “You know how much Grandpa has been struggling these last months? You know he has been dealing with depression and anxiety.” And before we could go further, my daughters knew. The tears and cries spilled out as they asked if their grandpa had killed himself. And my husband & I had to answer them with the hardest truth they would ever have to take in. “Yes. Grandpa took his life early this morning. He’s dead.” And then through my sobs I said the same thing my brother had said to me that morning when he told me of our father’s suicide: “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

The cries and screams that escaped from my children’s mouths, cries that came from a deep & primal place, will never leave me. They are forever seared into my memory. And I can say with certainty, that those were the hardest and most painful words that I have ever spoken to my children. Everything about them felt wrong. And time hasn’t changed that.

My daughters know that their grandfather died by suicide. They do not know the details of his death. They don’t need to and they are not ready for the imagery that my brother, my mother and I struggle with. They also know that their grandfather loved them very much, and that he died of an illness. It’s taken time for them to reach that place of understanding, and it doesn’t mean they don’t still struggle at times. We talk about it openly. They know that there is no right or wrong way to grieve this loss. But just as we did from the moment we shared that painful truth, we face and process the loss honestly.

Before my father was buried, each of my daughters wrote him a letter. They told him how much they loved him. They told him how much they would miss him and they shared their own personal memories and feelings. And in each of their letters they told their grandpa that they were not angry at him. They offered their forgiveness.

Those letters were placed in my father’s casket. He was laid to rest with their words and their love for all eternity. They know the truth. Their Grandpa died of an illness. It was not a reflection of his love for them. He loved them fully, deeply and wholly. That is his enduring legacy. His suicide is the final footnote that they must live with, but it is not & never will be the whole story.

Grandpa and his granddaughters

Grandpa & The Greene Girls


This post has been republished on The Mighty

Dear Dad,

Tomorrow will mark eleven months since you left us. And soon, it will be a year.  How can that possibly be? Some days it feels as if I’ve lived a lifetime without you, and others it is as if it just happened yesterday.

Eleven months ago, if I knew then, what I know now, there is so much that I would say to you Dad. And there are things I would say and do differently.

I would ask you to stay. In fact, I would beg you.  I am not above saying that.

I would not offer you platitudes or promise it would all get better. I never did. But I would remind you as often as I could that in all of your brokenness, just as you were, you were loved. Never again would I say that perhaps you could “fake it until you feel it.” Because I know now that faking it took far too much strength and energy. I would tell you that loving you through the hard times was not a burden. That none of us would feel better off without you.

I would ask you to give the therapist & the medication time. And just as I did then, I would temper your expectation that one day you would simply wake up and feel all better. You were so desperate not to hurt anymore and you gave that tiny pill far too much power. And when it failed to act as quickly as you had hoped, you slipped further away from us. Only we didn’t know it.

I would ask you to be honest with us. You showed us pieces of your pain. But you did not show us all of it. Maybe you yourself didn’t recognize the depths of your suffering. Maybe you felt further weakened and embarrassed, ashamed of the notion that you might consider ending your own life. So you pushed those thoughts down into that dark hole that had opened up inside of you.  Oh how I wish you had said it Dad.  Remember how I told you that to make therapy work, you would have to be willing to peel back all of the layers? It would be hard, it could be painful, but it could bring you to a place of understanding yourself and your pain. And from that place of understanding, healing would be possible. But instead you compartmentalized, you rationalized and you masked the truth. Why didn’t you tell someone, anyone that death was beckoning to you, promising you an end to the suffering? Why did you only drop hints that we were unprepared to recognize then? If you had just spoken the words, you might still be here with us now.

Dad, I would tell you that we needed you. And I would remind you of all the goodness, the joy, the celebrations that were yet to come. I’d ask you to look into the faces of your grandchildren and see all of the beautiful possibilities that lie ahead. Imagine their graduations, bat mitzvahs, and weddings. Imagine sitting with mom, dancing in joy and relishing the growing beauty of the family that you created together. Then I would ask you to see the void that would be present if you were not there. I would ask you to look at the tears, the palpable sense of missing that we would all feel with your absence.

family bat mitzvah

The family that love built

If I had a clue that you were considering suicide, I would have been on the first flight and as a family; we would have gotten you even more help. We would have come up with a plan that met you in crisis and carried you through. Why didn’t you give us that chance Dad?

If I had a chance to say anything to you Dad, I would tell you over and over again that I loved you, that I needed you in my life, that you leaving would be devastating.

I don’t know if any of it would have made a difference Dad. But I am left with so many words unspoken. There was no final goodbye. I didn’t get to hold your hand, embrace you and kiss you one last time.  I would tell you that not getting to do that would forever hurt and haunt me. It feels like you simply disappeared.

Dad, I know that you were suffering. But if you were here now, I would acknowledge it with an even greater understanding. Hindsight offers me an insight that I didn’t fully have a year ago. Your pain was so very real. You hurt all over. I would tell you that it’s okay to let all of that pain show. I would ask you to shed the layers of stigma, the shame, the fear that you would be perceived as weak, frail & somehow less of a man. Those layers only weighed you down, causing you to sink even further. And when you asked if you would ever return to your old self, I would say instead that the goal of each day should be to meet the pain, to share it, to work through it and to strive instead toward healing bit by bit. Because returning to your old self, that may have been far too lofty a goal. Perhaps you didn’t have the strength to reach toward a finish line that was so far off. But small markers, milestones that were within reach, maybe that would have been possible.

I wish I could go back. I wish you were here. I wish I could say all of these things to you Dad. I wish I knew then, what I know now. Eleven months ago you took your life. And all that I want to share with you now; I must sit at your graveside to say. But I say it anyway. I love you. I miss you. I wish you could have stayed. We are not better off without you.  We wanted you here.

dad's headstone

My father’s footstone








This reflection was also featured on The Mighty. To read more posts like this, click on The Mighty’s Stories about Suicide