How Do You Tell Your Kids Their Father Killed Himself

How do you tell your 17 month old baby and your 4.5 year old son and your almost 7 year old daughter that their father killed himself?

You don’t. Obviously you don’t.

You want to, though.

You want to say “After seven years of your father hiding in the basement and drinking himself into a coma and gambling our daycare money away and avoiding family trips and outings and slamming doors and eating dinner by himself and not waking up until noon on Saturdays and Sundays and not playing with you because he was overwhelmed by the noises you made, after seven years of that, your father killed himself, and I am all you have in the world now, even though, really, I’ve always been all you have ever had.”

You want to say “Your ghost father is really a ghost now, and you will hardly notice a change, and that devastates me more than you will ever know.”

You want to say “I can’t believe he hung himself by a rope until he couldn’t breathe, without thinking about missing your birthdays, and your graduations, and your marriages, and your kids. I can’t believe he put a rope around his neck and didn’t think of your beautiful faces and change his mind.”

That is what you want to say.

Instead, you wait a full day, and at first you tell your children daddy had to go to work at night. And the next day you tell your children daddy is still at work. And your children don’t ask questions because they trust you to tell them the truth. Your children don’t ask questions because their daddy was always missing. He was always a ghost. They just don’t know daddy is really a ghost now. 

That afternoon, a day after you screamed on the front lawn until everyone in the neighborhood knew your husband had killed himself, you ask a friend to come over. You ask them to just sit in the living room while you tell your children, because you don't know what to expect. You think of words to tell your kids. You greet your kids when they come home from camp and daycare with a neighbor or a friend, and you sit them down on the couch. 

You think of simple words. You don’t want to say too much. 
You tell them their daddy died and he is not coming back. 

Your seven year old cries.

Your four year old smiles because he doesn’t know what else to do.

Your baby doesn’t even understand words.


  1. Just want to say keep telling your story if it helps you.

    12 yr old son has some special needs (preemie) and 4 years ago, when his uncle died, he didn't really seem to get it. Until we were leaving the funeral, and he just broke & nearly broke me, too.

  2. I was almost six. I don't remember what my mom said, or if my siblings were there. I remember how heavy my blanket was in my lap, and how the summer sun looked coming through our screen door, and wondering if this made me dad now, but I don't remember any of the words after "go get your blankie, sweetheart, we have to talk".

    I'm so sorry. I'm glad you know it's okay to be furious at him, but that you're feeling other things, too.

  3. I was 15 when my dad died by suicide. I'm sorry you and your family are going through this. Thank you for sharing your story. You are very brave.


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