My father died by suicide four months ago

by Kiernan Gallagher, 14 years old
Published with Kiernan’s and her mom’s permission

I didn’t return to school for about three weeks and returning was like being held underwater.

When my dad first passed away, I didn’t want the sun to rise. I didn’t want my favorite song to play. I didn’t want to look at the stars — I didn’t even want to eat. I didn’t want to do anything because I lost my dad, my hero, my best friend, and so much more all in one. So going into school — a place which feels like a prison — was not fun.

Upon walking in school, I genuinely believed I was going to be okay

I wouldn’t shed tears, I would answer questions strongly, I would get my work done. I thought people would be there for me: I would have people to talk to.

I was entirely wrong. I sobbed, couldn’t stay in class, and when people asked questions, I only had the strength to answer some. Everyone’s faces were turned towards me but would turn away the moment I looked back in their direction.  I didn’t have many people to talk to other than some adults who were at least able to admit they had no words.

My day of return felt like everything was in slow motion

Opening my locker and seeing a handprint of heat left behind because my body temperature was spiking. Tears welling up forever, but not letting them fall until my sight was blocked. Imagine how things will be for me now from here on out at school; although I can lock the emotions up, sometimes, they can’t be hidden.

People may see me laughing, smiling, and being “happy,” but what you see isn’t all there. You can see me laughing, smiling, carrying on conversations… But you can’t see the tears I’ve held back; the monstrous tears that claw at me and take over me.

You can’t see my brokenness, my heartache, the things I cover up, the things I never share, my regrets. When people fill in the blanks with their own ignorant stories, they bury him and our family over and over again. You can’t see how much I wish my dad was here, using the mop as a microphone to sing as he made all of us help him clean the house. Although you can’t see it, it’s there. I promise.

The night my dad passed away — September 25, 2019 — and all the memories and conversations before it play over and over again in my head, like a broken record. I now lack focus at school, and in general, get lost in my thoughts. Oftentimes, people will tell me they don’t want to bring it up because they don’t want to remind me about it.

Trust me when I say I haven’t forgotten; and that I’m not going to

There is a part of me that exists only in that moment, when an officer said, “Sean has died.” I will never forget the police sirens, the ambulance sirens, my moms screams, not being allowed at my house, the goodbye that I didn’t know was goodbye… There is so much I will never forget about my dad’s death; it is a scar as permanent as a tattoo. But, I will also never forget how great of a person my dad was.

My dad, Sean, was basically my twin. Our midnight snacking habits, picky eating, sassiness, sense of humor, looks… We went together like peanut butter and jelly through it all. He was always on my team. He was a helping hand to anyone. He was the determination, the brains. He was the life of the party, always down to do something fun and wild. He was the laughs. The laughs when I was angry, when I was in tears, when I was so frustrated. 

My dad was my strength

He fought so many battles and dealt with so much. After the battles he fought and won, how could he have then given up?  My anger flows through me like lava, and it burns.

Not being able to go back is painful, but so is having to move forward.

Yup, I saw the signs, but I never put the pieces together until the end. I never thought I would experience this, so although you may believe that you wouldn’t need to know the signs, you should still be very aware. Experiencing trauma, moodiness, sadness, loss, hopelessness, mental illness, etc. These all are warning signs; I encourage you to learn more about them because this fight is not theirs alone.

I am not the same person and yes, that happened overnight.

The impact will last forever

My heart is beyond shattered. The world lost a great guy, and anyone who knew him would say the same. Losing your best friend, first love, hero, and father all in one is devastating. I often make the mistake of preparing myself to go ask or tell him something.

I miss him. I close my eyes or stare out into nothing and he’s there. His shadows and words are all around me. With time, apparently, I’ll learn to accept and deal with this new reality.

An excerpt from Kiernan’s story is included in this book in the chapter about postvention.

the tree of loss

30 thoughts on “My father died by suicide four months ago”

  1. I love you my lovely princess face. what a brave young lady you are and even though I am much older than you I look up to you and your strength. Hold on to the memories my love, they will get you through. He will always live on in you!!! Always here for you and you mom and brother. OXOX Aunt Jeffiner! <3

  2. I remember one of the first times I met you I couldn’t help but think is this girl really what 12 almost 13, everyone always said how smart you are and when I got to know you I realized just the same. Your biggest cheerleader was your dad. I remember him talking to Papa Jenks about basketball and student government and how smart you are, he completely boasted about your grades, and if that isn’t how a father should talk about his child I don’t know what is. I remember when I got invited over for Fourth of July cookout you guys had and you and your dad saying you didn’t eat leftovers because they were gross, or something along those lines and I could just remember the way you guys clicked and it was something I only thought happened in the movies, what the two of you had will always be special I can honestly tell you that. I’m sorry that you guys and the world lost someone as bright as Sean because if he didn’t manage to make you smile right off the bat by the end of the night you’d be sporting one anyway whether it be from some outlandish comment or to a story that was funny enough to put a stich in your side. I wish there was anything I could say to help you through this. But it’s not that easy, loosing someone never is, all I can say is that a day hasn’t passed that I haven’t thought about the Jenkin and Gallagher families. Your blog was beautifully written and would be another thing your dad would be tremendously proud of .You all mean the world to me, you all made me feel welcomed and apart of this big family full of love and laughter and I couldn’t be more grateful to have all of you play such a roll in my life. I know I’m late to say this but if you ever need anything at all let me know because I’m always around.

  3. Kieran,
    Thank you for sharing your story of your dad. I love the part where he was singing into the mop. So funny! My daughter lost her dad(my husband) to suicide when she was 7. She is now 11. She is like a treasure chest with her emotions, and doesn’t share much about her feelings. I’m so proud of you that you can express yours so
    Openly. I know your mom must be super proud of you too.
    Keep sharing and writing. There are some of us adults that don’t have the courage that you do! Keep
    Your head up!

  4. Kieran,

    Thank you for being so brave to share your heartache and love for your dad with us. Your words take me back to the days my boys had to walk back into school after their dad died by suicide. Always remember there are people out there who will not turn away….they will stand proudly with you and listen when you need to be heard. Your story matters. Your grief matters. Your love for your dad matters. You matter. Sending so much love and peace to you, your family and all who loved your dad.

  5. Kieran you are an extremely strong young lady. Not many people have been in your shoes & not many ever will be. Your strength at such a tender age is inspiring to others that may be going thru what u are. Keep your chin up & remember there are many people who love you 😘

  6. Amazing Kiernan this brings back lots of memories. This took a lot of courage to post and I’m proud that you did so.

  7. Kieran
    I’m lost for words, your so young, beautiful and brave. Your so right your dad was a great guy. I meet him through my husband Kevin a childhood friend. He would tell me how Sean and him would drive there tractors up and down the road through the woods and get in trouble. I met my husband at Route 100 skating rink where Sean and Kevin would be there every Friday night. Life was always busy as we got older but Sean was always a big part of our life he always stopped by when visiting PA. I’m so sorry your Daddy has passed, I hope all his Wonderful memories of him help you and mead your broken heart, always know he loves you very much and was always proud of you. He will always be on your team and right beside with you as you walk together forever. If there is ever anything Kevin and I can do to help you and your family please let is know, I think of you all so much give your mom and extra hug from us. You will always beyour Daddy’s Little girl
    Adrienne and Kevin Brittenburg

  8. Kiernan, what a wonderful tribute to your sweet dad and a moving account of your new grief. It is so raw right now, and won’t always be like that. I promise. You will never forget this time in your life. You will carry it with you and be a better human for it. Very sad, but very true. You will not go through life unaware, like so many people do. Please know that you are not alone. There are millions of us survivors, and we get through this together. Keep writing. One day you will listen to your favorite songs and know that there is an angel always with you.

  9. Kiernan-
    My dad passed from suicide 6/2018. It seems like a few months ago. It was so unexpected. The story you told reminds me so much of my story. The moment the police officer told me. The moment my family found out. The floating through the funeral as people don’t know what to say. My “getting back to normal” feeling so weird. Now people not talking about it even my mother. It gets easier and life goes on but it’s still there haunting you. You are a beautiful writer. It sums up my thoughts perfectly. My advice – live your story as you choose. Talk about him if you want to. It doesn’t matter if people don’t want to hear. Remember the good things. Talk to him it helps. Forgive yourself because you didn’t cause it. The flow of emotions comes and goes but these are only feelings. Things get better. You are beautiful person. Show the world your strength and live your life to the fullest. He will be there waiting one day.

    1. Laurie, I am so sorry for your loss. I am so, so happy my story related to you, showing that no one is alone! Thank you so much for your kind words. ❤️

  10. Kiernan
    Your writing touched me deeply. You capture so well how wonderful he was and the depth of your feelings and memories. I encourage you to keep writing, to keep sharing , to keep remembering. Your clarity and strength is a beacon and help for others.

  11. Your composure during this time was something that I don’t think many could have achieved. Living in a world that changed overnight must have been devastating. So very proud that you got this done, when in the beginning you only hoped you could get your thoughts together and honor your dad in a way that felt right. Well, you did it!

  12. Kiernan, I’m so sorry that you lost your Dad. The love that comes through your words, and the love so apparent in your picture, is so very real. I can’t imagine how sad you feel. But every day, your good memories of your dad will be there, and there will be a day when the good ones will be more than the sad.

    You did a wonderful job of writing your feelings. Keep writing!

  13. This is very brave and beautiful. Thank you Kiernan for having this conversation with us and giving voice to others who may still be silent. I joke that in 48 years only one person has talked with me about suicide- my dad died when I was 10- but it is no joke. It’s not your fault. I know we all harbor that thought. But it’s not. I hope that you do not doubt for a moment the love he had for you. That love is real and powerful. Major depression takes so many wonderful people from us. It is a health issue that is very deadly sometimes. I hope that you remember going forward that you deserve a great life. This loss has and will change you but you still have the choice in “how” it will change you. Remember the love and laughter. You will always love your Dad and so some of the pain you feel will stay with you until you are together again. It is the yearning of your heart. I know you can find your way to a place of healing. I did and you can. Much love.

  14. Kieran this is so brave and raw. You wrote beautifully of your dad while also poignantly describing the pain of your loss. I am so sorry for your loss. It won’t always be this sharp. But you will also always knows it’s near. 💙

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