When I was twelve, my father died from suicide. In the thirty-plus years since this devastating event, I have learned a lot of lessons that I wish that I knew when I was twelve. So, I decided to write myself a letter and to share it with you.
Dear Twelve-Year-Old Todd,
I know that you are going through an incredibly tough time right now, and I wanted to see if I could help out in some way. I know how much you loved Dad, how much you looked up to him and wanted to impress him. I know that Dad’s death has left you feeling lost, and that you suddenly feel different from all of your other friends who are lucky enough to still have a father.
I wanted to let you in on some lessons that I’ve learned over the past thirty-plus years, in hopes that they will help you to navigate through your life:
• Dealing with Dad’s death does get easier, but it never gets easy. For example, I used to really dread Father’s Day, especially all of the commercials about how great it is to have a dad. For various reasons, it now bothers me a lot less.
• Sometimes you will think about Dad and feel really sad, especially on important birthdays, at graduations, and on other special occasions. That is part of the grieving process, and it is perfectly OK.
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• Sometimes you will feel angry with Dad for abandoning you and putting a huge dark spot on your childhood and your life. It is OK to feel angry, because losing a parent at any age is hard…and losing a parent at a young age really sucks.
• Sometimes you will go long stretches without thinking about Dad, and that is OK, too.
• One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned over the years is that talking about what you are going through with people that you trust really helps. I wish that I had done more of that when I was your age. For whatever reason, I kept most of my feelings bottled up inside of me for years. Once I started talking more about Dad to my close friends, and asking Mom questions about Dad’s life (and his death), I began feeling more at peace with everything.
Keep your chin up. Dad’s death, while a major event in your life, does not define you. You are in charge of how your life goes. It would be easy to use Dad’s death as an excuse for making bad decisions. Instead, I encourage you to use the lessons that Dad taught you and the wonderful example that he set as the basis for making good decisions and setting yourself up for success.
All the best,
Todd at Forty-Four
P.S. If you stay on the right path, I have a strong feeling that you will go to a great college, start an amazing business, marry a wonderful woman, and have two adorable daughters! Good luck, kid.