|My husband Daniel and I on our wedding day.|
Saturday, May 17, 2014
The Next Chapter
When Michele invited me to write for Widow’s Voice I was incredibly honoured and also excited at the opportunity to help other widows and widowers, particularly those affected by suicide. I was, however, very nervous about opening up and laying our story out for everyone to see; and potentially judge. My husband Daniel was a conservative and private person, even with his cheeky sense of humour and warm, outgoing, friendly nature. He was the ultimate gentleman – so respectful, fair, classy and not one to push his opinion on others or air dirty laundry in public (just to be clear, not that I consider depression to be ‘dirty laundry’ on any level).
The day after he took his own life I started the never-ending, painful process of telling our world what had happened. I had called his parents and sister the night he died, after he failed to come home from work and police officers eventually came to my door at 10pm notifying me that he was gone. That was the most difficult call of all – telling his family. I was in deep shock so hadn’t felt my own heart break at that point, but I heard theirs shatter and will never forget that night.
Telling our friends and work colleagues was a slightly different experience. I needed to decide, how much would I share? How could I say he’d died by suicide? People wouldn’t believe it – he was so happy, popular and successful. We were only married six weeks … they might assume he didn’t love me (and sadly, I heard that there were some comments made, questioning our relationship, but that’s for another day). I knew he would be disappointed and embarrassed that this was his last chapter. He wasn’t ‘that person’. It just wasn’t supposed to end like that for him.
So I decided it wouldn’t. His story would go on because I wouldn’t let his death be his last act. Instead, I would talk about Dan’s depression and suicide. I would work hard to try and understand it myself and then share our story because maybe, if someone had of shared their story with Dan, he might have realised that what he was feeling wasn’t normal and wasn’t ok. He might have been moved to ask for help rather than be silenced by the stigma of mental illness and the ridiculous notion that to admit that you’re not feeling ok means you’re weak or broken; or being an unnecessary burden; or attention-seeking.
I would look people squarely in the eye and say "I lost my husband to depression. He took his life after five weeks on anti-depressants, after becoming convinced that he had dementia and was becoming an inevitable burden on myself and our families." I would brace myself against the waves of pity, shock and disbelief that came when I dropped that bomb and be patient with the ignorant or insensitive comments that sometimes followed, attempting to educate others and push them out of their own pre-conceived assumptions of why people succumb to this disease that is mental illness.
Please don’t think that because I manage to talk about my experience that I find the process easy. I cry every day. I couldn’t function for months … still can’t some days. My family and friends carried me through the darkest days and the horror of his death still haunts me. Just when I start to think I’ve finally made peace with his suicide and can now divert my energy to processing my grief, there it is again, asking ‘why’ or ‘how could this have happened’ or ‘what if’. These questions will never go away, but I’m not as scared of them as I was before and feel better equipped to make my peace with them and let them pass.
So above all else I am grateful that Michele has put her faith and trust in me to talk about Dan’s suicide and my grief here, in the hope that it helps others walking this path beside me. And I’m grateful to you, for reading, for being part of this community and reminding me that I’m not here alone. Thank you, I look forward to sharing my story with you.