I had a dream last week that caused me to yell out in my sleep. I don’t remember ever doing that before. I dreamed I was with Krista, my wife, and we were on a boat close to a dock. I think the dock was a refuge. She jumped first and made it safely but once it was my turn the dock was to far away. I grabbed a rope and tried to swing out and reach her but the rope wasn’t long enough and I found myself being dragged through the water.
I thought of drowning. Just letting go and drowning and seeing my daughter again. It’s strange but sometimes she’s alive in my dreams and sometimes she’s dead.
I yelled out when a big shark, like some monster from hell, exploded from the water beneath me and crushed my body in its jaws. Right before I woke up I remember thinking, “So this it what it feels like to be eaten alive.”
It’s said losing a child is the hardest thing a person can experience and if there is something worse I can’t imagine what it would be. The last four months have been hell peppered with the smiles of memories. I cherish those when they come, even if they last for only a moment.
I also cherish the times when I forget she’s gone. Brief moments when I think of calling her to see how she is. Or, like I did last week, calling and asking her if she wants to come to Mexico with us again. Bitter sweet seconds.
Four months ago this week my daughter ended her life. I don’t know what her final thoughts were. Did she think of me, her mom, her sisters? Were her last thoughts random flashes of the pain she experienced during the last months of her life and she just wanted them gone? Was she mad? Did she cry?
This is the hardest thing I have ever faced. Much harder than watching my father slowly die from prostate cancer. That made me sad and angry, but nothing compared to this. This is an ocean of grief. I’m treading water in a tidal wave of pain, disbelief, anger, sadness, waves and waves of heartache.
Seventeen years old. That is so young. Seventeen years of memories I cling desperately too: her first words, first steps, first day of school, all the firsts I could get. Rehtaeh was my only child and I packed everything I could into being a father.
If I focused on her death I’d go insane and my days would be filled with a rage I doubt I could control. So I focus instead on our trip to Cozumel, our overnight train trip to Ottawa, the PEI waterpark in the summer. Afternoons in the pool or just walking through a park. Sometimes she’s in a stroller, sometimes she’s holding my hand, sometimes she’s as tall as I am.
I’m afraid of what’s next. How will I feel if the police don’t lay charges? How will I feel if they do? She’s gone now. She’ll never know justice.
Will I ever believe in justice again?
I am very proud of my daughter for speaking out about what happened to her. I know it wasn’t easy and I understand now why most women choose to remain silent. Sexual assault victims really do become the accused when the crimes against them are investigated.
Rehtaeh used to tell her mother she didn’t feel like she was waking from a nightmare, she felt like she was waking into one.
I get that now.
I walk around being eaten alive, hanging onto a rope, tied to a boat going nowhere.