There are many readers of Planet Grief who have been bereaved by suicide: some have written privately to me and some I have met in ‘real life’. My late husband’s first wife, Kay, died from complications after a suicide attempt. I cannot comprehend the complexity of emotions that suicide brings, I only know that at times there is intense anger at what feels like the ultimate selfish betrayal, yet at others, enormous compassion for the courage to say, ‘I’ve had enough. I can’t go on.’ I also know that these two emotions (and many shades in between) can be felt by the same person within minutes, such is the rollercoaster of grief, compounded by the additional emotional complexities suicide brings.
There is a quote in my book, When Bad Things Happen in Good Bikinis from Emma, who was widowed after her husband took his life in circumstances which hit the headlines. In part of the quote Emma writes:
The stigma and awkwardness on someone’s face when I follow the words that I am a widow with, ‘my husband died by suicide,’ well, it’s a bit like slap in the face every time. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of experiences of suicide, just not the method and circumstance of M. Then I think of the man that was, and this is just another thing that I can put down to being ‘unconventional’.
Gayle, thank you for your story which is painful to read, but even more painful to live. What I would say to you is that there are people reading your story right now who have first-hand experience of losing a spouse by suicide. I am sure that they would agree with me that life will never be the same again for you or your family, but that you will forge a new life, a new normal, and that it can be a good life. It takes time.
After 20 years of struggling on and off to keep my husband alive during his periodic severe depressive phases, he/we finally lost the fight two months ago. We had been together a total of 30 years and one evening at midnight he walked out the door, without a word or a glance and he didn’t come back.
The next time I saw him was in a hospital mortuary.
His walking out occurred two weeks before we were due to move house. We were downsizing, the move would enable us to be mortgage-free, pay off the overdraft and credit cards and make a fresh start financially, without the burden of debt which had dogged us for years. So two weeks after his disappearance, I packed up our home of 27 years and moved into the new house on my own, unsure of what the future was going to bring. Two weeks after I moved into the new house the police visited me to inform me my 57 year old gorgeous, loving husband had taken his own life. A member of the public had found him in his car, he’d cut a main artery in his arm and bled to death. The demons he had been fighting most of this life had finally won and we were all the losers.
The nature and circumstances of his death haunt me and I don’t know how I am ever going to come to terms with his dying in this horrible way and so alone. There was no suicide note, but the note he left on the night he first walked out told me he loved me, but that I would be better off without him in the long run, because he had brought me so much grief and worry over the years. And yes, this is true, he had brought me huge emotional grief, but during the ‘good times’ when the depression wasn’t rearing its ugly head we were very happy and had a loving relationship.
My daughter and I are bereft and my little two-year old grand-daughter has lost her “Bubba” – he adored her. But even having a loving caring family for all these years wasn’t enough to fight the depression when it struck with its full force. I strongly suspect my husband was bi-polar, but this was never diagnosed and I constantly felt the medical profession simply didn’t do enough and never seemed to have adequate resources.
The premature loss of your husband is bad enough, but when you also add suicide to the maelstrom of emotions and grief it feels like an added dimension and burden to cope with.
I have no idea when/if I will return to being the person I once was; confident, happy, outgoing, sociable and loved, I just know my life is forever changed now in ways I detest and things will never ever be the same again.