Learning More About My Dad … In a Seminar

Many people who know me know that I never had a relationship with my father. For years, there has been a lot of pain surrounding that fact. (I’ve often said Father’s Day is the most depressing day of the year.) Many know that he is dead and has been dead for quite some time – 26 years, if my math is correct.

What many may not know is that my dad committed suicide when I was three, well after he and my mom had gotten a divorce. I never had a chance to know him. I have no memories of him, supposedly he did hold me in his arms, but I can’t recall that at all.

For years, I was angry at him. Why would someone take their own life and not want to have even a small relationship with me? Was it me? Was I not worthy of being loved by my own father? These, and many more, were questions that I asked myself well into my 20s.

Each question eventually dropped. My dad was a good man who got caught up in the wrong things – alcohol, etc. – and let it control his life. It wasn’t me. I have been able to forgive him as time has gone on.

But the big question that always remained was why? Why did he kill himself and why didn’t someone try to reach out to him?

Saturday, for a class assignment, I spent 6 hours in a suicide seminar learning more about suicide and those who have suicidal tendencies than I knew before. It was an emotionally charged seminar that led to think more and more about the question of why.

The best that I can tell is that there was nothing anyone could have done. Alcohol abuse, bad relationships, and a loss of hope is likely what sent my dad into a tailspin that he never recovered from and ended his life well before it really began.

It’s easy to get caught up in the what if game. What if he hadn’t killed himself, would there have been a relationship? (I like to think there would have been at some point.) Would he have been proud of who I am today? (I’d like to think he would’ve been proud.)

But that I think takes way from the reality of the situation. The reality is that I never had a father that I could count on and depend on. It’s part of who I am. I told a friend of mine Saturday that it is out of the many hurts in my life that I will serve and lead out of humbleness and empathy for others. The fact that my dad committed suicide does not scar my life. In fact, it is only a small part of who I am in the grand scheme of things.

I recognize that when I have children of my own that there will be a new opportunity to right some wrongs in my life, to be the dad to my children that my dad never had the chance to be for me.

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