Saturday, October 18, 2014
When Friends Aren't in Your Corner
Someone asked me recently besides missing him, what is the hardest part about Dan's death. There are so many ways I could have responded to this and, realistically, the answer probably changes depending on the kind of day I'm having.
It's hard not having that person in your corner, your partner, that first one you'd always call to share happy news or to save you when you needed help.
It's hard accepting that our future together was taken from us. The children I will never hold. That first wedding anniversary. Growing old and sharing the life I thought we'd have.
But if I have to identify the most difficult, it would probably be the way that he died. Suicide. Dealing with the stigma and judgement around the fact that he took his life makes an impossible challenge just that bit worse.
Recently, a seven-year friendship with a friend ended because of that stigma.
Most people in my life understand that depression isn't a personality flaw or weakness - mental illness doesn't discriminate any more than cancer or heart disease. The happiest, most confident, loving, rational and stable person can lose their life to depression, nothing proved this to us more than Dan's death.
Through counselling and research I have been able to accept that Dan's suicide wasn't his 'choice'. He loved life and adored me and would never have wanted this pain for those of us whom he cared about so much. He lost his life to a disease, I don't question that anymore*.
It took a while to get to that place of peace. Hell, when he died, I questioned which way was up. I questioned if the sun would rise and of course I questioned how he could have done this. I couldn't begin to understand how, six weeks after our wedding, my darling reached such a state of despair that he could take his life.
So when I heard that in the weeks following his death, this friend was asking someone close to me very pointed questions around whether he could have been having an affair, or even if he may have been gay (?!), I tried to be open minded about the process of understanding that she was going through.
It was hard, I wanted to tear her apart for questioning his character and casting dispersion on our relationship. But I chose to give her the benefit of the doubt and have faith that she was only trying to come to terms with such a terrible tragedy and would also find her way to the answer that suicide doesn't have to mean there's anything wrong in a marriage.
When I saw her at social functions or dinner parties, I focused on her kind words of comfort and support and tried not be put off by all the personal questions she would ask (about whether I was dating again, or thinking of trying IVF to have a child on my own). It was difficult, I couldn't be as open with her as I would have been before. I didn't trust her. But I couldn't confront her about her comments and clear the air without exposing that the person she'd spoken to had passed it on to me.
Then, in July, around the time of his one year anniversary, I heard she was still doing it. This time, asking the same close friend if we may have been having problems in the bedroom.
And that was it. The line was well and truly crossed. I mean, SERIOUSLY! The guy's been dead for a year now, just let him rest in peace. Enough was enough. This friend obviously couldn't let go of her need to find some kind of scandalous personal problem to rationalise his death. In a year she still hadn't learnt that suicide can happen to even the happiest people with everything to live for.
Ever since the day he died I have spoken about Dan's death openly, choosing to raise awareness about suicide rather than buy into the notion that it's something to be ashamed about. And I can't have people in my life who can't accept that he died because he was sick - not because of a fault in his personality or our relationship.
* In the interest of 100% honestly, I have to clarify that of course I still have the occasional slide back to day one where my brain goes right back in to shock and I forget everything I've learnt about suicide. In these moments I don't understand how I got here and why on earth this happened to us. I can't believe he's gone, let alone how. But thankfully these moments are fleeting and, I believe, are more about the grief roller coaster and my process of healing rather than any doubts about Dan's frame of mind that day.