Sunday, October 14, 2012

Who am I?

Me at Camp Widow West 2012

Who am I?
How did I get here?
Where am I going?
What has my husband’s death taught me?

These are questions I struggle with everyday.

After spending 10 years with Seth, it’s hard to figure who I am without him.
We started dating when I was 21 years old; my whole “adult” life was with Seth.

Figuring out who I am is a constant struggle.

Through the 3 years of Seth being sick, I learned how deep our wedding vows go.
“Through sickness and health, tell death do us part”.

Sure, I could have given up on him. I could have left him. I could have kicked him while he was down.
But I made a promise to him the day we got married. Little did I know death would be so soon, and I didn't know that death does not end my love and commitment to Seth. Tell death do us part, does not stop YOUR love.

I love Seth more every day.

I have dealt with depression, PTSD, insomnia and anxiety.
I have fallen into stages of depression that no one should ever have to experience.

I have loved again, and had my heart broken.

I have gone through the anger stage more times than I can count.
I have screamed at god. I have screamed at Seth.
My neighbors probably think I’m nuts.

I struggle daily with the embarrassment that my husband committed suicide.
It embarrasses me because I think it makes me look like a failure.
If I was a good enough wife and friend, he wouldn't have killed himself.
Which I know (now) is not true, but I still feel like a failure.

I have had people look me in the face and tell me my husband’s suicide is my fault.

I have experienced heart break so intense that I don’t know how I lived.

I have experienced forcing myself into counseling, grief support groups, supporting suicide widows, writing for Widows voice. I have pushed myself out of my grief comfort zone, and put my story out for the world to read.

Writing about my story has been a struggle for me. It feels so exposed and public. But I know there are a lot of widows in my same situation, and I know I can help at least one person.
And for my own sake, my story needs to be released out of my soul.
I have kept my story locked up in my soul for two years too long.

I push myself to do things I sometimes feel I can’t achieve. Such as trying to have the law on FMLA changed to cover the death of a spouse. (See my petition here).

I have taken peoples criticism, such as I’m not trying hard enough to get over “it”.

I have cut toxic people out of my life. There are just some people I can never satisfy, and at this point in my journey, my happiness and comfort is what matters most.

I have learned how much my family and friends really do love me. Far more then I realize. Far more then I will ever understand.

I have realized my parents lost their son the day Seth died (This realization just happened a couple of weeks ago).

I have learned to ask for help.
And asking for help doesn't make me a weak person.

I have learned the world doesn't stop, when it should.
It doesn't stop and let me catch my breathe, or let me get back on my feet.
The world keeps turning.
Tomorrow always comes.

I have learned to pat myself on the back, when my only accomplishment for the day is getting out of bed and going to work.

I have learned to congratulate myself with each passing death anniversary, wedding anniversary and birthdays. After all, I made it through those.

I have learned to be proud of where I am in my journey. Even when I feel like I should be further ahead.
I have learned I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my grief.
And I can't rush through it, even though I try.

I have learned to say no.

I have learned that sometimes staying in bed really is the best decision for a certain day.

I have learned to be selfish.

I have learned - I am my own worst critic.
There are a lot of dreams and goals I want to reach, but I always tell myself I can’t do it.
I’m working on this! I have realized there is never a good time to go back to school. There is never a good time to start a new relationship. That life is never “right” and I have to just jump, even if I am scared to death. After all, the worst has already happen. I know how to pick myself up, dust myself off, and move forward.

I am still learning to not look at the word “widow” as a bad thing.

I remember I was flying to camp widow west 2012, I was sitting and looking out the window of the airplane. I was thinking of my upcoming adventures at camp widow, and I thought “how in the hell did I get here?? How am I a WIDOW??”

I told myself widow is a horrible word, and I need to come up with a new word to describe my marital status.

I was thinking my marital status should be along the lines of awesome with a splash of glitter.

I struggled with this “widow” word the whole weekend at camp widow.
I was at a WIDOW event. What was wrong with me??

Then Michele got up on stage. She was talking about how we hate the word widow. She brought up that our best friends are widows. And we love them (and know them) because they are widows. We do not hate the widow inside our friends, so why do we hate the widow inside of us?

It dawned on me that “widow” isn't bad.

It stands for a lot of things that "normal" people don't understand. 
Commitment, dedication, courage, strength, and most of all, love.

We are who we are because we are widows.

We love, and know what can be lost, deep into our souls.

I personally think I am a better person, better friend, and eventually a better wife, because I have been widowed.

I know I am a survivor. Even on days that I fail.
I push through and tell myself I can do this.
I know I will keep growing and moving forward.

Today is 810 days since Seth left this world.
But I refuse to let the death of Seth be the death of my soul, dreams and goals.


  1. Hi Melinda,

    Amamzing post.....talks so much to what we all have gone through, will go through on this road for the rest of our lives. Thank you for making me know I am never alone.


  2. Melinda:
    I well know your pain. My husband committed suicide 4 yrs. ago and I still have the why's and yes sometimes the guilt. Like today, not a good day, but I am pushing myself to get up and do something. Life still goes on. I hate the widow word.. It means one, lonely, no partner. Still not used to it. I think if it allows I should do Camp Widow East next year.
    I look forward to your posts even know I knew the outcome.

  3. Melinda,
    I clicked on widowsvoice as I do every morning when I get up. When I saw the picture and as I was making my toast I was thinking "fuck this! being a widow doesnt rock, it sucks!"
    Sunday mornings were spend on beautiful country drives with my love. Every sunday for more than 30 years. So now, as the rain falls, I stand at the window and wonder "How did I get here?"
    As I read your blog entry and as I started to see (again) how my first response is really a denial of where I truly am.
    I am a widow.

    Like you I took the vows till death do us part - to heart. I know everyone thinks they do but until they are challenged - we don't REALLY know what that means.
    My husband - fit, handsome, brilliant, funny and full of love became fully disabled within a week of his diagnosis. What followed was the most challenging year and a half of my life.
    It changed me.
    It changed my children.
    We were a closing and loving family before. We became even more than that. If that is possible.
    I too believe that I am a better person. I am less judgmental, I am more expressive in my love, I see clearly now.

    I am sad for you to know that people judge you because of Seths suicide. I had a good friend who killed himself . I was shocked at even the comments about him - "he was weak" "he was. . . . ."
    Suicide is a desperate act by someone in so much pain, they can not see clearly there decision making. It seems the most rational way to end the pain. Of course when someone is suffering so much, they can not see the suffering their death will cause. They only want it to stop. But you know this at a visceral level.

    WE all have learned - without wishing, seeking or needing this lesson - that life will end, but love never does.

    Thank you for the reminder that while I may not like the name, I can't deny the truth. I am a widow, blessed to be in such incredible company.

  4. I like the word "widow" because it is a strong gets the point across, it is experience is extreme; I like having something to apply to it.

    When I was 45, I was simply a mom and 47, I was a widowed grandmother - in this world where people put off childbearing til thier 30s and 40s and try to stay young forever, how the hell did THAT all happen to me so fast? (the surprise grandbaby turned out to be a HUGE blessing, not that we ever thought he wasnt....we loved him from the moment we learned s/he existed).

    During the past 2 years, 2 of my 3 children went through clinical depressions that were so bad, suicide was a serious risk. They came from a suicide cluster in HS and I knew people whose kids had killed themselves...I walked around many days very fearful that if one of them did this, how much might I hate myself for not "doing more" even though they were adults and I cant babysit them 24/7 or commit them indefinitely. I was afraid of the disapproval of those who would blame me to salve their own fears.

    In the end, neither of my sons attempted suicide and they are doing well but their dad died suddenly of a heart condition that was possibly treatable but he refused to go to a doctor under ANY circumstances (we had 2 full medical insurance options to tap into) which could be seen as a passive suicide although that issue remains unspoken within me and not openly discussed except for a few "why didnt he take care of himself?" comments in his family.

  5. I do so remember that feeling that the world was spinning so quickly and that I just needed it to stop long enough for me to catch my breath and begin to figure things out. It was so frustrating to me that so many things needed to get done and I just couldn't keep up. It felt like a special kind of cruelty that I couldn't even get that tiny break - just to stop and catch my breath.

  6. i was married 29yrs when my husband died. he had a heart transplant and was sick most of the 11 and half yrs. he hated hospitals. i don't know how i made it these 10 months. our daughter was planning her wedding for may 26th and she wanted to postpone but he would have not wanted her to do that. we had a memorial table with a candle and his picture on it. she has had a harder time than me because she works in a nursing home. today i watch joel osteen and it made me finally have hope that god knows what he is doing.

  7. I am proud & encouraged to read such positive vibes coming from the Widows group. Yes life can be difficult but with love of family & friends we will remember the love of the partner we were lucky to have & we will not only survive but live the rest of our lives to the best of our ability for their sakes. I have also been writing a website which I hope will help others to stay positive - it's called:

  8. Realized now I have my glasses on LOL it says Death sucks. I must have read Widows Rocks here before. Sheesh.

  9. I haven't read Widow's Voice for quite a while. Today was a difficult day and I decided to check in. Wow! I'm glad I did.

    It has been about three years since my husband took his own life. I have yet to meet another person widowed due to suicide. I belong to a suicide support group, but nearly everyone who attends the group has lost a child to suicide. While many issues are similar, there are many issues surrounding the suicide of a spouse that are unique to the widow or widower.

    When my husband died, it felt like he signaled the entire world that I wasn't enough for him to stay. I understand that he had his own issues, but that's the way it made me feel - that I wasn't important enough, or worth enough to him, to work through whatever he was going through. It's a constant struggle.

    I understand when people say the "wrong" things because I know most people mean well. I don't want people to walk on eggshells around me. I can let things go. However, I get very annoyed by people who compare my husband's death to their divorce, and by people who are going through a difficult divorce who have remarked that I am "lucky" because they wish their spouse would die because they say it would be easier than going through the divorce. Being a widow by suicide isn't easy. Raising children who can never see or talk to their dad again is not easy.

    My husband's choice to die has made everything very difficult. It feels like I have no right to grieve since he made the choice to die. It wasn't an accident. He didn't bravely battle a disease. He didn't die a hero. He chose to pull the trigger and end everything. I loved him, but I'm still angry. I'm not sure anyone can ever reach a point of "closure" when dealing with a death by suicide.

    We continue to move forward as a family, but I hate being labeled a widow. Because he died by suicide, it feels like widow is just another term for failure. I'm not saying that it does mean failure, just that it feels that way to me.

    Sorry for rambling...

  10. melinda, my husband killed himself 7 years ago. I know it wasn't my fault, but, like you, the guilt that I should have done more for him will always be there. The shame of it comes when you read and hear about all the brave souls who fought so hard to live when they were diagnosed with a physical illness. It is still hard for me to equate mental illness with a disease like cancer or heart. Just as deadly, I know. It just seems like the medical community let my husband down. I used to have such faith in doctors. Not any more. I think they are flying by the seat of their pants just like the rest of us.

  11. “how in the hell did I get here?? How am I a WIDOW??”

    I probably say that once a day, at least. How can this be? He is really gone? It will be 20 months tomorrow since Marty died after almost 32 years of marriage; he was the love of my life, the straw that stirs my drink - my life and heart will never be the same - how could it? I just feel that "we" weren't done yet, but obviously we were. Moving forward, slow but sure; the pain still sears like a knife, but having some more pleasant moments every once in a while.

    Truth is, us humans adapt. I don't like coming home to an empty house, but now that I've been doing this this long, it's okay; I don't like not having anyone wonder about me, desire me, or care when and if I'm coming home, but that is my reality.

    I never liked or understood this statement till widowhood, "Reality Bites".

    Just like you getting up and going to work everyday, I get up, tie my shoelaces and start walking. Some days that is the best any of us can do. Widowhood upsets the balance of everything in our lives - there isn't one place that it doesn't touch. I find I practice "one day at a time" daily, as us widows know, all we have is today. Trying to find the energy and stamina to "live it well".

    1. I have a post it note to read daily, "his death is my reality, and no matter how much I hate it or how much I want to wake up and find it didn't happen, it DID happen, and that IS my reality". Can't figure out how I became a widow either, still adapting.

  12. Thank God, you have had the courage to write, because you saved me daily from feeling so alone.

  13. Thank you so much for posting this. My husband committed suicide 16 months ago and I could relate with EVERY word you wrote. It's always so good to know I'm not alone and that getting out of bed every morning is worth it. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'll be thinking of you today.

  14. I too feel like a failure because they are going to rule my husbands death a suicide, alcohol and drug toxicity, I feel embarrassed like I need to explain it or justify what happened, I don't want anyone to think badly of him. It was just an incredibly poor judgement and a decision that changed my life for ever. Did your life insurance pay in the event of your husbands suicide please email me at if you can shed any light on that subject. Thx for your post it helped me alot to know there is someone else like me. Beth

  15. I was widowed by suicide just shy of 20 years ago. I’m happy, remarried, and the boy who saved my life through my commitment to return joy to his is now 31 years old, and amazing.

    And on some days, bed is still the best option. Occasions when I feel broken inside and the shards and jagged edges cut so deeply and painfully that I feel damaged beyond repair. Believe myself incompatible with life as it marches forward blithely unaware that some of us are writhing in pain and can’t take another step.

    I’ve learned some things along the way that help on the good and bad days. I write them as you do, hoping one person may grasp a hand reaching toward him or her.

    First, I’m glad I didn’t know then that I’d still be grappling with this now. It would have been daunting initially. On the plus side, I now know there’s no *there* to get to. At first I thought I had to progress somewhere to declare myself okay. I don’t. I’m a person to whom an awful thing happened, not unlike Pearl Harbor or 9/11. You don’t get over it, you endure. Move forward. We have experienced a kind of holocaust and there are no liberators for the pain inside. We must release ourselves.

    I don’t think healthy humans can fully reconcile the choice to suicide, a decision counter to survival. Heck, we can hardly wrap our brains around death. Therefore I don’t believe acceptance exists. I strive for something different. My goal is to grow in grace each day with what is so. To become more peaceful with. I don’t need to understand what happened, or why. Even if I did, he still be dead. No sense wasting energy. I need it for me.

    I stopped holding myself responsible for being enough. When I wonder if he truly loved us, I listen for the answer with my heart. My head only confuses the matter. My heart is solid. He loved us desperately. I was always enough. I regret that he didn’t know he was, too. That I couldn’t or didn’t contribute that to him. But the fact that I’m here, functioning, raised a child alone with suicide in our history speaks volumes about who I am. I am downright remarkable.

    Most importantly, I will not merely survive. I will thrive. I will amaze. Maybe not every single day but more days than not. And maybe others won’t understand when they see me, but I know. No one event that happened *to* me will define me. I will not allow his choice to become my epithet. His path is not my path though our lives crossed for a time. I will learn from our time together, and our time apart, and then I will live bigger for it.

    To all of you, I’m bowled over by your courage in writing about how suicide rocked your lives so early in your process. I could not have. Did not. Have only begun to write about it this year. I bow to you all and wish you love and healing on your journeys.

    I have begun to chronicle some of my own stories in a separate blog that reflects my journal entries from 1993. I can be found at The blog is called One Bite At a Time. The answer to, "How do you eat an elephant?" I'd welcome your visits.

    Meanwhile, good luck. My thoughts are with you. I'll be back here to see you again soon.

  16. Petition signed! I spent two decades as a Human Resources Manager and saw firsthand that the (whopping) 5 days of death in family leave we gave was woefully inadequate when the loss was in the immediate family (spouse and child.)

    More leave is not an option in most companies; the FMLA needs to provide this safety net. Thanks for providing a way to express my opinion on that.

  17. This speaks to my heart in a way only another widow can understand. I didn't loose my husband to suicide, yet grief is so much the same and still so unique. I wish I could express my feelings and thought this well.
    I agree with and am signing your petition. I am also posting it to face book and urging my friends and family to sign as well. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  18. I come to a widows voice every day and read what everyone writes this site is what pulls me through each day my husband left to go to heaven five months and two days ago as a result of lung cancer he was 47 and we were married 30 years on nov 3 ,2012 my life is just sheer hell at this point my love goes out to all of you and I'll pray for all of us hugs to each and every one of you

  19. It's so nice to find this place to talk about my life as a widow. It's been 5 months today and I'm still so sad. I try putting on a brave face but when I come home and I'm alone, I feel so alone. we were together for 35 years, since we were 17 years old. The love of my life. Wasn't always an easy life, but we loved each other dearly and raised two beautiful daughters. We have two grandsons, One is 3 and the other was born 6 days before my husband died. They all live close to me and help me get through things, I just don't want to be a burden on anyone. I have my own home, job and am pretty independent, I thought. Until the car broke down, the washer broke, things like that have thrown me into a panic. I hate asking for help. I'm learning, but it's so stinking hard. I just miss him so much. I so have a few widowed friends, but I'm not really sure how to talk with them. I'm not good bringing up my feelings of sadness to them. Then when I have, I feel worse for some reason. Thank you for giving me a place to speak