featured Inclusion

The time after dad – a letter to a father who took his own life

Dear Dad,

I was tasked with writing you a letter. I am doing so for Father’s Day, which falls about a week after what would have been your birthday.

If you hadn’t taken your own life.

I am finally at the stage where I can write these words without melting into the floor. It only took two years and ten months. Not that I’m counting, because I’m not, but something inside of me measures the time AD. After Dad. The time after dad has been a different life with pain and a lot of sadness and emotional floods and droughts, but I have been open and expressive. AD has been a time of vulnerability for me.

Brené Brown, a researcher and advocate for vulnerability, talked about a father who approached her and said, regarding his wife and daughters, “They’d rather see me die on top of my white horse than watch me fall off.”

This quote echoes in my rib cage, somewhere between where the words unsaid sit like a rock and my heart. All of the questions I never asked my dad, the “How are you feeling?” and the “Can I help you?” All of the times I never let my dad be open and vulnerable because of the hurt it would cause to see my own father fall off his white horse.

Well, that hurt would be nothing in comparison, I now realize.

Dad, I am writing you this letter because I want to tell you and ask you all of the things I never did because I wanted you to be strong for us all. Because somewhere deep inside of me I knew you were broken but I couldn’t shine the light on the pain by asking the questions. I thought I was protecting you.

I was protecting me, from what I didn’t want to see. So I want you to know, these are some of the things I would have said:

How are you?

What are you most afraid of?

Do you know that I see how much you’ve done for us?

Will you tell me a story about when you were a kid?

I forgive you for everything.

Do you want to talk about it?

You were enough.

Are you happy?

I’m sorry I didn’t ask you more questions or talk to you about the hard things. I am sorry I made you stay on your white horse. We know that taking your life was the only thing you ever really did that was just for you; Everything else you did was for us, was you being a father. I know now that you were hurting, and I am sorry you were alone at the end. I believe you are in a better place. I want you to know that what you gave me in the time after you left is the opportunity to ask real questions and let the men in my life step away from their horses. I will celebrate their strength when they show real truth and pain and vulnerability.

I am always here to listen. I hope you know that now.

Happy Father’s Day and belated birthday.

Love, your eldest,



If you can, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia. A paywall is not an option, since it would exclude many readers who don’t have any disposable income at all. We rely entirely on one-time donations and a tiny but mighty group of dedicated monthly sustainers.