Embracing Light in the Shadow of Loss

One father’s reflection on finding resilience, purpose, and connection after tragedy

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An abstract image of a blonde haired young woman staring into a black hole and the light surrounding it.
Image created by the author

Trigger warning — This article mentions suicide, although it focuses on my reaction and how my life has changed since the event.

My daughter Holly took her own life six years ago. What felt like staring into or being consumed by a black hole has become quite different.

A black hole is only known to exist because of the presence of light around it. Or, as NASA put it:

A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying. Because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes.

The moment my wife put down the phone, and I heard the words Holly and suicide in the same sentence, I felt that pull of gravity sucking all the light out of my world. Six years after the event, I can still feel that pull of gravity towards dark despair, but I can take a step back and notice how the black hole allowed me to appreciate the light around me more than I ever have before.

My Birthday Story

It was a joyous day. We awoke in our campervan in South Cornwall in brilliant sunshine and below-zero temperatures. After a glorious walk along the coast, we settle into a pub next to a log fire. What was billed as the best Sunday lunch in Cornwall is just that. We review the details of previous birthday and anniversary meals as always.

Top of the list is always the one Holly instigated at Ronnie Scotts on my 60th. We can now reminisce and think fondly of this and other events where Holly’s big personality features strongly. Arriving home midafternoon, my whole mood seems to change.

I am cold and exhausted. I warm up in the shower and then crawl under the duvet with a hot water bottle. Experiencing the light for a few hours has drawn my attention to the black hole that is constantly there. No one else can see it, and I know by now that it will not consume me or suck all the light out of my world. I am keenly aware of the light because of the black hole. If the black hole were not…

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John Walter đź“ŁTherapy and creativity

Counsellor, jazz musician, AI Art nerd, bereaved father. Writing about my experience. Listening to yours. https://johnwaltercounsellor.com/