By Anna Cambria – At 22 years old, I had to learn to live with a new normal. My father committed suicide in the summer of 2016, mere weeks after my college graduation. The congratulatory cards and balloons in our living room quickly turned into white flowers and sympathy cards.
I don’t know which was harder: the day of Dad’s first attempt or his death two weeks later. On the day he attempted to take his life, Mom and I learned that his business was facing massive problems and we were in unimaginable debt. Dad had hidden it all from us and painted a smile over his pain and agony. It was impossible to accept that my happy and always optimistic father had tried to end his life. I felt as if I was thrown into an entirely different universe. There were no warning signs. None of it made sense.
The days following his attempted suicide, we scrambled to get Dad the special treatment he needed while figuring out a financial plan for the future. Every night, I woke up with a feeling of fire rushing up and down my body; the stress of what the unknown future held consumed my thoughts. I lived on edge and in fear. If he had his mind set to commit suicide, it would only be a matter of time until he tried again. Per Dad’s request, we promised to keep this a secret. I had no one to turn to.
My goal has been to spread awareness on a taboo topic, share a first-hand account about what it is like to lose a family member to suicide, and to help others learn to live with their new normal.
After a week, Dad slowly returned to his old-self. Life showed in his eyes and he was offered a significantly less stressful job. The future looked positive again. As a family, however, we made the mistake of avoiding the topic of suicide all together.
It was a warm summer afternoon when I received the news I both expected and dreaded; Dad’s car was found parked on the middle of a bridge. Even without confirmation of the body, we had no doubt in our minds. Dad was gone. After informing close friends and family, word spread quickly and rumors formed. My once private life became a public spectacle.
As the months went on, even though attention was centered on Mom and me, I felt alone. None of my friends had lost a parent or had known anyone who committed suicide. I searched for relatable stories, but there didn’t seem to be much focus on young adults in a similar situation. I decided I needed to make that change for current and future survivors. I needed to expose my personal thoughts and story so others would be able to find the hope necessary for healing. My goal has been to spread awareness on a taboo topic, share a first-hand account about what it is like to lose a family member to suicide, and to help others learn to live with their new normal.
My New Normal: Surviving Suicide Loss is written in a journal-style, following my emotions and experience. There are parts that aren’t easy to read, but this is something that will affect most people at some point in their life. It is easy to turn a blind eye to suicide survivors, despite suicide being in the top ten causes of death per year. No one wants to talk about it, it’s an uncomfortable subject, but it’s a conversation that has to be had. I am not the only young adult who has lost a parent to suicide, and that is why I wrote “My New Normal: Surviving Suicide Loss.” No survivor should feel alone, and I encourage all to educate themselves on this subject. There is hope in the darkness.
“Mom put her hand on my leg and said, ‘It was a suicide attempt.’ Those words cut right through me. I was taken to an alternate world, a nightmare; it was an out of body experience. Dad remained silent, looking away from us. He couldn’t own up to it knowing how much pain he was causing. Immediately, rage consumed me. I glared at him and yelled, ‘That’s the most selfish thing you could do! Why would you do this to us?’ As those words left my mouth, I knew that was a bad thing to say, but I became more and more irate. I didn’t care. How could someone who loves his family put them through this? It was unlike him and felt like a bizarre, immature joke.”
**If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.**
About the author
Anna Cambria graduated from San Diego State University in the summer of 2016 with a B.A. in English Literature. Shortly after graduation, she lost her father to suicide. Unable to relate to those around her, she turned to online sources and noticed a distinct lack of memoirs from children and young adult survivors. She hopes her poignant story helps others and is used as a tool to start discussions on mental health. Follow Anna on Twitter.