Specific Situations > Suicide/Addiction/Mental Illness/Abuse

Not so young widow (new to the forum)

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Thank you for the warm welcome everyone, I already feel that I'm among friends.

One reason I'm hesitant to share my story is that I feel it's different from most people's stories, but I have a feeling I may discover I'm not as different as I think. So here goes. And believe it or not this is the short version, there are so many relevant details but this would go on for days if I tried to include everything.

I was unhappy in my marriage for many years, but I never had the nerve to leave. There was always a reason to stay; money, my son, the prospect of being alone. But the biggest reason was fear. My husband was not abusive in the usual sense, but he was jealous and controlling and I was always afraid of what he might do if I tried to leave.

My son grew up and left home, and another year passed until I finally mustered up the courage to tell my husband I wanted out. Long story short, it took three times over the course of a year before I was actually able to stick to my convictions and start making plans to leave. At first he seemed accepting and we would even discuss my moving out. I started sleeping in the guest room and he told me I could stay as long as I needed to (there was never any question that I would be the one to move out, since I was the one ending the marriage).

But then he started having issues - at first he couldn't sleep, then he started losing weight, and he became very depressed. Things got worse and worse and he stopped going to work. He went to the doctor and found out that his testosterone level was critically low. He got medication for that but it didn't seem to do much. He tried different sleeping pills and antidepressants but nothing helped. He begged me to stay until he could get straightened out and I agreed, I told him I'd stay as long as he needed me to. I knew that I was being emotionally blackmailed, but he was in such pitiful condition I couldn't bring myself to desert him.

One day just before Christmas last year, he swallowed every pill he had - I came home from work and found him and couldn't wake him. He survived this attempt and spent a Baker acted week in a behavioral health facility. He spoke to a therapist and psychiatrist each day, they adjusted his medications and I had hope that he had hit rock bottom and this would be the start of his recovery. But to be safe I took the gun that he kept under his mattress and hid it. After he came home he never asked me about it so I was reassured that he hadn't noticed it missing.

His depression didn't ease, even after several medication adjustments. Our life settled into a holding pattern. He sat at home every day while I went to work. Every day I would ask him if he was going to call the therapist that he'd seen in the hospital to make a follow up appointment and he said he would. Every night I'd come home and ask him and he'd say "no, I'll call her tomorrow." I couldn't get him to do anything - go for a walk, go to the grocery store, nothing. All he did was sit and stare at the tv.

He hadn't worked in three months but his boss (bless his heart) continued to pay him his full salary. Finally at the beginning of February his boss told him he couldn't continue to pay him, he'd either have to come back to work (but only if he was ready), or be laid off. He didn't feel he had a choice, so he went back. He worked a few days and would come home and tell me that he just couldn't do it. I tried to convince him that he hadn't lost his knowledge or skill, just his confidence, and he just needed to take it one day at a time and it would get easier each day. Then one night he said to me "I'm not going to make it." I assumed he was talking about work and asked what he was going to do, and he told me he wasn't going to quit but he didn't think they would keep him on if he couldn't do the job (he was in construction management by the way). Then he went on to say "You should have never done what you did" - meaning trying to end the marriage. I told him that all I "did" was to be honest with myself and him for the first time in years, but that I wasn't going anywhere and reassured him that I would stay with him until he got better.

Friday morning I got up to go to my early morning exercise class. I woke him before I left so he could get up and get ready for work. I would get home before he left so I told him I'd see him in a little bit, and he said okay. About 5 minutes into the class, I got extremely dizzy and had to stop for a few moments. It passed, I didn't think anything of it, and I finished the class. When I got home I found him - he had shot himself in the head. I had completely forgotten about the small gun he had put in my nightstand. I hate guns and hadn't thought about that one in years. You can imagine the rest - the shock, the horror, the police, the funeral, the guilt, the guilt, the guilt.

As I said I'm seeing a therapist and I've joined a support group, and of course everyone tells me I'm not to blame. And looking back I can think of so many signs of mental illness that I mistook for character flaws. But the words he said to me that night still haunt me. And I think of all the things I didn't do that may have helped. What if I'd hid the second gun? Why wasn't I more insistent that he get help? Why didn't I make an appointment for him and take him? (I actually did make him an appointment but he took his life before that day came.) Maybe if I'd just made a clean break and left he would have dealt with it better. It goes on and on. And I feel so damned hypocritical playing the grieving widow when all along I wanted out of the marriage. But I am grieving, I am sad, I am traumatized. My son lost his father, my SIL lost her brother, many people lost a friend. I know it's only been six months but I don't know if I'll ever be able to completely let go of feeling responsible for his death.

If you've made it this far, thank you. It's been a long road and I am doing okay for the most part, but the guilt that I carry around with me is overwhelming at times. I'm hoping that joining this forum will give me another outlet to air my feelings and find some comfort and/or commiseration. What a terrible club to belong to, I'm so sorry for each and every one of you.

Hi, AprilRain,

I wanted you to know I read every word.  I don't have experience like this, but there are others who have been on our forum who have had similar experiences.  I have a friend that lives locally but is not on the board who finally divorced his wife after 28 years.  She wasn't well physically or mentally for a very, very long time, and he finally realized he couldn't make a difference and it was only tearing him down more.  His ex-wife ended her own life 6 months after the divorce was final.  He is working on acceptance of what he could not change. 

Just know that you are welcome here and not the only one born in the early 60's.


First Widow:
AprilRain - I am so very sorry for your loss.  My husband took his life in May 2015 with a hunting rifle after a 25 year struggle with bipolar depression.  I understand "the shock, the horror, the police, the funeral, the guilt, the guilt, the guilt."  It wasn't anything you or I did, or failed to do, it was mental illness that took their lives.  For me letting go of the guilt was hard, it meant letting go of the false notion that I could control everything in my life.  This site has been so helpful, knowing I'm not alone, knowing others "get it" and seeing how others have been able to not just survive, but thrive.

As to the "young" part, I laugh now that I lurked for months before my first post, searching for the age limit.  I was so relieved when I found other members who were my age.


Sadly, I don't have to imagine
 "You can imagine the rest - the shock, the horror, the police, the funeral, the guilt, the guilt, the guilt."

My husband took his life after battling Bipolar I for many years, I found him. He had told me he was feeling suicidal two days before it happened, I even called the hospital to ask if I should bring him back, but for numerous reasons I didn't. I know now that I couldn't have stopped him, he was ill and it would have happened no matter how much I policed his meds and his movements.

I only realized later on that so many of the things I had seen as "character flaws" were part of the illness.
After seeing a psychologist myself I have let go of the guilt, for the most part, accepting I couldn't have handled it better than I did because I was his wife not a trained psychiatrist. I supported him as best as I could in every way I knew how but I could not save him.

Try to forgive your self, mental illness is no less serious than cancer or other terminal illnesses, not even the doctors he saw could get his chemical balance right with all their meds, what could you realistically have done to correct it ?


--- Quote from: AprilRain on August 30, 2016, 07:59:24 PM ---
I think of all the things I didn't do that may have helped. What if I'd hid the second gun? Why wasn't I more insistent that he get help?

--- End quote ---

Lots of good advice here AR so I'll only touch on a few of your comments: By way of background, my late wife died of a self-inflicted GSW to the chest. She had been mentally ill for many, many years. Every one around her knew it and we took all possible steps to treat her illness. Medication, therapy, institutionalization, hypnosis, electric shock and on and on. None of it helped for long. 

I kept all my rifles and sidearms locked in a very good gun safe all the time. But it didn't matter. My lovely wife broke into a neighbor's garage while me and the kids were gone for the weekend, stole his oxy-acetylene cutting outfit and dragged it home. She taught herself how to use the equipment effectively (not an easy thing to do) and, according to the manufacturer of the gun safe, took two days to cut her way into it. She then took a very difficult gun to load and shoot and taught herself to use it.

While the coroner was at the house attending to the aftermath, I was beside myself saying many of the things you are saying but more specifically: I never should have had the weapons around. He sat me down and explained that in his forty years of medical practice and service as a coroner, he was convinced none of that mattered. A person truly committed to taking their life will always eventually succeed. They do not need an easy method close by to do it. If necessary, a person will use anything that is available - a sharp stick and a rock or a car and a tree will do the job if that is what they can get their hands on.

Try not to ask yourself all the questions because truly, there are no answers. You did all you could. My late wife (and your husband) were the ones in charge and even if we could have shut all the doors of opportunity for them, they would have found or created another.

Best wishes - Mike


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