My Father Just Died: Here’s What I Need From You

Story & Photo by Devon Rademacher 

I’m dealing with the recent loss of my father. Here’s what I need from you; and possibly what others who are grieving in college need, too.

A month ago my dad committed suicide. I’m not okay, yesterday I wasn’t okay, but someday I will be. For now I’m not going to pretend that my life is perfect and I’m smiling all day long, because that’s far from the truth. My happy moments last for a few hours, then it’s sadness again. I’m pretending to be a person and finish school, hangout with friends and work – but some days I don’t feel like a human. I don’t know if that’s what people intend when they do decide to take their life, but that’s the result. It’s #SuicideAwarenessMonth so I guess I’m just showing that it does happen to people you know, love and care about. This is for not only me and him, but the people who showed me kindness and still do when I’m at my lowest, and the random strangers who are nice just for the hell of it- it goes a long way. Here’s to the hope that happiness is out there for you and me. #ToWriteLoveOnHerArms

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I need you to ask me how I am, and not expect “good” as a reply. If I say that – we must not be close enough. Because I’m honestly not going to be for a long time.

I need you to not get awkward or uncomfortable when I talk about him, or death in general. It’s on my mind constantly, and I shouldn’t have to watch what I say because you don’t want to hear anything about it.

I need you to forget your stereotypes about suicide (or mental illness, drug abuse, other addiction). Throw them out the window. He wasn’t a bad dad because he committed suicide, he wasn’t abusive, or “crazy.” Holding on to your stereotypes will only continue to propel the stigma surrounding mental health.

I need you to not treat me different. But you can’t treat me the same. I’m not interested in the same things as I once was, yet I don’t want to feel like an outcast.

I need you to realize that I’m depressed. I’m going to cancel on you, and make fake plans, and not want to do anything. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you or want to be around you, or I don’t want to be invited to things. It just means I need time alone.

I need you to not tell me how strong I am. I get the gesture… but come on. Would you tell someone who broke their leg just how athletic they are? It doesn’t make me feel better in any sense.

I need you to understand that when I look happy, I’m usually not. Don’t get that twisted for, “I’ve forgotten about everything and life is totally great now!” It’s not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy moments still.

I need you to understand that life is difficult for me right now. Simple tasks are tough. If you think homework is stressful, think about doing it while balling your eyes out.

I need you to not say, “I know what you’re going through” even if you have something similar. Your experiences are not the same as mine, and though the meaning is meant nicely, it comes off that your problems are more important than mine right now.

I need you to know that I want to talk about my dad. You can ask questions. You can talk about suicide and depression to me.

I need you to know that if you didn’t reach out to me after the death, I do remember. And if you ignore that it happened still, I remember that too.

I need you to be there for me when I open up. If I tell you how I’m feeling, don’t blow it off. Especially if you’ve said, “I’m always here for you”. Me opening up is exactly what you told me to do.

I need you to realize I don’t really care about post-graduation life anymore. I’m not concerned with finding a job in my field anymore. I want to live life – and to question that is quite strange. I don’t see the world or myself the same anymore. Accepting and understanding that is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Most of all, realize everyone grieves differently. There’s no timeframe, or one emotion we should be feeling. Especially being in college. It’s dark and scary, but with true friends there’s light at the end of the tunnel.