I had a catch-up conversation with a childhood friend I hadn’t talked with in years. We’d lost touch for too long, so the topics covered a lot of ground, divorces, remarriages, children, grandchildren, and even new careers. The topic changed to how our parents were doing, and I asked plenty of questions to keep her talking. I didn’t want to say anything about my father. I hated saying the way Daddy died. How do you explain? His death carried an undreamt shame. Years had passed, and I still had trouble.
I felt double-minded. She spoke unguarded and defenseless about her life. One side of me wanted to open up to her, to be vulnerable and share. The other side wanted to keep my grief a secret and press it tightly against my heart. It was hard to even listen through my loud and harassing thoughts.
To leave out such a significant detail of my life in this conversation felt a betrayal to my own person. This woman was a part of my life—a part of my good memories. Daddy was a part of those memories with her. I stammered my way through the words and felt the whole time I should have kept them to myself. She hesitated, listened, gave her sympathy, and asked if his health had been bad. I said yes, changed the subject, and asked more comfortable questions.
Keeping my father’s suicide a secret is as monstrous as finding his body. It walls me off and isolates me. It’s a part of this hell, at least, that I have some control over and can change.