Dad and Me: The Complicated Relationship That Never Existed
3 min read | Jun 2022
Millennial / Undisclosed / Journalist

Dad and Me: The Complicated Relationship That Never Existed

My father committed suicide months after I was born, and I am still mourning the man I never met.

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Each one of us is a puzzle, assembled from pieces of those who come and go from our lives. Who you are is shaped by the family you’ve known your whole life, loyal friends, fleeting bonds with acquaintances. But what happens if one of the puzzle pieces is missing? 

This is true in my case, as well, of course. I am the product of my mother’s resilience, my grandmother’s patience and my grandfather’s proactiveness, blended well with a sprinkle of my own personality—resourcefulness, impatience and a short temper. 

With both good qualities and bad, I should be a complete person with fulfilling relationships with those around me. Yet a piece of me remains missing. 

A polaroid of a man fading from existence.

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My Father's Suicide Has Left a Hole in Me

I have never known my father. With only a number of photographs to remember, passing mentions and the knowledge that he took his own life when I was an infant, the man who is responsible for my existence was never actually around to shape me beyond bringing me into this existence. 

Having never been present in my life, his influence—for better or worse—should have had no impact on me. However, my nonexistent relationship with my father and his absence from my life has become the roots of several of my bonds as I’ve grown up. 

This missing puzzle piece has swallowed me whole. I’ve subconsciously sought to fill the chasm he left in my life with every other connection I’ve made. Armed with mourning for a man I never knew and the tidbits I’ve learned of him through others, I am always desperately seeking to fill the empty space in my heart, which my father left vacant just six months after I was born. 

From descriptions of my father, via my mother, I know him as an introverted, intelligent, at times moody man, with alcoholic abuse issues and slight tendencies toward violence. With everyone I meet, I am seeking out the father I never met—searching for the security and warmth I never knew, yet also hoping never to find someone with his flaws.

Perhaps due to the contradictory nature of what I’m seeking, or maybe just a subconscious urge to “fix” or help someone in a way I never had the chance to do with my father, I often end up attracting the very kind of people I hope not to—those with addictions and mental health difficulties beyond the ability of my fragile mind and heart to handle. What starts as relationships filled with hope ends with the same abandonment I always feared—if not by death then by them simply walking away from me. 

The contradictions don’t stop here. They also rear their ugly heads when it comes to how I perceive these new relationships between the people filling my father’s space and me. If one part of me finds myself being drawn into relationship dynamics—three separate relationships, one after the other, crashing into empty promises, addiction and anger issues—that I always tried to avoid, the other part fears that I am the broken link in it all. 

Maybe it’s not them but me who takes on the role of my father in these destructive relationships? 

Spiraling out of control into an abyss of prescribed pills to numb my emotional pain, finding momentary peace in hurting myself, withdrawing into the darkness of my mind, moving at breakneck speed toward my own doom, reflecting that of my father. 

When each of my fragile relationships inevitably fizzles out, mourning returns. People often brush aside the notion of me mourning someone I never knew, just as they do when I speak of feeling abandoned by him. 

With every new person who makes a space in my heart and then leaves it behind, trampled and shattered as they walk through a revolving door of broken bonds, I mourn not just that lost relationship but the loss of my father, over and over again.

A young man contemplates how his father's suicide has shaped his approach to relationship-building.

Accepting My Father’s Death Will Hopefully Put Me on a Path to Healing

I mourn his death. I mourn not knowing him. Most of all, I mourn every bond I’ve lost trying to achieve another bond I never had to begin with. 

I will never get closure from the absence he left in my life, but the first step to healing is probably accepting this fact. That will in itself may become the closure I seek. I will never quite be a complete puzzle, one piece of me lost even before I could be put together. 

But maybe what I need to realize is that there’s no one quite in the shape of my father to complete me—there might be another person or people, slightly misshapen but doing their best to fit into the aching chasm within me. The gaps they can’t fill will always ooze with emptiness and hurt, but embracing the parts they fill may be the way to go.

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