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Four Months After Rehtaeh's Death, I'm Only Treading Water

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Today marks four months since my daughter Rehtaeh ended her life. I think where I am is best summed up in a dream I had last week.

At the end of this dream, just before I awoke, I yelled 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 we had to get to. She jumped first and made it safely but once it was my turn the dock was too far away. So 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. In this dream she was 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 that losing a child is the hardest thing a person can experience and if there is something worse I can't imagine what it could possibly be. The last four months have been hell peppered with smiles as I think back on 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. Bitter sweet seconds of peace.

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 to: her first words, first steps, first day of school, all the firsts I could get. Rehtaeh was my only child.

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 P.E.I. 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. She will never know justice.

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.

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