Specific Situations > Suicide/Addiction/Mental Illness/Abuse

Surviving the suicide of a spouse

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Trish K:
I just felt the need to post this, as I see more and more suicide survivors join the board everyday. My husband Ed took his own life by intentional overdose on August 13, 2002. This Saturday marked the three year anniversary of his death.

And here I stand.

I was married to Ed for over five years. They were five of the most wonderful and horrible years of my life. Ed's depression manifested early on in our marriage. I know some of you did not know your spouses were depressed, or bipolar...I did.

In five years, we had two babies, Ed lost 3 jobs, he tried to start a home inspection business which failed, we racked up lots of financial debt, and we grew apart. I was feeling helpless, so I turned to God, a 12-step program, and counseling to help me cope with my husband's illness and my hellish home life. I worked FT, cared for the home and kids, and tried my best to care for my husband. I will be the first to admit, I was often hard on Ed. This week I found a letter that I had given him about 6 mos before he died. I was angry. He was sleeping all day, and taking no responsibility. I told him to check into a hospital, or get a job. I was at the end of my rope.

Well, it was one of those nights, Aug. 12, 2002. I was bitter and angry and tired of "doing it all" I gave him an ultimatum...WORK, HOPSITAL, or LEAVE. He left -- never to return. My kids were 1 & 4 at the time...stepsons were 13 & 15. Ed checked into a Holiday Inn, took an OD of prescription meds and died. I didn't call him on his cell until about 18 hours after he left the house. I was angry at him. Well soon, I was worried, and later my worst fears were realized.

OK, so your story may be different. Maybe your marriage was better, maybe worse. Maybe there were no warning signs, maybe there were. Maybe you or your children found your spouse, maybe like me, you saw them alive one day, and at a funeral home 3 days later. Every story is unique.

But there are some things that we must remind each other.

1. We were not responsible for the deaths of our spouses.

2. Sometimes the mind plays games with Survivors of Suicide. My mind likes to look back and think that I KNEW he was going to kill himself that day. I DID NOT KNOW...I SIMPLY COULD NOT HAVE KNOWN.

3. Some of us fought with our spouses. We feel like if we had not said that one thing, or done that one thing, they may still be alive. Well, one helpful thing for me is to remember that married people argue all the time. It is a part of marriage. They separate due to difficulties, they yell and say things they later regret. None of these things warrant the results that we got. Yelling at ones spouse does not warrant the death of that spouse. We are not responsible for that death.

An analogy that has helped me often, is the analogy of the glass of water. Over 43 years my husband had drips of water filling his glass.
   Abuse
   Addiction
   Chemical imbalance
   Unresolved Anger and resentment (my husband?s big one)
   An ugly divorce
   Guilt
   Feelings of inadequacy

Each of these things added on top of each other added to his mental condition. While the fight we had, or the words I said that last night, may have triggered him to leave, which triggered him to suicide, they were only drops in the glass. It is not the last drops in a full glass that actual cause the glass to overflow. It is a culmination of all of those drops...a lifetime of drops...that caused our loved ones to die.

4. Illness. Depression, addiction, bi-polar disorder. They are all illnesses. Cancer is an illness, and if my husband died of brain cancer, I would not hold myself responsible. Nor should I hold myself responsible for the chemical imbalance, the physical illness, that caused his death. I used to think this was a bunch of BS that someone made up to make themselves feel better. It is not. People with normal brain chemistry DO NOT KILL THEMSELVES. It is a physical illness that causes one to not be able to see any other way out of their pain. They were all ill. Only I did not know that the illness was terminal.

5. Practical advise
See a good counselor. One that has practical experience with suicide, and that has training in grief counseling. I am seeing my counselor in a few hours. Yes, three years later...I still see her. And it helps.

Seek some sort of spiritual help. If you grew up with the teaching that suicide is the "unforgivable sin" I want to tell you that that is a man-made doctrine. Do not allow man made doctrine to keep you from seeking spiritual meaning in the this life. I was angry at God. then I changed my thinking on how it all works. I see that the world is full of sickness, death, and disease. God is my refuge from these things. He is the one I turn to hold me, and give me peace in the midst of the unthinkable. I am not trying to sell you my idea of God. Please, though, if you are struggling, seek and you shall find.

Talk about it. get those thoughts out...post them here. Even the irrational ones...the ones you know sound crazy... get them out of your system. Yell, punch a pillow, break some plates...get it out of your system. The only way out...is through.

Sleep, drink water, exercise, try to take time for yourself. Go on a retreat, get a massage, read a trashy novel instead of a book on suicide. Ask for hugs when you need them. You can always get a cyber one here. If you need a real one, look for a local Survivors of Suicide group, or a support group for young widows in your area. Run a search on Google. You will be amazed at what is out there. Try it all until you find what will help you work through this.

Last and most important. If you feel suicidal yourself...PLEASE seek immediate professional help. Go to the emergency room, call a hotline, take medication if you need it. I do. But do not allow those feelings to fester. We all know too well that suicide is NOT the answer

6. Hope.
What kind of a message would this be if I did not offer some hope for your future, for your family's future. There is hope. After three years, I look back and I see clearly how losing Ed to suicide has changed me for the better. I see how very precious life is. I tell my kids I love them everyday. I tell my friends I appreciate them. I know longer see myself as being responsible for other people's happiness, and I no longer read other people's unhappiness as a reflection on my self worth. I see that we are all human beings, trying our best to make sense and find some joy in this life.

Our loved one's are at peace. As much as I loved Ed, and as much as it pains me to see my kids growing up without their daddy, I am glad he is at peace. If I had the choice to bring him back in all of his pain, or to have my life exactly as it is now, I would not change a thing.

You too will find peace... this side of heaven. It is there, right around the corner. Even on the darkest of days, hold on to the hope that the sun will shine again on your life. I now have a greater ability to love... a greater understanding of love and life ... and all because of my experience.

I hope someone finds something in this message that helps them to find a little peace.

Please, others, add to this thread. Let's offer each other some hope.

Again....Love and hugs to each of you. I'm here if you need to chat. Send me a PM. I am so glad you found this sanctuary... We really do know what you are going through.



[ August 15, 2005, 09:10 PM: Message edited by: Trish K ]


Thank you for reposting this. On the previous board, this post began a classic thread that hundreds of others contributed to over the course of the next 10 years. And I would often refer new SOS (survivor of suicide) members to it when they joined. I'm sure this will be the case here as well.

--- WifeLess

Trish K:
You're welcome. I only wish we could carry over all of the replies. But I hope you are correct that others will want to share their stories here.


Gosh this is a good post. I haven't read it for a long time - since joining - but it was exactly what I needed to be reading at the time. Thanks for reposting it

Trish, thanks for this.  It's a helpful reminder.


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