Losing My Dad

There is one thing I have always struggled with. It’s the initial reaction of people when I tell them that not only has my father passed away, but the circumstances that led to his death. I have always dreaded being introduced to new people or my friends' parents because one of the first questions they ask is, “What does your dad do?” I always respond with the same answer, “He passed away when I was young.” Then they always ask the inevitable follow-up question, “How?” I have always considered the word 'suicide' immensely harsh. It’s just a flat out ugly word. It is definitely not a word that a young girl should be so comfortable with, while others cower in fear of it.

I have never been embarrassed of how my dad passed away, but I have always been frustrated with the negative connotation of his death. I have always been frustrated with the gape in people’s mouths when they say, “Oooh I’m so sorry…” Anyone who has experienced losing someone to suicide can relate to this experience because it is quite obvious that the other person has become seriously uncomfortable and has probably even regretted prodding you on such a “horrific” or “traumatizing” experience. I don’t blame them; it’s uncomfortable for both of us. But, it doesn’t have to be.

I want people to know that although my dad’s death has affected me, it does not define me. I am not saying I am thankful in anyway that my dad died, I would do anything for one last fishing trip or one last afternoon spent watching SpongeBob SquarePants with him, but I wouldn’t be who I am without it. I've had to mature at a very young age, which has been a blessing and a curse. I have a hard time being around my peers that constantly use the terminology “I want to kill myself” or “kill yourself” over menial matters that include homework or other minor stressors. Sometimes I wish my experience on this subject spanned that far, but I’m glad I am not that ignorant in using such phrases so flippantly. I am thankful for how socially aware I have become, regardless of the extent my father has contributed to that.

I know I have missed out on a lot of opportunities that only growing up with a father can present, but I am a firm believer that it has not deterred from any aspect of my experience growing up. I am a firm believer that the conventional idea of a family is not the only way to have a family. I am constantly in awe of my mom. Her ability to raise me and my siblings the best way she could is in my opinion equal or better than what two parents are capable of in some circumstances. I don’t care that I’ve never experienced a daddy daughter dance. But, I do care that I have been fortunate enough to be raised by an utterly selfless women who is constantly putting the needs of not only her children, but countless others before herself.

When the organization i understand was founded, I was a bit frightened at first. I was scared of what my peers at school would think of me and what they would think about my dad with everything being out in the open. Being an introvert and being someone who often keeps everything inside, this idea was a nightmare. But, I’ll never forget the day when all of my friends and many others wore i understand shirts on National Suicide Prevention Day in September. I was overwhelmed with happiness and felt surrounded by support and love. This helped to put everything into perspective for me, knowing there are people who truly do understand and empathize. I urge you to learn more about i understand's "Wear, Care, Share" campaign and help to raise awareness in your own school, workplace, or community. The more we talk, the more we encourage others to share their own stories and hopefully help others who are living a daily battle with mental illness.


by Maddie Woodrick

About the Author
Maddie Woodrick is currently a freshman at Lake Forest College. She is passionate about adventuring outdoors and advocating for a stigma free community on campus and beyond. Maddie is the daughter of i understand Founder, Vonnie Woodrick.



  • Reading this has eased my mind in a sense. My sons father lost his battle with depression on November 30th 2017. It’s still very fresh for all of us. My son will be 9 on Christmas Eve. I am so worried for his future. I am happy to read that there is some hope that he will grow up to be a well rounded person, still. His father was his best friend, and it scares me beyond belief that he is gone now. Thank you for writing this and sharing your story. I mean that heart and soul. I let my son know to not be ashamed to talk about it, his father would want us to spread the word about mental health and the lack of help we have for it. I am hoping he will have your point of view as he grows older. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Jessica Shelton
  • I was very moved and impressed with the ability of Maddie
    to express herself in her article “Losing My Dad”.by Maddie Woodrick. She is able to convey with honesty her feelings about a taboo subject of suicide which is difficult at best. I especially appreciated her understanding of the difficult job her mother has and her statement about “this doesn’t define me”!

    Gloria A. Gregory
  • Hi Maddie! You are an incredible young woman with a wonderful mom. I am the mom of 3 adult children; my daughter died by suicide at age 47 and my oldest son also died by suicide at age 46, ( 3 years ago ). He left behind 2 beautiful young daughters that we have had the privilege of raising. The oldest graduates from high school this year and will be attending college this fall. Her sister is currently a freshman in high school and doing well. We are excited to now meet our sons heart recipient after sending letters back and forth for 3 years. I have friends who have also lost loved ones this way. There is a stigma which we all must conquer together. After our daughter died, I had a neighbor of many years walk right by me with her head down. I was out in the yard talking to another neighbor at the time. I called to her and invited her to come visit with us. I told her it was ok to talk to us about it! Thank you, for your brave messages!

    Lin Johnson
  • Thank you for this Maddie!

    Lisa Schweiger

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