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Surviving the suicide of a spouse

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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 ]


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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

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Guest sphoc

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*

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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.






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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.

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Welcome to Young Widow Forum.


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

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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.

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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

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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]



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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.


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  • 3 months later...

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.

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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.



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I can't bring myself to tell anyone when they ask. I don't even allow myself to think about it, or try to understand it. I can't. - It is SO confusing for me. I heard people put their spouses on a pedestal after they die, paint a picture of them. - The issue I have is that we HAD that life. Everything I could have dreamed of and more. I would tell him that a few times a week. He was happy, smiling loved and lived for us. Never mean, never said anything hurtful. We just built a house, I was pregnant, got back from vacation. We had it all. There were NO signs. How can you live with someone, he worked from home, so spend every minute with them, and not know they are hurting? He never touched a drug or drank or cheated. The people who did know him said out of ALL the people in the world, they would NEVER have guessed HE would have done something like this. My dad, uncles, everyone who met him said, wow, there are no guys out there like that, you got lucky. I did. - I don't know if it was better to have the love of my life that I won't ever get again, or wish I never had it at all, so I don't know what I will miss for the rest of my life. - I hate this. I hate my new life. I will never truly understand.I have TERRIBLE guilt. It eats me up. I can't even put into words. I am embarrassed to ever tell anyone the "suicide" word. I can't even admit it to myself

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Keeptrying, I felt much like you also when he first died. I think it's the shock of it all. 4 years later and I can now see him for who he really was rather than who I thought he was.

I received similar comments from our friends and my family but my inlaws were not surprised. They neglected to mention his history (as did he) to me before or during our marriage but told me about him before the funeral. Great huh? That's helpful (sarcasm).


I don't tell people how he died. I don't like to think about it either but I keep it to myself these days as it's nobody's business unless they knew him. The rest are just nosey I find and I wont indulge them. It's hard to speak highly of someone when it ends with suicide - rightly or wrongly. People judge and I have a short fuse so it's best to skip the whole thing.


We had a 5wk old son when he died and one thing that stands out to me is a comment that he made the day before he died.

"I've ticked all the boxes now" which causes me to think that he was dis-satisfied, hoping for to feel something different or something.. I dunno, we never will.

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  • 8 months later...

Still, after nearly five years since my husband's suicide, I come here once in a while to read this amazing post by Trish K.


I survived all the fear and guilt and horror, complete with coping from trauma and walking that awful road of the suicide survivor. Although I am so sorry that any of us have reason to be here, I am grateful we can share and support one another.


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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.


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.


This. I am an avid gun collector from a family of hunters and military members.


I removed all of the guns from our home.

I notified our family physician and doctors where my husband was receiving care.

I told my husbands family and friends and requested help. Some of them tried. Some of them simply didn't know what to do.

I watched him for days.

I called the police.


He's still dead.

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  • 1 year later...

Wow.  Trish K., I don't know if you're still on these boards, but your words have resonated with me.  My husband took his life just over 4 months ago.  I'm reeling...actually broke down in Costco today...ug.  Thank you so much for your calm, rational, and measured post.  I will be back to read it often. 

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  • 5 months later...

Hi, I know it has been a while since you posted this but I only read this message yesterday. I have never joined a forum or talked to anyone apart from counsellors and a couple of friends about my experience. I find a lot of people who grieve the death of their spouse experience is so different from my own. The spouse and the relationship seem so perfect and the loss so profound. I feel loss and pain even now after nearly 5 years but my grief is not simple like that. I also felt relief and freedom from financial and emotional stress. My husband was daignosed with depression in 2007 although they subsequently thought he may be bi polar. He tried therapy, medication and we did have good periods. He also self medicated with Marijuana and eventually a lot of alcohol. He was a funny, kind and generally easy going and charming man. People loved him but he was a terribly conflicted man. Things were very bad financially and emotionally for us when he killed himself. He got very drunk which sadly often happened and we argued. I was at the end of my rope. We had two young boys one aged 5 and one only 18 months old. He struggled to work even part time, spent the days lying around the house while I worked 6 days a week and nights too trying to make ends meet. He struggled to help me with the boys too so I had them in daycare and worked evenings when they were asleep. I had begun to fall apart in that last year. Bills were mounting up and I felt angry at him. I have a good career and earn reasonable money but we had nothing. We were always struggling. Hindsight is wonderful. Money didnt matter after he died. I looked back at many things and judged myself harshly for being so material but i just desperatly wanted the pressure off my shoulders and a normal partner that shared the burdens of daily life with me. He was angry when he left our house. He threatened he was going to do it. I begged him not to go and tried to take the car keys off him. He locked me out of the garage and took our only car and drove it at very high speed in to a tree. I have had so many what ifs and many other feelings of guilt and regret but I have also had a lot of anger at him. I know he was ill but he was often reckless and didnt think before he made split second decisions. Quiting job after job and never taking responsibility for our financial situation. I loved him and we were together 13 years but in the last 5 years I lost myself. The truth is I felt like he meant to hurt me and I know he was troubled but he left me with nothing, no car, a financial mess and a funeral to pay for. I also found out from friends after he died that he hadnt been loyal to me. Trying to sleep with my friends on a number of occassions. It has been nearly 5 years now and his boys have grown. I always try and be positive with them about their dad saying he loved them and talking of his illness like any other just in his mind. But in my heart i am still conflicted and have felt such guilt for that too. I cant just simply mourn his passing. I find it hard to stomach when his friends and family talk about him with rosy coloured glasses. Everyone has even his worst critics since he died. To the point where his parents will barely admit he killed himself. His brother and sister still dont know. And they dont want to know. Ive been told they just want to think of him how he was to them and dont want to know about his troubles or how he died. I dont believe in hiding it but I also have to respect their own grief. I supported him in all those years when these friends and family barely saw him or talked to him and now i feel like the one who is being critical for telling the truth. I have worked a lot on this with counsellors and this year I am flying back to the UK where his family live with my boys. I know I will have to deal with it all. I am glad to be going to see my family who are all very open and have been since his death and I felt i was ready to see his family. As it gets closer though i feel torn and conflicted more then ever. I think I will just focus on the boys and my new life but I feel it is not fair to ignore and pretend this huge part of my life and my story never happened especially with those people who have shared my pain more than anyone - his parents and siblings. Thanks for listening

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@keeptrying Thank you for sharing. I'm not sure if your experience is a rarity or if people simply don't tend to share it. Not everyone who ends their life is depressed. Some people make a rational decision to do so, and often make the decision in secret. One of the hurdles one must jump to engage a doctor in assisted suicide is PROOF that one is not depressed.


We can never really know someone and that is scary as all get out. We share our lives, our home, the air, with someone and yet can never really know who they are.


I wish you peace and send you comfort.

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  • 1 year later...

Dear Trish, I cannot thank you enough for what you wrote. My husband did not come home on 8/3/18, he hung himself and I found him.  We have 3 children and had been through so much together.  He was my best friend. We married when I was 23, and would have been married 26 years on 6/19/19.  I miss him everyday, and feel the guilt that you write about. I had no idea, I never saw this coming,.  Of course in hindsight, I see everything now. THANK YOU for your post - thank you for sharing your story.

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