Indiana Mom Shares Raw and Emotional Truth About Her Father’s Suicide
Yesterday, when I received a message from a friend on Facebook that I hadn't seen in almost a year, I was quite surprised. And I say "friends" loosely. Our daughters took dance together several years ago and we have mutual acquaintances. I loved seeing her camping adventures. (These people seriously camp - like weeks at a time with no water and electricity. Who does this?!) She also has the cutest little in-home crafting business Willow+Ash. We've never hung out without kids or chatted on the phone just to chat so her out-of-the-blue message was a bit out of the ordinary.
When she asked me if we accept guest articles on this site, I wasn't terribly surprised - people are always contacting me about posting fundraising events. So, I told her to send me over what she wanted to post. But then I learned her request to write was not what I expected at all. What she sent me completely broke my heart. I had to let her share her story.
Abbey Adcock lost her dad a year ago in October to suicide. After reading the story that she sent to me, I learned her journey has been uphill and, at times, ugly. The reason I hadn't seen much from her on Facebook was because she was dealing with dark and overwhelming emotions. But thankfully, Abbey accepted help and felt like the next step in her survivor's journey was to share her story in hopes that others won't feel alone. With September being Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, it's important that we raise awareness about this often taboo topic. Suicide affects those who are not only trudging through the depths of depression but also those who feel helpless on the sidelines and those who are left behind.
I invite you to read Abbey's story and if you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, please seek help today.
One Phone Call Changed My Life Forever
Friday, October 8, 2021, at 10:38 pm, my heart shattered. One phone call changed my life forever.
I had plugged my phone in to charge in our bonus room next to my son. He was playing Xbox with his cousin when I heard him yell, "Mom, your phone is ringing! It's Chris." My stomach immediately hurt. It was my uncle who would only be calling me in an emergency. I already knew what he was about to tell me. I said hello and took a couple of steps away from my son. Chris said, "Abbey." I asked him what was wrong. He paused then said, "Your dad killed himself tonight."
The next several moments are flashes in my memory. My knees gave out and I hit the floor. I remember screaming no and seeing my daughter standing in front of me. I saw my husband, Brent, sit straight up on the couch in front of me having been startled awake. I lay on the floor screaming for a few more moments before realizing that I had to get to him. I ran out the door and was stopped by Brent as I was backing out. All I could say was, "My dad killed himself" and then I sped away.
I was still on the phone with Chris and he was repeating "Abbey, Abbey, let me talk to Brent." In shock, I just kept repeating, "He's not gone. He's not gone." My parents' house was only about five minutes away. I had the gas pedal to the floor when my phone beeped. It was my sister, Lindsey. Unbeknownst to me, my son had been face-timing his cousin when I got the call. He heard me screaming and woke his mom up. My sister asked what was wrong. All I could manage to say between sobs was "He's gone, Lindsey. He's gone." I heard her scream the same way I did.
By this point, I had reached my parents' street. As I turned, I saw the hill lit up with red flashing lights. There were four or five police cars there. It became real at that moment. Those lights meant my dad was gone. My person was gone.
The Moments that Followed
I flew up the hill and threw my car in park. I jumped out and ran into Chris's arms. He repeated over and over "I'm so sorry, Abbey. I'm so sorry." I collapsed on my knees in my parents' driveway rocking and running my hands through my hair over and over again. I was struggling to get enough air while my thoughts raced through my head. I began talking out loud to myself "I'm never going to see him again. I'm never going to talk to him again."
The police were walking around the yard speaking to Chris. I heard him say "This is his daughter." I stood up and saw my uncle Tom. I went to him and he hugged me. He led me across the street to his house to see my aunt Jo, my dad's sister. She was on her knees in their dark living room in front of the fireplace. She jumped up and threw her arms around me repeating, "Oh Abbey. Oh Abbey" as she cried.
I realized I had to call my other sister Christy who was living in Alaska at the time. Her reaction was the same as Lindsey's. I went to my knees in the driveway and sobbed with her. She let me go to start making arrangements to fly home. By this time my Brent was calling me. "What do you need?" he said. I told him I would call my best friend Sarah and see if she could come to stay with the kids so he could come to me. He said he would call her. We hung up and a police officer started talking to me. I have no idea what he said. I just nodded my head.
I saw a truck pull up and a man got out. Someone behind me said he was the coroner. The coroner was there - for my dad.
I stood there not knowing what to do next, when my cousins started arriving at my aunt and uncle's house. We sat down in disbelief. I remember asking someone what the date was and Jo saying, "Abbey, you're barefoot. Let me get you some socks." Brent arrived and said he passed the police cars coming up the street.
We were standing outside in the dark when my sister arrived. We held each other and wept. We were still standing outside when the funeral home driver arrived to take my dad. Brent led me back to my aunt and uncle's house. I still felt like I was struggling to get enough air. I needed one of my dad's shirts before I could go home. But not just any shirt. I needed the red and navy flannel that he wore every winter. I couldn't leave without it. I was able to get it and went home.
The Hours that Followed
When I got there, I found Sarah and my daughter sitting on the couch. I sat down on the floor and my daughter climbed on my lap. I asked her if she knew what was going on. She nodded and said, "Papa died?" I said yes and she asked me how. I asked her if she knew what it meant for someone to take their own life. She asked if that meant suicide and I said yes. She laid her head against my chest and began to cry.
It was close to 2:00 in the morning by then. I knew there was no way I was going to sleep nor did I want to. I felt like if I closed my eyes, the weight of it all would crush me. I took a shower and sat down on the couch. Brent came and held me. He cried and said, "I don't ever want to hear you scream that way again." I decided to gather all my photos of my dad from my phone and Facebook and put them into a separate album. Brent eventually fell asleep and I paced the house until I knew my pastor was awake. I had spoken to him about my dad before so he was aware of the situation. He offered his condolences and prayed for my family and me. By this time the sun was starting to rise. I went outside and walked aimlessly around the neighborhood until Brent called looking for me.
The Days that Followed
My dad was a very private person so we decided not to have a funeral. I knew I needed to see him though. We had a private viewing where my sisters and I stroked his hair and hands, kissed his head, and thanked him for everything he'd done for us. He was an absolutely amazing father and grandpa. I was the last to leave. I couldn't pull myself away knowing this was the last time I'd see him. I remember hearing Brent ask Lindsey in the hallway, "Has Abbey climbed in there with him yet?" I wasn't far from it as I leaned over his casket with my head laying on his chest.
The grief that followed was all-consuming. I couldn't eat, sleep, or focus on anything. I wasn't comfortable anywhere including in my own body. I wished that I could escape from my own mind. The home I had lived in for 16 years suddenly felt foreign to me. I just wanted to be alone. I was surrounded by people who loved me, but I still felt so alone. I spent the winter doing the bare minimum to get by. Homeschooling my kids and waiting for 5:00 so I could drink wine.
I pushed my husband away because I didn't know how to handle this with someone. I had always dealt with my struggles on my own. I remember one chilly night; I was sitting outside listening to music and crying. It started to rain so Brent came out and tried to pull me in. I refused so he sat down with me in the rain until I was ready.
I called my psychiatrist to inform him of my dad's death because he was also my dad's doctor. He face-timed me and told me he was so sorry for my loss. He asked me what I needed and I told him I had been having panic attacks. Things like dark chocolate (my dad's favorite) at Walmart were suddenly triggers for me.
I Knew His Pain was Unbearable
I was speaking to someone about my dad a few days after it happened and they said, "He was your best friend." And I realized yes, he was. You know how when a starfish loses a leg, another starfish grows from that leg? That's how I would describe myself. I'm just like my dad. And because of that, we had this understanding of each other. Without him in my world, I suddenly felt so alone. How could he leave me?
I have not been mad at him one time for what he did. Not once. I know why he did what he did. I had a front-row seat to his pain. I had been doing everything in my power to try to save him and convince him to stay alive for the past 16 months. I knew my dad had been struggling but the magnitude of it became apparent on June 17, 2020, when my dad showed up at Jo's house and said that had attempted suicide. He willingly checked into Crosspointe and would eventually return there a few more times.
His first stay at Crosspointe happened to fall the week of Father's Day. I remember sitting in my driveway that morning scrolling through Facebook and seeing everyone's posts. I hated everyone and everything. I just wanted to be with my dad. I called Crosspointe and they said I could see him for one hour. I sat with him and held his arm reassuring him everything was going to be ok. He looked me in the eyes and said, "Thank you for your positivity." I held it together until I got into the hallway and cried all the way to my car.
At one point that summer, a nurse in his outpatient psychiatrist's office contacted me and told me she felt he needed to go back to inpatient. I picked him up and we drove to the ER. He kept telling me I didn't have to stay and wait but there was no way I was leaving him. Once we got to a room, a guard came and sat down in the hallway. I sat there looking at the man and was furious inside. I knew he was just doing his job but my dad was so broken at the time. I felt like it was a slap in the face for him. My dad said to me "When the doctor gets in here, you need to leave." He didn't want me to hear how he was feeling. I agreed and left when it was time. It became my mission to try to get my dad back. From cutting the drawstrings out of his sweatpants in the Crosspointe parking lot to changing his psychiatrist, I was willing to do whatever it took. He had taken care of me growing up and now it was time for me to take care of him.
He stayed with me off and on and one day he called me outside. He wanted to make me his power of attorney. I agreed and my friend wrote up the papers for us. He gave me his checkbook and I began paying his monthly bills. Lindsey and I looked into long-term care facilities but were unsuccessful in finding anything local. He sounded so much better on the phone and in visits at Crosspointe. He even told me once that he realized he should not have attempted suicide and that it would only create more problems and hurt the people he loved. I was reassured by that and felt like I would be able to get him back. I felt like a change of scenery would do him good so I drove him eight hours away to his sister Pat's house in Tennessee where he stayed for months at a time. She took incredible care of him and I will forever be grateful to her for that.
I Turned to Self-Medicating
I took Xanax from time to time on really bad nights with the warning from the ER doctor on New Year's Eve (for an unrelated health problem) that drinking and taking Xanax could stop my breathing. At that point, I didn't care. Put me out of my misery. Nothing could hurt as bad as losing him. I was quite literally The Woman in the Window like the Netflix movie. I sat in a big chair in my window and drank wine waiting to die and questioning, "Why was this his journey? What did he do to deserve this?" I closed myself off from the world by no longer interacting with people on Facebook and tightening my inner circle. I could no longer relate to anyone who wasn't personally affected by losing him. Other moms were posting about going to Disney and I was suffering from PTSD flashbacks of that night. We were not the same. The depression was suffocating.
My Family Rallied Around Me and Helped Me by Finding Help
I remember texting Brent one morning and telling him I was so depressed, I couldn't move. He promised to cheer me up when he got home. And he did. I had made it a habit to sit in the dark alone and watch Netflix while I drank an entire bottle of wine every night. I was afraid of what I would feel if I was sober at night. Brent recognized I was in danger myself and contacted Sarah. She found a grief counselor that I met at Starbucks for an hour once a week. Courtney was exactly what I needed at the time and I will never forget her.
I Choose to Remember the Good
My dad was always the strongest person I knew. You can ask anyone that knew him and they would tell you he was a genius. He was a human Trivial Pursuit game. It never ceased to amaze me the vast knowledge he had about so many topics. People have told me since he passed that they loved listening to him speak. He was the type that would give you the shirt off his back. I once saw him run to take care of a man who had collapsed on the side of the road from heat exhaustion. The man was a complete stranger but my dad took care of him the same way he took care of my sisters and me. He took the man's shoes and socks off and was cooling him down with wet rags on his head and neck until the paramedics arrived. The EMT's thanked my dad once they got the man into the ambulance and my dad simply said "Hey, it's the American way." He loved horseracing and could be found at Ellis Park with his friends during the summer. We both shared a love for cooking and would try new recipes to share with one another. I would always watch him as he took his first bite and eagerly ask, "What do you think?" He would more often than not reply, "Wow, that's dynamite." Just like he wrote in my college graduation card, he was my "biggest fan."
There is a giant hole in my heart that will never heal. I will never get over losing him. I'm sure a time will come years from now when October 8th won't feel like my own personal hell. But I'm certain it won't be this year. Or the next. Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a parent. I will be 38 next month. I'm married with two kids and have been living on my own for many years. But losing him made me feel like a helpless orphan. My pain has so many layers. I lost my dad, the person I looked up to most in the world. The wisest person I have ever known who would most certainly know how to guide me through this. He gave the best advice. I lost my best friend, the person I could talk to about my problems, laugh and cry with, and rely on to tell it to me straight.
I lost the battle - the battle to save my dad from his demons. I will always feel like I failed him. Like I could have done more. No matter what everyone tells me. I still struggle to say my dad is dead and hate talking about him in the past tense. Every time something good happens to me, I want to call him. Every time something bad happens to me, I want to call him. The first time I ever heard of black garlic I thought, "I need to call Dad and ask him if he has ever heard-" before realizing I couldn't. There is no way to accurately describe how you feel when you want to talk to someone who has passed. For a while, I kept count of how many days it had been since I talked to him. It feels like an eternity now.
I'm Not Alone
I didn't know if I would ever speak publicly about all this. I have felt so alone because I don't know anyone else who has lost a parent, they were very close with, to suicide. It's isolating. When I saw the news about Naomi Judd, my heart instantly went out to Ashley Judd. I knew exactly what she was feeling. Especially when I read that she was also trying to save her mom and had taken her to the ER like I had taken my dad. I realized there are a lot of other people out there who have lost a parent to suicide and maybe hearing my story would help them to feel less alone.
The Years that Follow
My dad always said his spirit animal was a crane and if he could come back as anything, that would be it. Since his passing, I've seen a lot of cranes and I like to tell myself it's him. I saw one as I drove home from a get-together with his family and even saw one fly over the baseball field as my son batted. I have a tattoo of a crane on my forearm with the words he wrote on my college graduation card "Love you, Dad." The tattoo contains his ashes. I wear a ring with his fingerprint every day. Engraved inside is "From your biggest fan."
On my last birthday, I played an old voicemail of him saying happy birthday. It will be my yearly birthday tradition from now on. I spend as much time with his family as I can. Being around them makes me feel like he is near. I took my dad lunch three days before he died. That was the last time I saw him. He loved fish sandwiches and blizzards from Dairy Queen. Pumpkin pie was his favorite and had just come out for the season so I took him one. He was very down but tried to make conversation for me while he ate. When he was finished, I told him I was going to the DMV to renew his registration. I hugged him when I left. I returned a short time later and gave it to him. I almost hugged him again but thought no I just hugged him and he didn't seem to be in the mood for another hug. I wish so badly I'd gotten that hug.
The night before he died, I called and asked if I could come to pick him up and bring him to my son's baseball game. He said no that's ok. I should have gone and gotten him. Another regret I live with. I'll miss him every day. Every minute of every day. Until we're reunited.
Below is a photo of the man who always answered the question "What can I get you for your birthday, Dad?" with "A few kind words and a cold drink of water." And he meant it. Of course, we never listened because he deserved all the presents in the world.
I love you Dad.
From YOUR biggest fan,