Hey Jessica, it is so lovely to hear how proud your dad was of your girls. They will carry that with them through their lives, even though it is tinged with sadness....but his pride will be part of their self belief. I am sure he was proud of you too...you brought up those girls. That pride and love is not erased when someone becomes unwell. What has been laid down with love and good intent doesn't disappear - you can't make history disappear - we are woven beings from the day we are born. I wonder if both you and your girls might like to make some notes about your dad and what he meant to you, the things you did together, his ways and sayings...sometimes I think of my special memories as one of those little snowglobes...those in the know (my family) can see, but nobody else can
Jessica, if we could all meet in a cafe, we would welcome you and comfort you - all the terrible 'shame' you feel would not even find a space in you because we feel for your loss sweetheart and we feel for your dad's pain. It is a big big task to move beyond the knee-jerk reaction of society...it is not simply a decision but a part of going and growing through grief. They are far away words with not much practical assistance to you I know.
As for upper middle class NORMAL families.....I am a bit older than you so I see it differently (but I was paranoid about my family when I was younger). Suffice to say there is no such thing as a normal family.....scratch the surface. Believe me, the world is crawling with people who live both peace and horror and everything in-between in their heads no matter what socio-economic or cultural status.....and by outward appearances.... And from one end of the spectrum to the other, suicide is the great leveller that stops doctors and health care workers in their tracks and leaves them scratching their heads. There are many many people who suffer mental health problems who do not die by suicide....so it gets even more complicated (I don't mean to upset anyone here).
Normal families...I need to share this. My husband's family are lovely people, very strong work ethic, quiet factual non-emotive conversationalists, good decision makers etc...my family are slightly er ...loud, dramatic, artistic etc. After 20 odd years as part of my husband's family, guess how I enrich them? I'm a hugger....the FIVE second variety, the heartfelt type...and they bubble before my eyes, drawn out. As my father-in-law was declining, my hugs brought tears to his eyes. I rest my case for the normal family argument. So Jessica, I bet you are so special to your husband's family...if you can suspend the compulsion to judge yourself (which is a normal part of the vulnerability of suicide bereavement), to be kind to yourself and offload responsibility for everything and everyone (also normal)...think about how his family (and very much your family by now) is enriched by your company. I bet they love you Jessica....mum's are so used to delivering their love, it is unfamiliar to feel so needing of love. Let them love you.
Having raved on, families do NOT meet all our needs. Open hearts and listeners do, and sometimes people beyond family members present as unhindered by old patterns of relating....the space is clear. If you are capable of any action, please find that heart, friend, counsellor, minister - you will know if it is right for you. From little things, big things grow.
The chest exploding feeling I know well. It is pain sweetheart...it wants to come out. I am one day very pleased for finding an avenue and the next, frustrated because the avenue is now closed or hidden. But somehow, I never lose hope to search. I wish this for you.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.