I just turned 19 two weeks ago. On January 31, 2014, my dad OD'd in his office at work in the middle of the night. I found out from his partner at work who lives in our neighborhood. I came downstairs, was about to head out the door to go to school, when I heard my mom wailing and saw him standing there in his pajamas holding my mom. I threw my bag down and ran over and asked what happened. That is when he said "Your dad is dead." It didn't seem real at first, but I still immediately fell to the ground in-between them and started crying. Then I got up, ran out the door and down the street in our neighborhood. I ran until I couldn't run any more. Then I sat down on the curb and started crying. Sometime later, could have been 5-10-15 minutes later, our neighbor drove up, parked, and said that my mom needed me right now. I sat there another couple minutes, then got in his truck and went home.

I have one brother who is 2 years older than me. I have 4 grandparents. 3 of whom are biological. I had one really close cousin, but she got married to a Marine and he got stationed in Okinawa. My brother lives and goes to school in Atlanta. I will be leaving for the University of Alabama in Huntsville next Friday.

While preparing for college and the next step in my life, I have come up with hundreds of questions that only a father could answer.

I started blacksmithing a few weeks ago, and just recently did I realize that one of the reasons I started that was because most of the men there are old and wise.

I was wanting a father figure. A mentor. I would give anything to have someone who could take me out somewhere, whether to dinner or just doing something at the park or go fishing or anything, and answer my questions and give me advise that is time tested.

I don't know if this will ever happen. I hope it will.

My name is Hunter, and I feel orphaned.

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Hunter, I hear you, man. And understand. I lost my dad when I was 16. Life is shitty and unfair and sometimes you just don't know what to do next. But you're not alone. Know that. And you will move forward, some days easier than others. But recognize how you feel and don't be afraid to be afraid. You've been dealt a bad hand, but there's more in store for you. Just take time to process it all. Have faith. You'll get through it.

I also understand Hunter.  I still miss my father.

Hi Hunter, I'm sorry to read about your dad and the struggles your going through right now. I lost my dad when I was 15 (my mom when I was 24). I'm almost 44 now. My dad died of a heart attack. It's very hard to lose your father as a teen. I think you are right in looking for a mentor/father figure. I didn't do that. I helped my sister with taking care of the house and our mom and grandmother.  I really grew up fast and that cost me. I lost most of my teen years. The fact that you are blacksmithing and looking for older and wiser "father" figures is a testament to you and your self awareness that this is something that you need. I commend that, keep looking for that.

The grief will always be there. The deaths of both of my parents still affect me and my sister after all these years. We grow and learn from that to become better siblings and better people.

In the past I used to ignore the fact that it may have affected me and how. I didn't want to use it as an excuse in life. This was a mistake, don't do that. I should have learned all I could about grief and the feelings and emotions I was going through. it only comes back to you later. But, you seem to know this already and are on the right path.

The lawyer that helped us with the estate after my mom passed called my sister and I orphans. We hated that.

Best wishes Hunter.

Hunter, I wish I could say something or give you some dazzling piece of advice that would make everything better, but sadly, I can't. Please, do two things though. First, allow yourself to feel what you're "feeling" and understand that mourning a loss like you've had will take time. It won't be over with in a few weeks, or a few months. I suppose I'm saying that you need to take it easy on yourself, and allow yourself time to process the countless things you'll be feeling or thinking. Reach out to friends and family you trust, and watch out for the creeping tendency to want to spend too much time alone.

Second, in time, when you can, forgive your father, and understand that his suicide wasn't a personal act intended to hurt you. No doubt, it's left you in a world of pain that's almost impossible to describe, but your father was clearly a man with a number of issues and in a level of emotional pain that prevented him from thinking clearly / acting rationally. My relationship with my father was far from perfect, but I had to learn to forgive the pain he caused me through my life, and eventually, let it go. Holding on to it keeps you in an unhealthy limbo, and I'm sure your Dad would want you to go on and finish school, find a career you like, and enjoy your life. Live a life that you feel would honor him / his memory.

I wish you the absolute best. Stay strong, pray hard, have faith, and you will get through this. Take care of yourself.

Since he was buried, I have visited the cemetery twice. Once the day before I left for school last year and a few days ago the day before I left for school this year. It was the first time I had cried so hard in a long time. First with tears of sadness, but then I started talking and my mind just started wondering around and I ended up walking back to my car where my girlfriend was waiting with a smile on my face. She was confused, until I told her that I finally got to tell my dad that I forgive him. I had tears of joy.

I think I have found a father figure at the forge. His name is Larry. I think he might just view me as a friend, but I view him as so much more, and I have no idea how to go about this. He has taught me 85% of everything I know about blacksmithing. He has a booth at the local fresh market in Chattanooga that I went to every Sunday I could, and most of the time if I wasn't with anyone, I would sit with him and his wife for a couple hours just talking about random stuff. He says that he looks forward to seeing me at the market every Sunday, but I don't know if it is because I am just pleasant company and we can give each other shit and still be friends or if he views me as more than a friend. He is 65 and has two full grown daughters but no sons and he lives on a farm with his wife. Do you know or know of someone who does know how I can go about this?

Hunter, just keep up your visits with your mentor/father figure, and enjoy his company. One day, when the time is right, you can tell him that aside from being a great friend he's also like a substitute father in a number of respects, and that you're thankful for his presence in your life. Guys can be weird about showing emotion, even when it's sincere, so just wait until the time is right and don't force anything. You'll know when that time comes.

Right now, that's the best I know how to advise you.

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