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My time to talk

Wednesday, 03 February 2016 Jess Neal

Three years ago Jess' dad took his own life. Here she blogs about why she is taking part in Time to Talk Day, for him.

Jess is 36, has 3 children and is currently in her final year of an Adult Nursing degree at Brighton university.

*Please take care when reading this blog, it includes suicidal themes*

Growing up I felt happy, lucky and safe. I would never anticipate being what I am today: the daughter of a suicide victim.

I will be using Time to Talk day as an opportunity to talk about my story, which many around me are unaware of. Until this point, I have been protective over how I lost my dad and for the majority of those who know me who are reading this, it will come as a shock. I have kept the story of how I lost dad a secret for an array of reasons I suppose but fear of judgement mainly.

Judgement on the type of person my dad must have been.

Judgement on us as a family about how we supported him.

Judgement upon me about how as the person most likely for him to turn to in my mum’s absence, I could let this happen.

My dad instilled in me an insatiable thirst for laughter, to not be afraid and to enjoy my life. All things which sadly, some days he was unable to do himself.

"In the last years of dad’s life his struggle with depression was becoming more difficult. He never believed he was good enough and he was always afraid."

The thing he was most afraid of was admitting he was poorly and he needed support. He lost his life at the age of just 54 because he was afraid to talk.

During the dark and bitterly cold winter in January 2013 whilst my mum was in hospital, my dad, Trevor, took his life in what we understand to be a moment of despair. Our lives changed forever. And at that moment you feel like you are frozen in time such is the overwhelming feeling of incredible loss and disbelief.

"For me personally, the trauma of suicide reduced my capacity to accept the demands of daily life."

I felt like I had lost my connection with the person I had once been. I knew I had to do something with my grief, but I didn’t know how to begin. I was heartbroken, your entire being literally aches physically, emotionally, and spiritually from the pain of the loss of someone so precious to you. I felt so alone, isolated, and dazed.

Adjusting to life without dad is not easy, but also not impossible I have now learnt. Three years ago, I couldn’t have imagined myself as a daughter of a suicide victim. After that, I thought I could never be happy. But I am. And that has come with the love of my family and a long and painful journey through specialist counselling and help from Mind.

A pivotal moment in my healing was when I joined a support group. They taught me that you have to surrender to your grief in recognition that the only way to the other side is through it.

"The best thing I ever did was to reach out to others for help. It saved me."

I spent time with others who have been through losing someone to suicide, they have walked this walk and they encourage your need to mourn yet at the same time give you hope for healing. I needed people that were empathetic, non-judgmental, and good listeners. They helped to resupply me with hope when my stores were running low. As survivors we know not to judge each other. As survivors we share the same language. As survivors we can acknowledge any regret openly and without shame. As survivors we can describe the actual act, no matter how traumatic. As survivors we can honour our need to mourn in ways that are not based on speculation or gossip.

"If I could have one moment to sit with dad in his last moments and offer him some advice it would be assure him that seeking help is never a sign of weakness."

Actually, it is a sign of strength. I’ve learnt that in my own journey in mourning his death.

So this year I decided I wanted to do something to not only thank Mind for what they have done for me, but also help to raise awareness and money so they can continue to reach out to those in crisis. I will be taking part in Mind’s Hike in July, I’ll be joining other suicide survivors and those affected by mental illness to walk 40 miles along the historic Offa Dyke along the Welsh border. We will be walking night and day to complete this challenge, it’s going to be tough but I hope to draw strength and inspiration from my team mates and use it as a positive moment to celebrate not only dad’s life, but also how far I have come.

To those who are bravely battling a mental illness today or to those who are travelling the despairing and terrifying journey of someone supporting a loved one through a mental illness I urge you to take the time to talk.

"Talking is brave and will save you."

Talking can make you happy again. Days after his death, I laughed at my children being goofy and looked around the room in surprise after I realised that sound came from me. And there has been so much happiness since then. The difference is I no longer feel guilty for my happiness. I thrive in it and still seek it.

My dad, who I still love with a feeling so strong it hurts, let his illness choose one path. I am choosing another…

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