Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert is speaking out about suicide prevention on the anniversary of her father’s death.
The actress’s father, Paul Gilbert, ended his life after spending years in physical pain. But for decades, Melissa believed that he passed away in his sleep after suffering a stroke.
It wasn’t until she was an adult that she learned the truth. When she did, Melissa began using her platform to advocate for suicide awareness. And because today marks 46 years since the tragedy, she took to Instagram to share her story.
“Warning: this post is about suicide and its aftermath,” she began.
The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Says the Pain of Losing a Loved One to Sucide is ‘Soul-Crushing’
In the post, Melissa Gilbert explained the circumstances that led to her father’s suicide.
Paul was wounded while serving in World War II. And because of his injuries, he “was in excruciating unrelenting pain.”
But because Paul Gilbert was “under the ‘care’ of a dysfunctional VA health care system,” that pain was never properly managed.
“He’d been threatening suicide for a long time,” she continued. “And no one really listened. Most certainly no one helped him. So at about 7:15 am on this day 46 years ago, he shot himself in the head with a .38.”
The actress was only 11 years old when her father passed. And losing him was “beyond traumatic.” But learning the truth as an adult made her go through an entirely new and raw form of mourning.
“I was 45 years old and had to walk through a whole new kind of trauma and deep, gut-wrenching grief.” “I am well past that soul-crushing pain now, but this year the anniversary of my father’s death brings with it a new sort of melancholy as I realize that I am the same age today as he was when he took his life those many years ago,” Melissa explained.
As the Little House on the Prairie star reflected on Paul’s suicide, she emotionally detailed everything that her father missed out on by taking his life. And she hopes to save other people from the pain that she carries by teaching them how to recognize and help their friends and family in need.
“I wish, like me, he could have known the unbridled joy that grandchildren bring. I wish, like me, he could have the love of a true life partner. To feel cherished, safe, and most of all, heard,” Melissa continued. “So today, as I do every day of every year, I will choose to honor his decision and his choice. I choose to ‘hear’ him and cherish him and keep his memory safe.”
“If you or someone you know is dealing with suicide or suicidal thoughts or ideation,” she added, “please call the National suicide prevention lifeline 1-800-273-8255.”