Hebe’s story: Coping with grief after my dad died by suicide

Hebe was 13 when her dad died by suicide and her world turned upside down. Her mum called the Winston’s Wish Helpline the next day and used our resources to help Hebe understand what had happened and how to cope with her grief. Hebe wanted to share her story to help other young people struggling after the death of a parent.

It felt as if the world had stopped

It’s only when somebody close suddenly dies that life numbly pauses, and you begin to realise how much you need them. You never really know how much you need them until they’re gone. I find it such a frustrating feeling to just want five more minutes to be with my dad.

I remember the night my dad died clearly. It was late and my dad still hadn’t arrived home, despite my mum’s frequent calls to see where he was. I heard a knock on the door which was odd considering how late it was, so I went to investigate.

As soon as I saw the two policemen I knew something was wrong. They went into the room with my mum and shut the door behind them. I quickly got my brother and as we opened the door, the policemen said to my mum that dad had died.

My first thoughts were complete disbelief. How could he be dead? How could I never see him again? I just couldn’t comprehend what I was hearing.

I assumed it was a car accident, so I asked what had happened and they said he’d died by suicide. I felt so confused. I couldn’t see how he’s ‘chosen’ to leave me. Was I not good enough for him to stay?

I remember just sitting there alone with a blank stare as a million emotions whirled round in my head. It felt as if the world had stopped and I didn’t see how I’d ever feel any differently.

The day after my dad died, my mum spoke on the phone to Winston’s Wish who sent out lots of booklets. My mum used these resources to help to explain to me about my dad’s death and I found the booklets really helpful and I still have them today.

My dad was my big comfort and safety blanket

My dad and I spent a lot of time together. We’d spend hours in the evening at the cricket nets, training together as the sun set. We would spend the journeys to cricket chatting or blasting 80s music as loud as we could and singing along awfully. I loved these car journeys and although our time was cut short, I treasure these memories and our time together so much.

My dad will always be the most caring person I’ll ever know. He always wanted to make sure everyone was happy. At his funeral, everyone kept saying how he was such a family man who was just kind and easy to chat to. During many of our restaurant meals he would swap his meal with mine if I didn’t like it and he’d purposefully lose on Just Dance so his kids would win.

For me, he was like my big comfort and safety blanket. If ever I felt upset all I needed was one of his big special hugs, making all my anxieties disappear in an instant. Following his death all I was desperate for was a giant hug from him to show me everything would be ok. The absence of that comforting childhood security he gave me, made me feel vulnerable and exposed to the harshness of the ‘real world’ at such a young age.

It’s hard to accept that life has to go on without them

Grief is often described as a ‘rollercoaster’ and I particularly felt this. I could still have a laugh with my friends, but there were periods of complete despair as I craved to see him just walk through the door or to hear his voice. It’s hard to accept that life has to go on without them and they won’t be in any new memories.

I found the weeks following his death very strange as I tried to adjust to this new normality without my dad in every aspect. Even changing the ingrained habits of laying he table for three instead of four was a struggle.

Living with only one parent is an adjustment I still feel today. It can be challenging to receive the same support and attention, particularly when your only parent is equally caught up in the whirlwind of grief. I found it unbearably hard to watch my mum cope with the aftermath of suicide.

Hebe as a baby with her dad in a wooden frame with Daddy and Hebe written on

Just because my dad died by suicide, it didn’t mean he wasn’t an incredibly loving dad

However, looking back on my journey so far I’ve developed hugely as a person. I’ve learnt skills of perseverance, resilience and also independence.

I decided to write a eulogy for my dad’s funeral. To be completely honest, I had no clue what a eulogy would entail! But I was determined to show people that just because my dad died by suicide, it didn’t mean he wasn’t an incredibly loving dad.

Looking back on doing my speech, I still can’t comprehend where I found the strength. It was incredibly hard seeing my dad’s coffin and then having to speak. However, it gave me so much. I felt empowered. I’d found my voice again to show that my dad shouldn’t be defined by his death but by his joy and laughter. Some people think that suicide is a selfish act however, the eulogy gave me closure because I was able to voice how compassionate and caring he was.

It gets easier and life does go on

My advice to other young people who’ve lost a parent would be that however you feel, just know that it’s ok. This awful feeling doesn’t last forever. I’m not saying the ache of grief ever fully ends, but it gets easier and life does go on. You may feel so alone but just remember that there are lots of people who have been through similar situations and there are people who can help (such as Winston’s Wish).

Most of all, don’t put any pressure on yourself. You are going through trauma so be kind to yourself.

If you have experienced the death of a parent or sibling and need support, or know a bereaved child or young person, please reach out to our team. You can call us on 08088 020 021, email ask@winstonswish.org or use our online chat.

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