Friday 9th November 2012 – the day that my life, and the life of my family, changed forever. I will never forget that evening. Even writing this now, over 5 years down the line makes me a bit shaky. I was ST8 in general surgery and was having tea with my SHO in the canteen as I was on a long day. It was my dad’s 60th birthday and I was bemoaning the fact that he was so difficult to buy presents for. Just then, my phone rang. It was my younger brother. Who never phones me. I was a phone call that I never thought I would ever get and certainly not one that my brother would ever have imagined he would have to make.
“Ali, dad’s tried to kill himself”
And that was it, my life changed in an instant. The next hour was a bit of a blur. I left work in a hurry, informing my boss and leaving my bleep with the SHO. I drove home in a slight daze, not quite believing what was happening, hoping that everything would be ok and he would survive. But, just before I reached my parents’ house, my brother-in-law phoned to tell me to meet them at their house. He was gone.
It is hard to describe how I felt at that time. It felt like a dream or, more accurately, a nightmare. This was something that happened to other families, not to ours. I felt numb. You always imagine that if something really awful happened that you would be uncontrollably upset. But it’s not like that. You are shocked, numb. In fact, I didn’t cry much in the days that followed. Shock & adrenaline get you through everything that has to be done. I remember phoning family and friends, feeling guilty for ruining their evening and upsetting them. We had to talk to the police and deal with the coroner. My sister & I had to identify his body at the mortuary before the coroner’s post mortem and then organise the funeral as my mum wasn’t up to it.
The friends who visited me in those first few days helped me more than they will know. And support comes from unexpected places in times of grief and tragedy.
But behind it all were the questions. Why? Why had he done this? How had he thought that we would be better off without him? The aftermath of a suicide is an experience that I would not wish on my worst enemy. Dad had been unwell, but we had never anticipated this. Suicide is a very permanent solution for a temporary problem. The medical side of my brain knew that he must have been in a very desperate state to do what he did and that for him this was clearly the only solution. He had listened to that voice in your head that tells you “you’re not good enough”, “they’d be better off if you weren’t here”, “nobody will miss you”. That voice lies. And I know this because not only did it lie to my daddy but several years down the line it lied to me too.
Losing someone to suicide leaves more questions than answers. It makes it difficult to come to terms with the death. And worst of all, all the good times that we had were now overshadowed by the way in which he died. It’s only now that I am able to feel comfortable sharing stories again. And it’s been a long & difficult road to get to that point.
Through this blog, I hope that my journey will give others hope that life can go on, & even be good, after tragedy.