February 14th, 1979
I was 11 years old and I remember sitting on the doorstep in my front yard, as I did every day waiting on my daddy to walk through the corner. Same time every evening, I would sit patiently waiting for the first man that I loved….with my two dogs….except this Monday would be different.
The days after February 14th were very difficult. Not just because I was 11 years old but because I no longer had a father and I now had to navigate this world in confusion and hurt, emotions that I didn’t understand. I couldn’t begin to comprehend why he would take his own life and leave us to suffer.
February 26th, 1979
This was my first day back to school following my father’s funeral. The first Monday after he was buried, I don’t have full recollection of that day except for the church where the service was held and the graveyard where he was buried. Walking to school that morning was painful, I wasn’t completely in touch with my state of mind….remember I was only 11 years old.
My first encounter with a fellow student went something like this. “Hey, are you the girl that daddy hanged himself”? I couldn’t even respond because I didn’t have the air after that statement knocked everything out of my lungs. I walked away as I did for most of the morning, avoiding and praying that I would not be asked any questions about what happened. You see most people during that time didn’t show much compassion, they simply wanted to know the ‘full story’.
Later That Day
My last class of the day was Spanish with Mr. Curry, a very elegant man. In fact, every time I went to his class I would think of Sir. Sydney Poitier. As I stood to the back of the line waiting to enter the class trying not to interact or make eye contact with anyone, Mr. Curry came walking towards me. My heart started racing because I knew he was going to ask me a question that I was too embarrassed to answer except he did the opposite. He didn’t say a word instead he kissed me on my forehead and hugged me very gently. I never forgot how he made me feel in those few seconds. I did not feel ashamed, confused or alone. I felt complete compassion.
The Rest Of My Teens
The sense of shame enveloped my life as a teen. I didn’t develop any meaningful friendships because I was afraid that I would have to talk about my father. Maybe that wasn’t the case, but I wouldn’t take the chance. School was tough. Kids can be mean, but they only learn these behaviors from adults. I always felt that once someone found out the truth, they would think badly of me. I wasn’t aware that I still walked through the world in grief that I never addressed or acknowledged. All I felt was shame and I never heard the words, I am sorry for what you have been through, you have nothing to be ashamed of.
My Early Adult Years
Shame is something that never leaves you. It hovers over your life like a dark cloud. You just don’t know that it’s there until someone suddenly throws it in your face like a cold bucket of water then everything floods back like a storm.
I was finally happy to leave high school behind me and start my life as an adult. At 18 I found myself with a nice job and finally starting to make friends, still avoiding the subject of daddy and hoping it would never come up. I always suspected that people at work knew but people were too ashamed to ask. They would rather talk among themselves about the myths surrounding my father’s death.
It took many years of hiding and hoping that the people in my life would not acknowledge this cloud. My siblings and I would often talk about it because we were each other’s grief counselors through the years.
It was not until I really acknowledged that I was living in shame, not for something that I did but for the imposed inadequate feeling that families feel after their loved one’s commit suicide.
We are not damaged goods but grief-stricken loved ones that need compassion from our neighbors, family, friends and the church. Our loved ones should not be judged and talked about as weak or bad people but rather given some compassion and understanding of their pain and suffering. We are all victims of grief not shame!
I am my brother's keeper and if you have been a silent victim of suicide “I’m sorry for what you have been through and you have nothing to be ashamed of”.
About the Author
Patrice is an experienced, innovative and principle centered leader who has held positions in Banking, Hospitality, Sales and Telecoms.
A reformer and catalyst for excellence in all areas of her life, her style is often described as 'contemporary' and 'candid'.
Patrice strongly believes in talent and youth development. She's the proud mother of two young men and proud wife of Gary Thompson.
Her favorite pastimes are writing, travelling and spending time with her dogs. She also loves all genres of music.