Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Eternal Challenge of the Suicide Widow



Last night, after a tough week, a friend and I treated ourselves to a night out at a local comedy festival to have a few laughs and blow off some steam. We had tickets to see an up-and-coming Australian comedian who has acted in a couple of popular local TV shows and I was really looking forward to seeing her live. 

It was great... until she started joking about suicide. My stomach dropped, my face started burning, my throat tightened and my eyes were pricked with tears.  I couldn't believe it.  There I was trying to forget about being a suicide widow for a night and the topic was being shoved in my face. 

I tried really hard not to spiral into the grief, to just breathe and push it aside, but I just couldn't loosen up and laugh properly again after that.  At the end of her suicide bit she may have noticed a few blank looks in the audience (there were a few laughs too though) and finished it with 'come on people, lighten up, I'm joking!'.  Making me feel not only sad and self-conscious, but also like I was some kind of uptight downer who couldn't take a joke.

Driving home, I kept thinking about it.  I know it's not uncommon for comedians to push the limits of social decency for the sake of a joke. But is suicide EVER funny?!  Even for those who haven't been touched by it?  

Dan's suicide has been weighing heavily in my thoughts this week.  I don't usually focus on it, but have found myself heavily distracted with questions around why and how it could have happened to him.  

A few days ago I was searching for something on my computer and found a link to his wedding speech.  I'm going to share it here for anyone who might be interested.  We were married a little over six weeks before he died.  So this man, standing up in front of a room full of people who care about him, brimming with happiness, love and gratitude, was 45 days away from taking his life.  I want to track down people who say 'suicide is a choice' and show them my husband's wedding speech.

It's probably been a year or so since I've watched it.  Seeing him standing there, talking about how meeting me was like finding his home, brought on a wave of disbelief that hit me like a tsunami.  I didn't see depression in him that night.  

Looking back, I can see times throughout our relationship where he was a bit quieter than usual or seemed a bit withdrawn.  He never pulled away from me or held anything back between us, so I had made assumptions that it was his personality to sometimes be a bit detached from the hustle and bustle going on around him.  I had no way of knowing what he was battling.  Any silence or space in the months before he died was most likely filled by my own excitement about our wedding and starting our life together.  He was always fully there with me, never giving me reason for concern.  But what did I know?  I had no idea what to look for, I just didn't see it. 

In his speech my husband says: 'Our lives are just beginning and together there is nothing we can't do.  We can take on the world, it's me and you and nothing else matters.' 

These words have echoed around my mind and torn at my heart since I heard them again this week.  I want to feel angry.  I want to rage at the injustice of him dying like he did.  It's not supposed to happen like that.  How is this my story now?  What on earth happened?

It can be so easy for those of us left behind by suicide to get lost in that torment of what should have been. I have worked incredibly hard to find a place of acceptance in the way Dan died.  This is the only way I can move forward. There will never be answers to the questions that I deserve to ask.  No good can come from fixating on them, I have to let them go.  

This is my eternal challenge, because even though months can go past where I feel like I understand how depression took him and I'm at peace with it, they will never be resolved and I will always have to work at the 'letting go'.

It's so very difficult, this extra layer of grief that suicide hands us.  The stigma that it brings can cast a shadow on the memory of our loved ones that makes the burden slightly heavier to bear.  I never could have imagined that this might be part of my story, but it is.

I have to keep reminding myself that he died from a disease.  Looking at him standing there, in his beautiful wedding suit, the pride and happiness beaming from him, I can't see this disease.  This in itself is the problem.  It's invisible, tormenting and sneaky and would have caused him to doubt himself in the cruelest of ways.  I hate this disease. I am petrified of it and I hate it.  I think of it as the demon disease that fed lies to my wonderful husband until his brain was poisoned beyond his own recognition.

When I look back on photos from our time together I sometimes see a shadow here and there, a flatness in his eyes in some photos. And these break my heart.  But I'm glad I couldn't see it in him on our wedding day.

I hope he had some reprieve that day.  I believe he did.  And so I will carry these memories with me always, using them to bring comfort during the times that his depression attempts to torment me too.

19 comments:

  1. After watching the wedding speech, it is so obvious how much he loved you and how happy he was. What a shock that he would be gone so soon after. I hope that it gives you comfort knowing how important you were to him and how he treasured you. It brought tears to my eyes.

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    1. Thank you Ruthie, this video really does bring me a lot of comfort. I know some couples didn't get to celebrate their wedding day, so am grateful for ours. Take care

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  2. His happiness and love for you is so very apparent in that wedding speech, Rebecca. I am so sorry for the 'eternal challenge' you carry, but I believe your sharing here is helping others to better understand it was a disease that took your dear Dan - not a choice, not something that should add an extra burden to your grief. How blessed you are to have that video. Hold tight to all of the wonderful feelings of that special day.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your kind words, I agree I am very blessed to have this video. Not just the footage of him and the sound of his voice, but the memory of how happy he was on this beautiful day is priceless.

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  3. dear Rebecca,

    I am so sorry for the excruciating pain that surfaced on your evening out with your friend. you have worked so hard all through the anguish of your grief and been a paragon of advocacy for others who have suffered the loss of a Beloved one from suicide, to foster understanding that it is a result of a disease that is insidious and can be completely hidden. after watching the video of your darling Dan's wedding speech I think that truth is obvious - he loved you so much and you both were so completely in love and overjoyed at finding one another. sharing that video is another powerful message to the many people who have seen it, and brings a whole other dimension to the tragedy that you and others have suffered.

    I hope you can feel Dan's love for you each time your grief is triggered so savagely , I hope you can believe that wherever he is is where you are - his Home, his Dearest Love, his Champion, his Voice and that he is so proud of you for speaking his truth with such courage, grace, and determination. and though you are right, that there will never be answers to the questions you deserve to ask, and realize you must let them go, the main question has already been answered. Dan loved you with all his heart and soul, deeply, wildly, madly, Dan loved you. hold on tight, dear Rebecca and know that no one, that nothing can ever take that away from you.

    much love, and many gentle, warm hugs

    Karen

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    1. Thank you Karen, as always, your words bring tears to my eyes. I do still feel his love all around me and hope that I am making him proud. Thank you for reminding me me of how lucky I am to have that xo

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  4. I have been a suicide widow for 18 months. Thank you for sharing. It's so hard to find others who know exactly what I am experiencing.

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  5. I really feel speechless. What love bless you. So happy you have this wonderful video. Thank you for sharing your hubby with us.

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  6. Dearest Rebecca, I too am a suicide widow and know all too well how that stigma hides in the shadows ready to jump out when we least expect it. Knowing my Tony died from a disease brings me some peace, but it's hard to hold on to that when all around us we are reminded it was "a choice", "cowardly", "how could he do that to you..." and so on. As if he had a choice. Dan loved you with all his heart, that is clear in your beautiful video. He did not choose to leave you, he did not choose to leave this world. His disease took him as surely as cancer or heart disease or an accident has taken so many others. Thank you for sharing your experience here. It reminds me I'm not alone. Sending love and hugs to you.

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  7. I'm also a suicide widow. Being a widow is hard enough, but adding suicide to it makes it more complex I think. Depression can be such an invisible disease. l now think of all of strength and and courage it took for my husband to put a good face for those around him. Many of our family members had no clue of the pain he was in. Now I know I didn't know the depth of it either.

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I'm also a suicide widow. We were married for 13 weeks before he took his life on January 29, 2013. I recently came across a copy of his wedding vows and searched for any sign of his sadness. Your words:
    "Seeing him standing there, talking about how meeting me was like finding his home, brought on a wave of disbelief that hit me like a tsunami. I didn't see depression in him that night."
    were very touching and so familiar.
    I felt the stares of everyone at his funeral. A young widow, I cried alone and couldn't bear to look anyone in the eye. It's as if I could see what they were all thinking: How did you not know? Married for such a short period of time, we thought he was happy?
    His mother was the only person that actually said the words they were all thinking. How could this happen? I stared without an answer, without an explanation. I had nothing to offer. Wasn't I the person who should have all of these answers? If not me, his spouse, then who?
    About a week later, she called me. She said she owed me an apology. She was sorry for her questions that day. She also wanted me to know that she was very grateful I didn't ask - What happened to your child when you were raising him that would cause him to commit suicide?

    It's so important to dispel the stigma associated with suicide. I don't mean the social stigma alone. Isurance companies,survivor benefits and pension plans need to know that suicide is not a choice, it is a disease.
    Thank you for your courage.

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    1. Wow, our stories are very similar. I'm so sorry that you lost your love so soon in to your marriage also. It's very unfair. I'm also so sorry that you were put under that pressure at the funeral. I think everyone was so shocked at Dan's death that our family and friends all seemed to be looking at what THEY missed, what could THEY have done to help him. If anyone was looking at me, I wasn't aware of that, but I was in such shock, who knows. I'm glad your mother-in-law reached out though. It's such a nightmare for us, and we will never find the answers. Thank you for sharing and letting me know I'm not alone.

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  9. Very sorry gor your loss.
    Everyone keeps saying time heals and that someone special will come into my life again, etc.
    But, I've pondered endlessly if it's worth the risk. Once you have something so special, is it worth the risk of losing again?
    We were together ten years. Ours was so beautiful and deep, we worked together, came home together, did everything together without ever feeling the need for "Alone Time".
    Odd thing is, even when his depression made life more demanding, it fit well with a symptom of my ADHD, always needing something to do.
    We were so consumed by his condition, things like a will and Power of Attorney were not a priority. I kmow.........especially now.
    You see, we were a Same Sex Couple, and the fact that what we had for so long and so perfectly mattered not to the Powers That Be.
    I had always promised him I would be there for him, no matter what, to whatever Life had planned for us.
    The night he shot himself, he did it in front of me...............
    And, because of our tupe of relationship, I have had to sit by and watch our life picked apart by a family who knew less about him than I.
    We live in Florida, his family in Connecticut.
    His remaining family, mother and brother, have never been down here to see him.
    He wanted to be crematec and his ashes spread over his favorite fishing spot and the forest. He was adamant about never being put in the ground.
    He passed on February 16th........his ashes sit on a table at his mothers house, with plans to bury them with her, as she cannot respect her son enough to carry out his last wish.
    I beg anyone, in whatever kind of relationship you have; if It is a significant one and you feel it is the one you want to have the rest of your life, do everything you can to ensure it's validity.
    This has been as painful to me as his death and the questions I'll never have answers to.
    Thank you for your time. I swore I would make every effort to inform anyone, anywhere of my situation so the do not have to go through the same.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your bravery with us. I'm so sorry that you had to face the added stigma of your relationship not being recognised in the way you deserve. I have also thought a lot about the risk in loving again and how terrifying it would be to have so much to lose - again.

      What I keep coming back to is, if someone told me that I could only have Dan for 617 days before I would lose him, would I have been brave enough? I can't answer that question but I know for certain that I don't regret a moment of it. I'm thankful that I didn't know what the future would hold because I was out-of-this-workd happy and head-over-heels in love right up until the moment he died. Those 617 days were the happiest of my life, even though every moment since has been incredibly difficult.

      To me, I wouldn't give that up - even if I could erase the memory of him to spare my the pain. Hopefully, when the time comes to let another special someone in to my life, this will give me the bravery I need to hand over my heart again.

      Keep speaking up about your experience, I'm sure it is helping others more than you know. Sending you love and peace xo

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  10. I recently lost my husband to suicide. Like you, I see the things that appear to indicate hidden depression in rare instances over our many years together, but I know that, although his face looks sad, I can't generalize that to his whole life. The man was rarely without a smile, I was never far from a hug or a kiss, he embodied life itself. And then he chose to die. He was under considerable stress at the time and lapsed into a crisis I could not save him from. I am left trying to go on, not knowing where to turn for support in this specific realm. Spousal suicide. I am sending you hugs and strength.

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    1. I'm so sorry, Wanda. Rebecca is still writing for us at Widow's Voice, but those blogs are now located at http://www.soaringspirits.org/blog

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  11. I just want to thank you for not only sharing your story, but for sharing such a beautiful video! My fiance committed suicide 2 1/2 months before our wedding day. Everytime someone asks me why or what happened to cause this - I can't explain it,because he was always so happy and we were so in love. However, he had made suicidal attempts 7 years prior and even described his suicide plans to his father before we even met. It breaks my heart every day, knowing that he was secretly suffering for so long and I wasn't able to help him.

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