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. Alex Craig
    June 08, 2015

    You and Naz were so young when all of this happened! Wish I could time travel back and take all that pain away from both of you. So happy you’re living the life you deserve Bren. Jim and I are thinking of heading to Europe next year so we’ll all have to catch up if you’re still in Malta. A xx

  2. Anonymous
    June 08, 2015

    Love your writing mate, so raw. I’m sure your advice is helping many people.

    Ps. On a side note with no disrespect but goddamn your mum is a milf.

  3. Deborah Barrett
    June 08, 2015

    Hello Brendan – you won’t remember me – my name is Deborah and knew your mum and dad through my sister Jo who is a friend of your mum’s when you lived in Happy Valley. As a mum and fellow human being I would like you to know what an honor it is to see you become the fine man and beautiful soul you are. Your generosity and the positive outlook on such an event will mean so much to so many in so many ways – thank you Brendan for your courage. You’ve honored your father’s memory in the most wonderful way- by becoming the finest example of a son. Much love to you and yours . Deb

  4. Jahna Rudolph
    June 08, 2015

    I don’t know if u would remember me but I am Joanne’s niece ,wow this bought a tear to my eyes…very moving and so nice to see u trying to make a difference !!!

  5. Samara
    June 08, 2015

    I remember when you read the letter at the funeral, Bren, we all thought you were incredibly brave and generous to share it, you still are. I remember we had an exchange student living with us at Mum and Dad’s, Janie, from the Czech Republic. She had never been to a funeral in her life, they just weren’t a done thing in her family or community, but she also noted what a tribute your efforts were to your Dad on that day and how important it was to come together in remembrance of loved ones lost.
    The ancient Greeks used to believe that if you have lived a good life and go on to an afterlife in the Elysian Fields, whenever some one thinks a happy thoughts about, you’ll be able to hear it. I always think of that when remembering friends and family who have passed away, whether they can hear my thoughts or not, it helps me to focus of the good memories.

  6. Jamie Bevan
    June 08, 2015

    Thanks for sharing very emotional piece.Great insight in how dealing with ones emotions can change things.

    Look forward to the next post.

  7. Marion Bailes
    June 09, 2015

    Thank you for sharing your father’s letter and the way you have resolved your emotions. I admire your wisdom and maturity. A lot people struggle to know how to deal with such emotions and I know your decision to generously share your life in this way will be helpful to many.
    I wish you and your loved ones many blessings. Marion

  8. Maureen Ford
    June 09, 2015

    Thank you Brendan for sharing , in doing so you are helping us understand in some small way .

  9. Cecelia Flinn
    June 09, 2015

    Dad is the most selfless person I know. The first thing Grandad said to me when we were all there in your back yard the day he committed suiside was, “He did it for us love”. I speak in the present tense because the relationship never ends it just changes. I talk to him all the time. He IS larger than life. A free spirit now who I’m sure is still guiding and protecting us just like he always did. We are so privileged to make choices in our lives to show love and compassion to others in whatever way we can and it’s thanks to Dad, he showed us how to reach out to others in so many ways. Bren, you learnt so much from your Dad in 15 years of life together, and I know he still is and always will be your number 1 teacher. Now you’re a leader just like him!
    Thank you so much for showing Dad’s letter and that you showed the actual book and his writing, so precious. I Love you.

  10. Joshua
    June 10, 2015

    Hey mate, I don’t have a lot to say other then thank you, truly you will be an amazing person one day.

    Cheers from down under

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