*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.
The death of a child is difficult for any parent to face, even when they know the cause. But when they don’t know what went wrong, those questions can be agonizing.
One father found himself at odds with his wife after the death of his 17-year-old daughter. He turned to the Relationship Advice subReddit for objective guidance.
Redditor throwRA_needclosure posted:
“I (44 M[ale]) want to read my daughter’s (17 F[emale]) diary to find out why she left us. My wife (43F) says we should absolutely not.”
“My daughter committed suicide two months ago. It was honestly a big shock as she’s never shown any signs that she wanted to take her life. My wife and I blame ourselves and wishes that we could’ve done more.”
“She was in therapy for something unrelated, she was very afraid and would panic at the sight of blood, so we thought that her feelings in general would be addressed during her sessions. We were always very supportive of her, asking her about her days or if she’s having any troubles about anything when she’s noticeably looking down.”
“We only started cleaning out her room a week ago. I was going through her closet and tucked at the very back was a small backpack with her diary in it. I really wanted to read it because my daughter didn’t leave anything behind, not a note saying why she did it or anything, so I was hoping that maybe something in her diary would shine light as to why she did what she did.”
“I brought the idea up to my wife and she said absolutely not, though she’s not with us anymore, she still deserves the utmost respect. My son (14) also wants to know why his sister left but doesn’t think that reading her diary is the way to go about it.”
“I don’t know, I feel like we need closure. My family and her friends need closure. My wife cries herself to sleep every night, repeating that she wishes we could’ve done something different, and I comfort her.”
“My son obviously misses his sister as they were so close. He misses her so much that sometimes we’d find him asleep by the door of his sister’s room in the middle of the night. My daughter didn’t have any social media presence but had a good amount of friends and none of them know why she did it either.”
“This diary is our last shot of giving everyone she knew the answer why. I know diaries are very intimate and the last thing I want to do is disrespect my daughter.”
“If I don’t end up reading her diary, how will I find closure? How will my family move past this?”
“Everyday is filled with tears and many thoughts of ‘why’? Was it my wife and I’s fault?”
“We don’t know, which is why I want to know. If it was us, I don’t want to have us make the same mistakes with our only child left.”
“I don’t know exactly what I’m asking for but anything would be appreciated.”
Redditors did their best to help the grieving father with other relaying similar questions from their own lives.
They all agreed closure would not be found reading the diary.
“When my best friend killed himself, I found his diary and read it. I did not receive any closure. I didn’t learn anything about his mental health that I didn’t already know.”
“The key to fixing the cloud that hung over my head, in my heart, and in my bones wasn’t in his diary.”
“I did read about how he thought some of the clouds he saw last Thursday looked like cats, with a smiley face at the end of the sentence. I read about how he had a weird dream where he could fly. I read about his plans to get me a birthday present.”
“For a moment, he was still alive in those pages. I could hear him, I could picture him writing this down. I was inside of his mind for a moment.”
“And it was worth it. I don’t know if I recovered faster, or healed quicker. I certainly didn’t get closure. But I don’t regret it for a single second. It was worth it.”
“I would read it, if I were you.” ~ xptxmxst
“Hey OP my dad passed away when I was 11 and when I turned 25 my aunt gave me some journals he wrote and gave me the option to read them or not or whatever. I agonized over it for a long time but eventually I did read them.”
“The situation isn’t exactly the same but I can tell you this: it was incredibly difficult and incredibly painful. Most people tend to journal more about negative things than the positive, and some of the things there made me struggle a lot.”
“I don’t think I regret the choice to read them but I would highly recommend waiting a while before trying to know what’s in there. It’s entirely possible that it will not give you closure, and you can never unknow the things you read so you need to be sure you’re ready for it.”
“I like the idea [suggested by another Redditor] of asking her therapist to read them, or even a different therapist who didn’t even know her, It seems like much less of an invasion of privacy to have someone else read her personal thoughts and feelings.”
“I think the most important thing though is that you and your wife come to an understanding about this, because it is not worth it to read them if it will seriously hurt your wife.” ~ SneakyVonSneakyPants
However the decision ended up out of the father’s hands.
The Original Poster (OP) provided an update.
“First and foremost, thank you all so so much for your condolences and for sharing your thoughts and experiences dealing with losing a loved one. Secondly, I’m sorry if this post isn’t necessarily the neatest, I am still at a loss for words.”
He shared how his 14-year-old son found out about the diary and read it.
“My son did so behind our backs and we only came to find out when he lashed out, calling his sister selfish and all the names under the sun for doing what she did. My wife on the other hand is beyond pissed at my son for reading our daughter’s diary.”
“She said that our daughter is going to be mad at our family when she ‘gets back,’ only to find out that one of us read it. I’m guessing she hasn’t accepted the fact that she’s gone and will never return.”
“As for me and my wife, we haven’t read our daughter’s diary, only our son did. Based on my son’s reaction, I can assume that you guys were right, that her diary is filled with hatred, as if someone else wrote in it.”
“I don’t know the contents of it but I know how and who my daughter was and her brother loved her who for who she was and now, he can’t stand it when his sister’s name is mentioned.”
“That was exactly what I was afraid of that after reading her diary, our perspective of her would be completely different.”
“My son is temporarily speaking with a family member who’s a therapist and we’ll be switching him over to a different one hopefully by next week to avoid conflict of interests and as a family, we’re now in contact with a counselor. I want to talk to my wife about her getting into therapy too, as she still thinks our daughter is still here but she’s just away on a ‘trip,’ my wife calls it.”
“But beyond that, still nothing much has changed. My wife still cries every night and though my son [is] very much upset with his sister, we still find him around his sister’s room.”
“And for me? Nothing, still empty and probably always will be, which isn’t fair to my son and wife so I’ll probably seek a therapist for myself as well. Plus, I know many marriages don’t survive after the death of a child, so marriage counseling is something I want to bring up to my wife when I feel is appropriate.”
“What about the diary? It’s gone, hidden well within our home. Hell, I may even forget where it’s at years down the line but I do know I want to read it when I’m ready, whether that’s with my wife or not.”
“I want to know her struggles, read her fun times (if she has any written), and what made her do it. I know reading it won’t give me closure, but it will give me an insight of what she was going through and let that be a lesson for me to be better for my son and to just always be there whether he’s feeling fine or not.”
“That’s about it. My heart still physically hurts from the loss of my daughter and for the rest of my family as they’re also in so much pain.”
“Some of you guys might be expecting this update to be about the contents of the diary but I’m choosing not to read it for a long, long time.
“And if my wife wants to? I won’t stop her, but I do want to tell her that she may not recognize our own daughter as my son didn’t.”
“Only time will heal our wounds and lots and lots of therapy and support. Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers. I can say for myself that it brought me a bit of comfort after such a massive loss.”
“Again, thank you all so much.”
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/