Author Topic: Surviving the suicide of a spouse  (Read 6640 times)

Trish K

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Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« on: March 08, 2015, 10:34:03 PM »
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.

Peace,

Trish

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

WifeLess

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2015, 07:36:50 AM »
Trish,

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
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 08:28:38 AM by WifeLess »

Trish K

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2015, 10:02:49 AM »
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.

Peace,
Trish

AndysWife

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2015, 10:44:20 PM »
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
A.B.D.  26/01/1969 - 08/08/2011

gracelet

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2015, 08:51:32 AM »
Trish, thanks for this.  It's a helpful reminder.
Musings of this sarcastic but upbeat young widow can be read here : www.eerilycheerily.com

sphoc

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2015, 09:20:34 AM »
Thank you so much for re-posting this. So much of this rings true for me as well. We started arguing the night of my birthday, the next night I got home from work and we argued more, and he kept pushing me to make a decision for him to stay or go. I remember it so clearly, trying to explain to him that it wasn't a black and white decision, that I didn't want him to go but that I wasn't happy. He kept pushing me on it until I finally just caved and said fine, go back to England. He shot himself the next day while I was at work. I knew he suffered from bi-polar disorder, but he tried to hide so much from me. I remember that morning, before leaving for work, that I should take the gun out of the house and I felt horribly guilty for a long time after because I didn't. But honestly, it wouldn't have mattered. A few days later, I remember going into the closet where I kept my migraine medication, and I saw that he had rifled through them, probably looking for something to take. I think he didn't realize what I had in there, because I had an entire bottle of hydrocodone cough syrup that would have done the job as well. My point in all this being, it wouldn't have mattered what I did - he would have found a way to end his life, and there wasn't anything I could have done differently.


My heart goes out to all of you who find yourselves here *hugs*

Sugarbell

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2015, 10:08:18 AM »
Something that helped me early on...I needed a purpose of charitable event with suicide prevention.
I was one of the eArly organizers of a Out of Darkness Walk in our area stArting in 2009. I met so many survivors from the area (and it's rural here) who "came out of the closet" and spoke up. It's grown every year. That walk and raising money helped me. Doesn't have to be the walk...can be anything (support groups, etc). I pretty much handed over the reins of the walk 2 years ago and didn't even go last year. It was time to move on from it (my kids ages too).. But so much good cane out of it.

I think to survive this mess...you need to be open about it. Secrets lose all there power when they are brought to the surface. That said...my kids all know...but now...in my life....I don't even think about Ben/Suicide. But I had to get if all out...chew it up...process it....then spit it out and be done with if.




B.W.H. 9/24/2007

mixelated

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2015, 12:07:09 PM »
Thank you for reposting your story. I needed to hear that. I need more than anything right now to talk to or listen to other wives who loved their husbands, but who were also lost/confused/frustrated/angry and struggling with what bipolar disorder meant in their lives. I didn't know what to do.

We had ten good years, happy family years. In my memory they have a golden glow around them, like sunshine. He had a job he loved, he was happy and strong. Then we had another ten years sliding steadily downhill, as he lost jobs, confidence, his ability to concentrate and his sense of self. Our equitable, respectful, supportive relationship eroded. By the time he was diagnosed with bipolar on top of his chronic pain, I hardly recognized the bitter, angry, inert and silent man he had become. I didn't recognize myself, either, and I hated the person I had become, making all the decisions, pushing for things to get done, resentful and anxious. We never fought, because we had both come from angry families and refused to bring arguments into our home. Instead we had silence, which started as respecting each other too much to lash out, but ended in a terrible barrier to communication. We respected each others' space too, and that also meant that it was much easier for him to hide what was happening to him.

I keep going back to the day I lost my job last year, when I told him crying that he had to do something to contribute financially, that the stress was killing me, that I didn't want to threaten him with divorce but I had to consider it. I'd collapsed at work the week before when it was clear that the company was going under. I asked him to apply for SSI. I was at the end of my rope, too. I think he hung on for as long as he could after that. I know he tried to get help, but he didn't talk to me. I know he didn't want to burden me with it, since I was already stressed. But I feel so much like I failed him. The counter arguments I can bring up feel like rationalizations to try to put away my own responsibility.

Reading the list of those drips of water that filled your husband's glass was helpful. I think I need to write out this list for my husband, too, to remind myself that things I said or didn't say weren't the biggest drop. At the bottom of it all, I do consider that my husband died of his illness, just as if he had cancer; it was terminal. But at least there would have been unbiased treatment for him. Any severe illness is cruel, but this one is burdened with so much uncertainty, prejudice and superstition that it adds needlessly to the suffering of the sick person and his family.

WifeLess

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2015, 01:11:57 PM »
mixelated,

Welcome to Young Widow Forum.

Quote from: mixelated
At the bottom of it all, I do consider that my husband died of his illness, just as if he had cancer; it was terminal. But at least there would have been unbiased treatment for him. Any severe illness is cruel, but this one is burdened with so much uncertainty, prejudice and superstition that it adds needlessly to the suffering of the sick person and his family.

An excerpt of one of my posts on our previous board:

"The stigma associated with mental illness continues to astound and outrage me. If one were to suffer from some other potentially fatal illness, such as cancer, the reaction would most certainly be quite different. It is clear that being afflicted with that type of serious long-term illness is an unusually heavy burden. But when it comes to chronic mental illness, such as major clinical depression, bipolar disorder, addiction, etc., not only is such sympathy frequently lacking, but many believe that some sort of cosmic punishment is actually called for on top of this. Why the difference? Why do so many people feel that we are blameless when it comes to most physical illnesses, while suffering from a life-threatening psychiatric illness must be our own fault?"

Sorry for your tragic loss. 

--- WifeLess

mixelated

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2015, 08:57:07 PM »
Thank you, and thank you for reposting your thoughts on the stigma of mental illness. I think I am going to do what I can out in the world to try to erase that stigma.

Let me ask you or anyone reading:  How did you find a way to cope with the 'drops' that you feel contributed in however small a way to their pain? the realization that things you said or did hurt your spouse before s/he ended life? Yes, I know that the person I am now, with the terrible knowledge I have now, would not have said or done the same things. And I am not saying that I think those small drops caused my husband's death.

But the thought persists that I caused pain. He was fragile, I can see now, and there were times he was reaching out for contact, to tell me something silly or meaningless he found on the internet, and I would snap at him because I was working and was trying to concentrate. I pushed him away like this, many times, and was frustrated because he couldn't remember that I was working - I thought. All the small things I did that wounded him, I cannot take back, I can never say to him that I am sorry. I feel as though I have been punching someone helpless, and I am miserable beyond reason. I don't know how I can ever atone.

WifeLess

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2015, 07:32:52 AM »
mixelated,

The details of your story indicate that you were clearly under tremendous pressure both at work and at home for a very long time. And I suspect this often drove you to the point of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. So it understandable that you may have sometimes acted in a way you now regret. Under those circumstances, we all do.

Guilt, regrets, and second-guessing are normal human reactions to unpredictable tragedies like the ones we have experienced. So this questioning will always be going on somewhere in the back of our minds. But we must eventually learn to live with that. The reality is that there was no way we could have predicted what would happen, and so we should try to not beat ourselves up over it. Although not always easy, we must find a measure of peace by accepting that we did the best we could with what we knew at the time.

I wish for you the peace that comes from that acceptance.

--- WifeLess

AndysWife

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2015, 08:30:24 AM »
Hello Mixelated and I'm very sorry for the circumstances that find you here.

In the beginning, I had so much guilt. My logical brain was truly battling with my emotional brain. I'm in Australia and my support group here gave out a survival booklet of the usual advice and what a SOS can expect when grieving. Included in this booklet was a short story about two mothers. It is written from their perspective but it applies equally to us I believe. What I mean is that we are damned if we do and we are damned if we don't.

[There were two young women who died by suicide,
both about the same age, both after a years-long
battle with depression. Each had made several suicide
attempts. They would refuse professional help
and stop taking their medication just when it seemed
to begin helping.
Fearing for her life, the first woman?s mother had
her committed?against her wishes?to a psychiatric
clinic for treatment. While there, despite being
on ?suicide watch,? the young girl asphyxiated herself
with her bedsheets.
The second woman?s mother constantly urged her
daughter to seek professional help. However, fearing
that she would worsen her daughter?s depression,
she refused to force her into any kind of institutionalized
care. One day, she killed herself with an overdose
of medication.
Afterwards, both mothers blamed themselves for
not preventing their daughter?s suicides. The irony is
that each blamed themselves for not doing
exactly what the other one did.
The first mother felt that if she hadn?t isolated her
daughter in that institution, she wouldn?t have lost
her. The second was sure that if she only had committed
her daughter, she would?ve been saved.
We often fail to realize that, even if we could turn
back the clock and do things differently, it wouldn?t
necessarily change the outcome./i]

A.B.D.  26/01/1969 - 08/08/2011

mixelated

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2015, 04:43:46 PM »
Thank you, WifeLess, AndysWife, for passing on your thoughts and experience. I wish that you did not have to suffer for them, but I am grateful to hear that you have each gained some peace. That makes me feel hopeful.

I read somewhere that part of the struggle of looking back and feeling anguish over what you did not see or realize, or choices that you made, is admitting your own helplessness, blindness, and error, and your lack of control over the world. It is very painful.

Brett39

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2015, 12:41:54 AM »
I am a recent SOS. My wife suffered from depression, starting last summer. The depression last summer was diagnosed as postpartum, though our last child was born over two years prior. She made it through the low point of last summer to resume her career and grew in confidence. With the growing confidence, she took the opportunity to advance her career. Unfortunately, this additional stress seemed to lead to a new and different type of depression where she felt that she could not go forward with the career path, nor could she go back. In retrospect, the growth in confidence, was probably a manic phase she was going through, as she had some erratic behaviour. Its a very difficult thing to rationalize how someone so successful in their career, family life, etc, could lose all confidence in herself. I am trying very hard to accept the disease as the cause of her death because it defies any reasonable or rational explanation, as you all know.

Wheelerswife

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Re: Surviving the suicide of a spouse
« Reply #14 on: July 04, 2015, 10:18:42 AM »
Hi, Brett39,

I'm not an SOS, but I still want to welcome you to this board.  I'm sorry you have had to join our club.  Today is a holiday, and that has to be difficult, although it may also be a distraction.  You will find here that you aren't the only one facing the loss of a spouse to depression, nor are you alone in trying to raise young children without your spouse. 

I hope you find a home here, where you can express your thoughts and get support, vent, cry, and scream virtually if that helps.  Don't be afraid to connect with those with whom you resonate.  If you live near any of the get-togethers we call widowbagos or bagos, for short, you will find people you can instantly connect with.

Hang in there.  This isn't easy, but all of us have somehow managed to get through it one day, one hour and sometimes one minute at a time.

Maureen
Life is short.  Love with all you've got. 

Barry 11/29/55-9/22/09       John  1/16/57-1/11/14

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