Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of the day I lost my husband to depression. It's the hardest day of the year for me. I miss him always and there are obviously times that are harder than others, like our wedding anniversary, Christmas and birthdays. However while those days bring sadness, it's his death anniversary that has me re-living the trauma of that horrible moment that took my husband and my future from me.
Dan died at 11am. He got dressed for work that morning, kissed me goodbye, and then drove an hour away from our home where he spent some time writing me a letter before taking his life. This is something I don't think about too often anymore, I have somehow found a way to process the devastating details around the way that he passed so the details don't haunt me constantly the way they did in the first year or so. His disease robbed him of his ability to see a way out of the darkness, I have accepted this and understand, in that moment, he somehow thought it was the only option - that those of us left behind would be better off.
It's a cruel added complication to those of us widowed by suicide, in that we not only grieve our partners but have to wade through the stigma, judgement and unanswerable questions that come along with the loss. Time has helped, and the day-to-day has certainly gotten easier but I've come to know there will always be moments where the questions of how my funny, clever, popular and thoughtful darling came to be in such a helpless place (and what I could have done differently to help him) will always re-surface. His death anniversary is one of those days.
Throughout yesterday morning I found my mind wandering to imagine the events as they unfolded two years ago. There are a few holes in the timeline of events that the police were able to piece together and I can torture myself with what he did in those absent moments. Was there a chance he would have backed out, called me, came home? How horrible it must have been for him to sit with the weight of his decision. Did he think about what would unfold after? How I'd be told? What would lay ahead as we planned his funeral and tried to go on existing with the pain of losing him? Or did the dark fog of his depression make those kind of rational thoughts impossible? I know he thought of me, because of the beautiful words in his letter. I know he loved me up until the end, and believed he was giving me a better life. Still, it's so hard - in my rational, not-depressed mind, to understand how someone gets to that point and goes through with that final act.
As the minutes ticked down to 11am yesterday, my despair grew. I sat alone at his gave, crying for him, and I found myself talking out loud as if I were with him in those last moments. Begging him not to go. Pleading for him to find a way out. Then, the time came. And I knew that his pain had finally ended. He was free of the black cloud and my own devastating nightmare was about to begin.
After a while, I left 11am behind and the weight of his suicide started to ease. As the day went on, my mood changed. I started thinking less about how he died and was able to remember how he lived. I pulled out old photographs and started reading the tributes his friends were leaving on his Facebook and the kind words of support being sent to my phone.
He was so very loved and there were many happy memories being shared. My newsfeed was flooded with images of him at fancy dress parties, on road trips, laughing, hugging, celebrating his full and happy life. THIS was the man I knew - not the guy alone in that hotel room at 11am one sad Wednesday, two years ago. THIS was my husband.
Through my tears I started to smile and laugh. I felt the love being shared by his friends envelop me and I imagined him with me now in his spirit form, relieved that I had stopped remembering him in that dark moment and instead celebrating how he had lived his 34 years. He would hate to be remembered and defined by that moment his life ended. He was so very much more than that.
I then realised there was a good part about my husband's death anniversary after all. Yesterday was the first time in a long time that people had openly spoken about him (to me, anyway), shared happy stories and reminded me how missed and loved he was. A group of his friends even gathered together to go and watch his favourite football team play. Once two years has passed, these public memorials don't happen very often.
This is the way with grief. Those people in his life - neighbours, colleagues, friends who were maybe not close enough to him to have regular contact when he was alive - naturally start to move forward into a life without him a bit easier and faster than the rest of us. It didn't mean they didn't care or they weren't sad about his death, it just meant they weren't as impacted as myself or the rest of his immediate family and very close friends.
However, yesterday, on his anniversary, he was remembered. He was celebrated and I got to enjoy a very special moment of time where our community joined together to speak his name. And this was a gift that I didn't expect, but for which I'm grateful.