Tuesday 20 March 2018

Dear Mary: Ever since my friend's suicide my dad is far too protective

Some time ago a friend of mine committed suicide. We had been good friends all through school, even though she was really messed up and I felt so sorry for her.

I don't want to go into details but she had big problems. Everyone else thought she was fine, but some time ago she decided to confide in me and it was a big shock.

When she committed suicide I was really upset, but my dad arranged that I saw a counsellor and that helped a lot. But as soon as I started college my dad has been getting more and more paranoid. He is convinced that I am going to commit suicide too, even though I've assured him that there isn't a chance of that happening because I'm having too good a time and I'm happy. But he calls me at all hours of the day to see how I am and where I am.

He doesn't mind when I go out on a date with a boy, but if I am on a girls' night out he wants to know everything about it, where we are going, what we are doing, he calls me half-way through the evening and insists that I get home by a certain time ... and then he waits up for me.

I know I should love him for his concern, but quite frankly it's driving me mad. My mother died when I was little so I don't know who to talk to about this. I can't afford to move into a flat. What should I do?

Mary replies:

Try to see things from your father's point of view. His child was very friendly with a girl who seemed to have it all and yet committed suicide. The first thing we usually do when confronted with someone else's trauma is to ask ourselves what we would do in that situation and this has obviously happened with your dad. How would he feel if his own daughter, who appears to be happy, were to suddenly commit suicide?

As a result of the panic that he no doubt feels at the thought, he reaches out to you for reassurance. Parenthood brings a lot of anxieties, and it is often very comforting to be able to speak to the other parent and get their views on any given situation.

Parents very often do not agree on the best way of handling a particular issue, but it is always helpful to be able to talk things through. Your father has already experienced huge personal loss on the death of your mother but he has also lost a co-parent.

I'm not in any way diminishing your own loss at such a pivotal time in your life but I'm trying to help you understand why he is so overly protective of you, particularly when you are with your girlfriends.

It isn't so very long since your friend died. While things will never be the same, it gets slightly easier over time. The passage of time will also help your father as he gets more used to the idea that you are happy and have absolutely no suicidal thoughts. In the meantime you will have to be patient and continue to reassure him that all is well in your life.

As time goes by, you might suggest that instead of calling you that he text you which would be less intrusive for you, and also you can text him when you are on your way home so that he can go to bed and won't actually be waiting up for you.

I appreciate that you want to respect your friend's wishes regarding divulging details of her problems but I sincerely hope that you discussed this with your counsellor. It would certainly be too big a burden for you to carry on your own.

Submit your letters to Mary anonymously at dearmary.ie.

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