The suicide letter my father left behind. Addressed to me.

Brendan McDonnellMy dad’s arm resting on my head. My 12th birthday, 2004.

My mother found this letter in an A4 graphed notebook underneath my dad’s side of their bed a few days after he committed suicide. She very hesitantly handed it over to me not long after. I can’t imagine the feelings she was experiencing.

I’ve thought long and hard as to whether or not I should share this letter. There is nothing in my life more personal or anything I hold so close (except my mother and girlfriend lol). The only time I’ve shared it was at my father’s funeral. Right before the end of the service I butted in and told the funeral director I had something to say. I decided to read the letter from the podium to an audience of around 300 people. The letter made the audience very sad. I could barely speak over people vocally expressing their grief. Despite its profound affect that day, I don’t think that the audience were able to comprehend the true meaning of what my father had written. I hope that the people at the funeral that day find this post and get a chance to read the letter for themselves to properly understand my father’s point of view.

I didn’t have to read the letter that day. But there was something inside telling me I should share it. For a 15 year old this letter was a heavy burden to carry and reading it that day was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, hence my hesitation in sharing it until now.

In the end, it is merely ink marks on a page. There is nothing to hide. I want to share my life with the people I love and I have adopted a new perspective. Rather than thinking of the consequences sharing the letter would have on me, I’ve thought about the consequences of not sharing it, of withholding it from the people who need it, of hiding it away for the rest of my life. These are the greatest consequences of all, because I know that there is at least one person out there struggling through the same things I went through and if I was to withhold this information, what kind of person does that make me?

 

Brendan McDonnellThe A4 graphed notebook containing my dad’s suicide letter.

 

 

These are my father’s last words, exactly as he wrote them.

To me.

 

 

Bren I hate to do this but I have 2 let you know I cant cope at all anymore

 

please dont hate me anyone who knew how I feel would understand I have no choice but to bail out

 

they can say I am weak or whatever

 

I dont want to expose you to all the doom and gloom that has taken over my life

 

Ive got problems that wont go away I am living in hell.

 

I am proud of you and your brothers and I know you will pass on this message to them

 

Please look after your mum 4 me please try 2 go on with your life

 

tell your brothers to help mum with finances, dont let this get the better of you.

 

You are very special 2 me as are your brothers and your mum, my decision to do this was hard but I think is the right thing to end the misery

 

I cant be the father or husband I should be anymore this disease has destroyed my soul

 

I am an empty shell

 

please keep a place for me in your heart and dont forget any good times we had together

 

this letter is 2 all of you but you are young

 

it will be harder for you in some ways

 

your brothers will guide you and help you

 

please let them read this letter

 

Debbie I am so very sorry

 

 

‘End of letter’

 

 

I have read this letter countless times over the years and every time I would read the words “You are very special 2 me” I would begin to cry. Obviously this is because I really loved my father and there were huge amounts of emotion tied to the experience that was my dad’s death.

I honestly believe that I have been able to resolve and remove most of the emotions tied to the experience so I can now see it clearly for what it is and more importantly what it has done for me.

I no longer feel sadness toward this letter. It is what it is. I am happy I have it.

Brendan McDonnellThe words.

In other words, constant identification and re-analysis of this letter and my father’s death has allowed my perspectives to shift. It has allowed me to remove the emotions from the words my father wrote, so that I can see them for what they really mean.

It hasn’t been ‘7 years since my dad killed himself and left me behind’ it’s been ‘7 years since the day my dad chose to leave this world so that we did not have to feel his pain’.

 

Interestingly, some of my journal entries have documented my shift in perspective:

Monday, September 22, 2014 10:44am – Lying in bed, Jegabrie Flat, St. Julian’s, Malta.

Thought:

If I die tomorrow I wouldn’t be happy to say that I achieved what I set out to achieve. Nobody knows who I am, except for my mother and eldest brother to a small extent. I need to work and share whatever the hell it is I’m getting to..!

End of entry

 

This was before the concept of creating a blog to share myself had even entered my mind. I don’t think I’d ever even read a blog. But there was something inside telling me that I had to share who I am and what I’ve overcome and understood.

 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 5:38pm – Sitting on my scooter out the front of Jergabrie Flat, St. Julian’s, Malta.

I just rode my scooter back from the south-west of the island where I had a Reiki appointment. Basically I laid on a massage table for 1 hour and 20 minutes and a woman gently placed her fingers on different parts of my body for long periods of time. It was a very strange experience to say the least. Many people, including myself, question whether this practice actually does anything.

But, when have you ever laid in silence with a woman standing over you placing her fingers on your stomach for an hour and a half? Exactly haha.

Anyway, I needed to break my day to day cycle. I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I needed to refresh my mind. Riding to the other side of the island and paying a woman 25 Euros to place here hands on me for a long period of time did exactly this.

After the session I spoke to the lady briefly about my life and why I had come to her that day. I shared a small part of my story with her. During our discussion she said two simple but very powerful things that really hit me.

1. You can’t change what’s meant to be, you can only change your reaction to it and how it affects you.

2. In order to appreciate our experiences for what they really are, we need to remove the emotions attached to them, the emotions hold you down.

(Please note: remove here does not mean bury or hide away. In order to remove emotions attached to experiences we must first begin to resolve them).

If I never had have ridden my scooter to the other side of the island that day and laid on a massage table while a strange woman touched me for an hour and a half I never would have had this conversation. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to share a part of myself with her and she wouldn’t have shared these simple but very powerful insights with me. These are things I already ‘knew’ but like a lot of the time it’s not until the teachings are clearly and concisely put into words or reiterated by a person who we respect does their true meaning become apparent.

End of entry

 

Monday, November 17, 2014 2:13pm – Jergabrie Flat, St. Julian’s, Malta.

So, today is the day which marks 7 years since Herman left me (or whatever the fuck ya call it).

*Addition to the entry two hours later:

“It’s the day dad chose to leave this world so we didn’t have to feel his pain****.”

Brendan McDonnellMonday, November 17, 2014 2:13pm journal entry.

Continuation: Monday, November 17, 2014 2:13pm – Jergabrie Flat, St. Julian’s, Malta.

How does the anniversary make me feel?

To be honest I feel normal. A little alone because my family mentioned nothing about their feelings on this day and now they’re asleep on the other side of the world.

In 2012 I went to a bereavement through suicide support group meeting in Adelaide City. I was by far the youngest person attending the meeting, but appeared most in control of my emotions or something like that. The group were discussing anniversaries and what I said to the people there that day still rings true for me now. They all seemed to be fixated on my self-control as I spoke. “In the end, anniversaries are just another day. If you are going to look back why does it have to be sad?”

So, instead of being sad, today I think:

1) How would my life have turned out if dad didn’t choose to leave?

2) Why did he choose to do what he did?

3) What has he left behind?

4) My brothers and I, combined, are his exact reflection. The good, the bad, the ugly.

 

End of entry

Like I now understand, in order to appreciate experiences for what they really are, we need to remove the emotions attached to them. The emotions are what hold you down.

As I wrote in my previous post, we cannot overcome bad experiences, negative behaviours or emotions by simple suppressing them. In order to remove the emotions tied to an experience we must first begin resolving them.

Having resolved and removed the emotions I can now see what my dad did from his perspective. In a sense, his choice was an act of selflessness or altruism in the purest sense. He chose to end his life because he didn’t want to (quote) “expose you to all the doom and gloom that has taken over my life.”

I’m not saying go kill yourself if you feel like you can’t stop yourself from putting your shit on the people you love.

Suicide is never the answer.

There is always a different perspective, a different angle and a different option. But in my father’s mind this was his only option. He suffered alone and was very un-aware of any other options.

Become the other option. Share your life with the people around you. If you can, take their suffering onboard. Feel their pain because everyone needs someone and nobody deserves to suffer alone. This in itself will give your life more of a sense of purpose, of meaning. And like me, when the people you love are in need, they will turn to you for support. This is a very beautiful thing and a very profound feeling.

Brendan McDonnellVintage me, my mother & brothers circa 2008. The people my dad didn’t want to expose his misery to.

I can’t stop what happened to me and my family from happening to others. But at the very least I can share how I dealt with my experiences in hope of showing others a direction they may be able to take. As they say, misery has a way of clarifying ones convictions. It has for me. Through my battle with adversity I’ve found direction. But why suffer when you can learn from other people’s pain? The bad times may have made me and my relationships with my immediate family stronger but they are not something I’d wish upon anyone. So I hope to share my changes and strengths in hope that others can apply them to themselves and their relationships without having to suffer first hand!

 

 

Brendan McDonnellPage 1 of my dad’s suicide letter.

Brendan McDonnellPage 2 of my dad’s suicide letter.

 

Damian Joseph McDonnell 1963 – 2007

 

 

22 Comments. Leave a comment

Comments

  1. Christo (Alenko )
    June 11, 2015

    Commendable sharing of thoughts young fella. Your first entry has given me a broader outlook on life as a whole and I truly admire your positive perception and spirit in sharing your journey with us all. Your father, mother and brothers would be proud of such a admirable bloke. Cheers

    • Brendan McDonnell
      June 11, 2015

      Cheers Owwwlenko. Keep it real brother :)

  2. Amy
    June 13, 2015

    This is amazing that you have wrote this and made it public. My dad killed himself 3 years ago so I know exactly what you are going through. He left me a note to and you have inspired me to write something like this 1 day-It’s important for our own self healing to share it and for awareness. I stumbled across your blog through Facebook as we have mutual friends and there has even been talk of your blog face to face with people, which is amazing as no one ever wants to talk about suicide or mental health.. Especially people our age (blokes especially). Keep up the awesome work as you are already making a positive change. Your dad would be really proud.

  3. Mark Hankel
    June 15, 2015

    hi Brendan ,my name us Mark and my son Trav went to school with Matt and my daughter Brooke went to school with your older brother. I knew your dad through the junior football at Happy Valley primary and thru Matt and trav’s friendship. Your dad took Trav to the year 7 formal on the back of his bike. Your dad and I always got along really well and I enjoyed his company as he was a straight down the line type of guy. Your article above was really well written and I know your dad would be proud of the fine young man you have become. I trust your mum and brothers are doing well and please if you are ever in Adelaide again please make the point to contact me as I would like to tell you more of the time I spent with your dad. Please be safe and look after yourself . Best regards Mark Hankel

  4. Jennina
    June 28, 2015

    Your first post appeared on my Facebook wall a while ago, but I decided to read it when I really have time to get into it. And today was the day.

    My stepdad died through suicide almost five years ago. And the journey has been long and hard. I can relate to a lot of the things you have written. I have also been writing about my experiences and right now I am working on my Master Thesis on people who have lost a parent through suicide. In a way your blog motivates me even more.

    I wish you all the best!

    Greetings from Finland.

  5. Jimmysdaughter
    October 30, 2015

    I am sorry for the loss of your dad. My father also chose to end his pain the same way. I am glad you are able to think of it in a positive way. I just found out about seven months ago and I need to learn how to remove emotions and not let this define who my father was. Thank you for sharing this.

  6. EJ
    December 09, 2015

    My eyes swelled up reading this. Your maturity is overwhelming. I have many times had the same thoughts as you. If i die tomorrow, am I who I want the world to know? You have been brave enough to take the steps to change that which is very admirable. Your writing is definitely captivating :)

  7. Happy Reader
    February 16, 2016

    Another person said your writing was “captivating”. It’s also honest and uplifting. I don’t know if another person can ever reconcile the suicide of another, but your dad’s words “doom and gloom that….. take over” do describe an overwhelming spiral. Your blog is positive. You go your dad proud.

  8. Mathew Hillier
    November 13, 2016

    Hey Mark,

    My name is Mat. I was 16yrs old when my father killed himself. I am 31 yrs old now and finally going to try coping with this. My struggle with my father’s suicide has led me thru addiction, jail, drug trafficking, and my most recent realization that is finally getting me to deal with my deeper lying issues is my inability to be loved. Tonight was my first night of reading about the suicide of a parent and how it affects children when they grow up. Yours being the second story I have read. I am in tears lying in bed thinking of my own last where it has brought me to in the present and how I am going to deal with my future. I had a loving girlfriend who I’ve pushed away. A son who lived with my mother who is 7 and a looming 5 yr jail sentence for wholesale.Drug trafficking ahead of me. But this is the closest ive ever been to finding myself. I’ve been a hurt person for a long time, I have never dealt with my father’s passing sure the odd time I would she’d a tear but In 16 years I don’t think I have talked about it for more than 15 minutes even with my best friend. It has sent me down a dark road thay has spiraled to the edge of sanity. I do not blame my father for who I am essentially I have made all of my own choices but I do feel it has impacted the choices I have made. I do not know exactly when I will be going to jail but I have been in jail for most of my life emotionally. I am enept at love and being loved it is a part of me that shut off July 9 2001. I am not quite sure how I am going to figure everything out exactly but reading experiences like yours definitely helps. Thank you very much for your writing it’s has helped me more than words can express. I have not cried these tears since it happened or maybe at all for that matter. I have been a cold man for a long time. I didn’t even cry at his funeral. It feels good. Thank you.

    • Brendan McDonnell
      November 16, 2016

      Hey Mat,
      I’m very glad you found my story (glad isn’t the word for it – I’m not sure what word is). I shared it for this purpose – to help people like yourself with similar experiences to feel a little less alone.
      Thanks for sharing man.
      You can overcome your problems. You aren’t as alone as you think. There are plenty of people with experiences like ours and plenty of people who can help you. All you have to do is ask.
      Wishing you all the best mate.
      Brendan.

  9. Mathew Hillier
    November 13, 2016

    Sorry to comment again but I just noticed u published this on my birthday June 08 1985 is my birthday. Lol thought I’d share. Thanks once again.

    Mat

  10. Tom
    April 25, 2018

    I am in the US and I am 51. I have 3 kids and a wife. We lost our business and our house and just yesterday my dog dies right in from of me in a very painful,way on chocking on a too big a piece of meat. Suidide is number one on my list right now. I have been a zombie to my likes for the past 8 years and I want to leave this material world. It’s amazing that when someone says the next day it is business as usual for everyone else. I don’t want to cause my kids anymore pain. God Bless.

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