If you know someone who’s life has been touched by suicide consider forwarding them this link. My father hung himself and set our house on fire when I was 16. My life stopped…. After over 20 years of guilt I started to heal. This is my story. Maybe my going on can help others with their grief. Suicide tends to run in families. It does in mine. I have also lost an uncle and cousin to suicide. The cycle needs to end in all families.
During the fifteen years before my father’s deliberate, yet tragic suicide, I had a fairytale childhood. Our spacious house, built by my father, was located between both sets of my grandparents’ homes. All my emotional and material needs were met. But when changes started happening with my dad, I didn’t notice them . . . until I willfully disobeyed him, lied to him and betrayed him, for which he shunned me. From my teenager point of view, “that” started a downward spiral, with the end being his suicide: a bullet, a hanging, and my perfect childhood home on fire.
For various reasons, I believed all of this was my fault, and “going on” afterward seemed impossible. So much of “what happened” was immediately put in a box. Throughout the 20 years of the guilt sentence I gave myself, I opened the box time and time again, taking out the pieces of what I’d experienced, examining them and learning what I could about resolving them within myself. Now, having documented it all in this book, the box is open, for all to see. No more secrets.
My world quickly came apart at the seams when my dad took his life. Given I viewed this tragic event through teenaged eyes, it wrecked me in every conceivable way and then I blamed myself for 20 years. On the outside, sure, I appeared to eventually “move on with my life”—but at first it was because of my “Why not? Life can suck in a moment’s notice” attitude. I ended up accomplishing a lot, but his suicide always overshadowed any happiness I experienced. I still felt empty, even after a successful career producing hundreds of Hawaiian Tropic Model Search pageants all over the world (including their 25th annual International Finals in Las Vegas), plenty of world travel, and raising two wonderful children. One day, I knew it was time to reexamine my life and come to terms with my past and the choices I’d made. With help, I learned to own my part in the pain, the past and the present. Throughout my “process,” the universe continually pushed me to keep digging and pursuing “what’s true,” so I could, once and for all, come to terms with my father’s suicide. (Heck, I even died—for a minute—after a concussion and experienced an honest-to-God “life review.”) I don’t know if the process will ever be over, but at least I have started to heal.
Then her father quit his job and became quiet and even more controlling. Unfortunately, his “little princess” had turned into a teenager with a mind of her own. One act of defiance was all it took. His daughter was now “dead” to him. In the ultimate act of revenge, he committed suicide. His only child was sixteen years old and spent the next twenty years hating herself for “killing” her father.
The author is not a professional writer. The way she tells her story is sometimes tight and compelling, and sometimes rambling and disjointed. She has pieced together the history of her parents and their families bit by bit and over a period of years. Her feelings have changed during that time as she has gained experience and a wider knowledge of human nature. She has come to realize that both sides of her family were dysfunctional. Her father’s family has a history of addiction and mental illness. Suicide is a recurring theme. Her mother’s family was outwardly perfect, but being raised by a generous, but domineering father left her unable to demand respect from her own husband.
Ms. Bednar is unflinchingly honest in telling about her childhood, marriage, and raising her own children. I flinched several times, but she believes in shooting straight and she does. Dealing with a combination of PTSS from her father’s suicide and her own chemical imbalances (now treated with medication) hasn’t been easy and I think any reader will finish the book admiring her strength and determination. Sometimes she comes across as a drama queen, but her volatility is her genetic heritage and she hangs in and tries to make it work for her and those around her.
This book is a valuable first-person account of the on-going trauma caused by suicide. For many centuries, most Christian churches condemned those who committed suicide, even refusing to bury them in Church cemeteries. Today, we take an more “enlightened” view, but one thing remains the same. Those left behind are never the same again.