Content warning: suicide, loss of a parent, suicide bereavement
All staff in our Suicide Bereavement Services have lived experience of someone in their lives dying by suicide. This allows them to deliver the compassionate and practical support that we are known for.
We hope that by sharing stories, we can make those who have been bereaved by or affected by someone taking their own life feel less alone. We also aim to educate those who have not been impacted around how losing someone to suicide differs from other experiences of loss. Overall, we hope this will continue to break down the stigma that still exists around deaths by suicide.
Here, Surinder Rall, our Service Lead, shares her experience of parenting having lost one of her own parents to suicide.
Surinder and her dad, Bally.
Parenting is a job for life.
Parents, being a parent or parenting-related issues, have dominated most of my life.
At this point in my life, I had envisioned my relationship with my parents changing. I had imagined we would be entering the phase where our relationships would become more like friendships. I imagined I would be treating them to meals out, hanging about, sharing stories about the mischief I got into (things they probably didn’t know) and taking care of them.
For one parent (my mother), that is the case. My father, however, left us in 2008. He was 45 years old, I was 23 years old.
At that point, I did not grasp the enormity of what had happened. I could not comprehend how much of an impact this suicide would have on my life. Feeling attached, feeling secure or loved were issues even before he left, which seemed to magnify and multiply after he died. My relationships with relationships are usually fraught with fears of abandonment or the overwhelming feeling of not feeling like I am enough.
Four years after his death, I was pregnant and expecting my first child. The experience of losing a parent to suicide made this experience bittersweet. I was excited and looking forward to meeting my little girl. There was an overwhelming sadness because he wasn’t going to meet her. She would grow up without him, just as I was. I had worked with under 5s for almost 14 years but still the fear of having a little person who depended on me constantly scared the life out of me.
One of the last times I saw him, he was dropping me off at the train station. We were talking about my mum. He made a comment to which I responded, “dad, parenting is a job for life.” In hindsight, I was trying to tell him I loved him and would always need him. I still feel like I need him since he left my little world has not felt safe or secure. I’ve had to learn how to do all the D.I.Y jobs I had hoped to be palming off to him.
For the last month, the phrase ‘parenting is a job for life’ has been dancing around my head. I have realised the way I parent my girl is in preparation for a life without me. Not because I intend to leave but because losing a parent young is my reality. Whilst writing this, I realised he parented us the same way, which makes sense as to why it often felt he was not living in the moment with us. The rare time he was, it was usually us playing Mario Cart battle as a family.
Maybe, my daughter has picked up on this with me? Sometimes I struggle with living in the moment and just dropping everything else.
She blindsided me the other day and asked me if I had thought about dying (we were talking about people getting old and dying). I said no, but I think about it a lot. I think about her reactions, her memories or me and thoughts and feeling about our relationship and the mother I was.
I often hear people passing judgement against parents who died of suicide. Do not, because unwittingly you are calling into question our relationship and bond or the love, he had for me. I do not have all the answers, but what I do know is parenting is hard, especially when you’re struggling with your mental health. He left because he could not manage and not because he did not love us. I will never pass judgement on that struggle unless I have faced it.
Parenting is a job for life. He continues to parent me and teach me lesson’s around being a good person and parent. Each year I get older, I understand more about who he was. I won’t be around forever but whilst I am, I will make it count.
Huge thank you to Surinder for sharing her story. If you have been affected by suicide, please consider accessing our Suicide Bereavement Services. You can find more information on them here: https://www.leedsmind.org.uk/suicide-bereavement-services-west-yorkshire/