"More than five years ago, the weekend after Thanksgiving, my husband and the father of our two children took his life. He was 38.
Two weeks to the day before it happened, he was making threats on the phone while I was on my way to pick our children up. Unfortunately, at that time, we could not convince him to get the help he needed; however, I still didn’t believe he would actually end his life. I felt it was a cry for help, but he was reluctant to get that help.
Two weeks later, I made several unanswered phone calls. His place of employment began calling me. I picked the kids up from daycare that Monday afternoon, and went to the house. The locks were changed and the garage door opener was unplugged so I could not get in the house. I left with my kids and was contacted later that evening by the police and informed of what had happened. I was in complete shock.
I was 31 with a two-year-old and four-year-old who would now grow up without a father.
The devastation surfaces often, even five years later. I am very concerned for my children for so many reasons: they will one day be old enough to understand what happened, they are possibly at risk for mental illness themselves, and they constantly have to tell friends and people they meet that their father is dead. Every school year, when I meet their new teachers, I tell my story so they know what my children are up against.
And for me, the battle will be lifelong, too. When I meet people for work or at social gatherings, it always seems to come up. I look younger than I am (or so I’ve been told), and people cannot believe I’m a widow. They think that maybe he was in the military, or perhaps he got cancer. The truth is, he was sick…but not the kind of “sick” they’re thinking. People become speechless and immediately start to fumble when I tell them it was suicide.
Early on, I really struggled to understand. I felt like a freak. I felt I knew no one who had been through what I had been through. And I also felt like people blamed me. I was trying to leave him at the time. I’ve been so angry at times—angry at him for leaving that way and angry for my children who have to cope all of their lives with it.
But recently, I reflected on what was going on leading up to this. Shortly before we got pregnant with our first child, one of his childhood best friends was murdered. Shortly after we had our first child, his grandfather—who he looked to as a father figure and was very close with—died of cancer. Having gone through the hospice experience with my mom right before Christmas, I now know how devastated he must have been. And there were other things. All told, he was ill and unable to overcome life’s blows. And my heart breaks for him. I wish I could have done more.
The “doing more” part is what I’m doing now. I may not have been able to help him overcome his illness, but I can certainly help others. This experience, and telling my story and hearing others’ stories, is a big step in the healing process as well as a critical step in raising awareness. There is hope.
And as I move forward, facing the challenges of raising two children without their father and helping them understand and overcome their own challenges, I will continue to heal through the power of awareness and the support of those who know that suicide is the result of illness that demands the same attention as any other illness."