Courage Corner #1: A Daughter’s Perspective

The Courage Corner blog series’ goal is to inspire the Corrections community and their families to reach out and share their own stories of hope, struggle, and triumph, in hopes of fostering open dialogue about mental health and suicide, communication, family, and togetherness.

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Growing up with a father that was a Correction Officer was an adventure. My dad always made sure we felt safe and comfortable, but also wanted us to truly enjoy our childhood and have fun experiences. I did not realize until I  came back from my first year at college in 2011, that my dad wasn’t the same person anymore. As I matured and learned more about people, it was clear that my dad’s behavior was off. I don’t blame my family for wanting to protect my brother and I from this harsh reality, but as I began asking questions, it was clear that I had not understood the severity of the situation or how long it had been going on for. He was withdrawn, depressed, hyper-paranoid, and was even sleeping with a gun under his pillow. If I had known exactly what my dad did every day at his job, I believe it would have helped me understand what he was going through a little better. Instead, I was left wondering why there was this quiet stranger living in my father’s body, merely going through the motions to get through each day.

As someone who grew up with a dad who loved to go to Red Sox games, vacation in Maine, jet ski, water ski, ride his bike, etc., it was extremely difficult to see him spending his entire life, hour after hour, day after day, on the couch after his retirement. He jumped around from job to job, finding that the general public did not understand what CO’s dealt with every day. My dad retired as a Captain, therefore held a lot of responsibility, something that employers did not understand or respect. This was extremely discouraging for him, and it took a toll on him. We urged him to get help, but eventually his depression, and a few other factors, led to him driving to a lake a few towns over and shooting himself in his car. The last words my dad ever said to me (via text message right before he killed himself) were “I love you kids more than anything in the world. You’re both great kids.” To which I responded, “I love you too Daddy”, which I pray every day he was able to see before he died.

Our main goal in starting this organization was to try to spread awareness about the extremely important, yet stressful job that Corrections Employees have. Every day you hear about other branches of law enforcement and military saving lives and protecting the public, but Corrections Employees rarely get positive recognition. More times than not, when Corrections is in the news, it is for something negative. We hope that we can change the conversation. Shifting society’s mentality to understand that Corrections Employees are essential to the safety of our communities and they deserve to be appreciated, is of utmost importance to us. I don’t want any other family to have to endure what my family has endured.

After a loved one commits suicide, it is a cruel kind of grief. They say there are “stages of grief”, but with suicide you feel all of them at once, none of them at all, two at the same time, then back to all of them at once. There is no timeline for grieving, but with suicide you feel and see the effects of it years and years later. For my family, it has been six years since my dad’s suicide, yet we still feel new emotions and discover new corners of our hearts that are grieving every day. Simply seeing a tire swing and remembering the days dad used to push us on the one at our childhood home growing up can make that sadness come rushing back. You’re left with questions that will never be answered, and all you have is the support of each other to try to make sense of it all.

I have been blessed to have worked with many officers the past few years, even some that have worked with my dad, and it has absolutely helped the healing process. My hope for these blogs is that Officers and their families will come forward and share their own stories of struggle, success, and hope. Together we can prevent this tragedy from happening to another family.

If you or someone you know would be interested in being featured in our blog, contact Bryanna at bryanna@onguardinitiative.org.