What’s life without you?

by Kiernan Gallagher, 15 years old
Published with her mother’s permission

Strong emotional content and suicide method referenced. If you are in crisis, text “help” to 741-741 or call 988

One I never wanted to imagine. But instead, I now live it.

They say it gets easier.

It doesn’t. And I knew that from day one. 

It’s been over a year and I still remember everything. I still feel everything.

On September 26, 2019, I didn’t go to bed until four in the morning. I woke up four hours later just to get smacked in the face — reality check, everything actually happened. I’ve never actually told anyone extreme details of the night my dad died by suicide; I promise you, it wasn’t how you thought. It was ten times worse than whatever you’re picturing in your head; ten times worse than whatever you’ve heard; ten times worse than the short story I’ve told. 

Of course it’s all traumatizing. But there are so many little parts of the event that are their own traumas. Hearing the shot. The first look. My phone call. Doing laps around my house, just waiting for 911 to finally arrive. Family showing up. The words “Sean has died.” 

Sean has died.” My heart sank to my stomach and my throat ached. All I could do was scream. One thing I thought I knew for certain in that moment was that he was going to live. Everything would one day be okay. I knew that had he lived, it wasn’t all going to be sunshine and rainbows right away, but he wasn’t gonna die and that was all I needed to know. Clearly, I was wrong.

The moment the bullet hit, there was no going back

But what could’ve gone back and been changed? Why was I so oblivious to what was going to happen? If ever given the ability to go back in time and change my actions, I’d change countless things. My bones ache for him, trying to understand the weight he carried each day. But my heart aches even more trying to understand the real hurt and sadness he felt.

I mentioned small moments of September 25, 2019, that traumatized me. All of this night lingers everywhere. Holidays are broken. Special occasions are broken. Even a random f*&$ing Tuesday is broken.

There are days where I find myself feeling angry at the world, but I have to ask myself if I am actually angry at the world, or if I am angry because my dad is no longer in it. I then remind myself: the world gave me him. The world gave me the privilege of Sean being my dad. The world gave me precious memories that I will forever cherish. Maybe our time was short-lived, but still — the world gave me such an amazing man as my father.

So many thoughts of him, and what he should’ve been, flow.

Events hurt; he won’t be walking me down the aisle on my wedding day, he won’t be in the crowd at the end of my education journey, he won’t meet his grandkids. But the little things hurt too. He’s not working on the cars or anything and everything else with my brother, not napping on the couch in the living room, or showing off in whatever car he decided to own at the time. My dad was everything, and our relationship was everything.

All of the adversity turns into opportunity, though

It’s not like life was perfect before this, either, so I grew up rather quickly. I’ve learned a lot throughout it all. Here are some of those thoughts:

  1. Forgive people, not for them, but for you; you’re hurting yourself a lot more when you’re holding on. 
  2. One can never care “too much.” I’ve felt unloved, unlovable, and not cared for — you have no idea how much someone else may feel. Give the people you care for everything. You might regret not caring enough one day. 
  3. By all means, search for the answers to things. Just know that you might not love the answer you find. 
  4. Know your worth and what you deserve. My mom has told me some people are a lifetime, some are a season. She likes to show me the Madea video clip with Tyler Perry where she says, “People are like leaves, branches, and roots.” Some friends haven’t been there through all of this, it’s definitely shown who is a root. 
  5. In the words of Mitch Albom, “death ends a life, not a relationship.” There has not been one day where I didn’t think of my dad. Every day I have to remind myself that he is gone. I can hear the echo of what once was, whether it be his laugh, his voice, his footsteps…

I know that a part of me died when my dad died. But I also know that a whole new maturity level was born. None of this was part of the plan; none of this should’ve happened. But there’s nothing anyone can do. I’ll never forget my dad. Anyone who knew him won’t, either. And I’ll never stop missing him. I hope to see him again one day, but for now… he’s in my dreams.  He’s the red cardinal sitting on the fence. He’s the dancing flame on the candle. He’s that one song on the radio. He’s still with me, in spirit — and this I know for certain.

Madea discusses the difference between the different types of people in your life as either being leaves, branches, or roots.

12 thoughts on “What’s life without you?”

  1. Kiernan, our hearts break for you, our thoughts and prayers for you and your family. Please allow our family to offer this thought even if we did not know your dad, In Loving Memory of your dad “Sean.” The Tilton family.

  2. I lost my son by Suicide in August 2021. Then my dad passed on Father’s Day the following year from Parkinson’s aspiration. My grieving is intermingled for the both of them. I relate to everything you said. Your words help. Thank you.

  3. I am just reading this for the first time. Such wisdom for a such a young lady. Thank you for writing this Kiernan. Nice work. We will never be 100% and we will never forget them, but we will be ok. And they are floating around us all the time. 💙

  4. Dear kiernan
    I read your story ! It was a beautiful read !I can’t imagine you have to go through this at your age , Im so glad you had your mother and Ann Moss , I was fortunate enough to to have find Ann and she has helped me through my loss also 💔
    You have shown that you have a gift and are sharing this with the world !
    Thank you for sharing your Dads story this with us ♥️
    Wendy , Devens Mom

  5. What a beautiful post. Full of so much power and insight. God bless you on your journey as you continue to heal. Thanks for being an inspiration. I have not lost anyone to be suicide but several members in my family deal with,or don’t deal with, substance abuse and mental health issues. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    1. I am sure Kiernan will also respond but I wanted to say thank you for posting a comment here. So many are commenting on Facebook but not here where she can see it. So thank you for taking the time to say it here.

  6. My beautiful intelligent strong niece, I love you and am very proud of you! Happy to be a root of your tree!

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