This post was originally published on BlogHer in August 2014 after the loss of Robin Williams. I am posting it here in honor of Father’s Day and the fact that I still miss my dad with each passing year.  The last time I saw my dad was Father’s Day in 1994.  Less than a month later, his battle with depression ended and we lost him to suicide . 

“I love you. I miss you. I’ll try to keep looking up.”

Sitting at my desk at work, I read the words on my computer from Zelda, Robin Williams’ daughter, who tweeted about his death.

For some reason I decided to look at the clock, I wanted to know what time it was… 8:38 AM. I lasted a little over 12 hours after hearing the news before it finally hit me. The night before, Trey had given me a hug and asked if I was okay. I said yes, which was true at the time but now it was different. Now I was not okay.

“I love you. I miss you. I’ll try to keep looking up.”

I sat there for a full five minutes, looking up and staring at the ceiling, trying to keep the hot tears from rolling down my face, taking deep breaths as I have taught myself to do when the anxiety starts to creep in. I knew if I looked down the tears would fall. The words of a daughter who had just lost her dad to suicide, sparked the sadness that I keep stuffed inside but that is always brimming under the surface. 

My Loss

I know her pain, I have been there before.

20 years ago this summer, I lost my dad to suicide.

I was 19 at the time and home for the summer from my freshman year of college at West Virginia University. My parents had finally divorced three years earlier, although it felt more like an uneven division of our family because my sister and I chose to live with my mom to shield ourselves from the outbursts and anger caused by my dad’s alcoholism. We rarely saw our dad, in fact the last time I saw him was on Father’s Day in 1994, about three weeks before he took his own life.

When I was 18, my dad entered rehab for his alcohol abuse and was diagnosed with depression. I felt embarrassed, exposed and confused because I never considered that he had a mental disorder, one that he self medicated with alcohol. Over the next year, he started on medication for depression and gave up alcohol, but our relationship continued to deteriorate.

For years, I thought his anger, moodiness and self withdrawal from the world was part of his personality but now I see that it was part of a personality disorder. I didn’t understand that his behavior were signs of depression, he had been this way for most of my life so I just thought my dad was a controlling person who had an addiction to alcohol. I wish I would have understood the warning signs, but I was a selfish teenager and depression held a much higher stigma 20 years ago. Admitting that my dad had depression was like giving up, waving the white flag, whereas today I see it as permission to ask for help.

After watching him struggle with his anger, alcoholism and depression for almost two decades, I was not surprised when my mom called me that Saturday morning in June to tell me my dad was gone.

I knew that he had committed suicide. He fought the demons of depression and he lost.

After the loss

The next few months are difficult to remember, as I was on a roller coaster of emotions feeling angry, sad, frustrated, embarrassed, lonely, and guilty. I often wonder if we had gotten him diagnosed earlier, if he had better medication, if I had not been a self centered person in my teenage years – would he have been able to fight harder? Would he still be here today?

The hardest part is remembering those last few years of his life and realizing that he was in excruciating pain. So much pain that at the age of 41, with two daughters that he loved more than himself, that he thought he was protecting me by removing himself from the world, he committed suicide. He ended his life to end the pain, but sadly that doesn’t mean the pain ended for me. 20 years later, no longer a 19-year-old, scared teenager, I can still be brought to tears at 8:38 AM on a Tuesday morning at my desk at work.


  1. Thank you for opening up and sharing this story. I have a MIL that self-medicates with alcohol because she’s my FIL’s primary caregiver and it worries me so much. We try so hard to help where we can but it’s difficult to give her the time and attention SHE needs when we have our own busy lives. You are so strong for sharing this story. I think we’re all just doing the best we can and doing the things we know to do.
    Kuleigh recently posted…Brick Pond ParkMy Profile

    • Yes, it is so hard to balance caring for others outside your home when you have a busy life as well. I know this all too well. I hope that sharing my story lets others know that they are not alone. Like you said, we are all just doing the best we can!

    • I will always be a daddy’s girl and miss my dad. I wish he could have been around to meet my kids, he would have LOVED being a grandfather.

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