The Waves of Grief

Last night I went to the movies with some friends to see the new Ridley Scott film, The Martian.  It was awesome, really clever, enough suspense to make it exciting and interesting without freaking me out too much, with plenty of feel-good moments. 

Going to see a movie was something Dan and I did very often, sometimes two or three times a month.  After he died it took a long time for me to enjoy it again because the whole experience without being able to snuggle under his strong arm and rest my head on his shoulders just felt so wrong and hit me square in that big, gaping, aching hole in my heart.

I still find it difficult sometimes, either because I know he’d had loved the movie, or I find myself wishing I could get his opinion on something, or there’s an unexpected trigger that makes me think of his death or, in particular, the way he died so tragically from depression.

Watching Matt Damon in The Martian last night, I found it really affected me seeing how desperately his character fought to stay alive in such dire circumstances.  

Without giving too much of the plot away, basically he was one of six astronauts on a mission to retrieve soil samples from Mars when a storm struck suddenly and the crew had to abort the mission and leave in a hurry.  He get’s hurt in the storm and, believing him to be dead, the others take off without him. Of course, he isn’t dead and starts working out a plan to stay alive with limited rations until NASA can get back there and collect him. 

There are moments where you can see him struck with the reality that the odds of surviving are almost too slight to call.  He’s alone, totally cut off from humanity, facing the most hopeless of situations.  However he rallies.  Some primal urge to live, from deep within, refuses to give up and he continues to find ways to overcome the challenges he faces. 

Watching him refuse to die, I couldn’t help think about Dan.  I will never know exactly what he was facing with his depression.  I will never really know how long and how hard he fought to live because I wasn’t even aware he had depression until he was diagnosed four weeks before his suicide.

In hindsight, his family and I can identify signs that he wasn’t well that were hard to understand at the time, because he was keeping the severity of his illness to himself.   We understand now that he had depression for years, but even Dan himself might not have even really known the extent of what he was dealing with.   I feel like he died so very quickly, before I even really had the chance to help him fight, but in reality, I suspect that his depression was actually a long and exhausting battle.  

Watching The Martian, I couldn’t help wishing that Dan had fought harder.  How can this man, stuck on another, inhabitable planet be so determined not to die, and then my beautiful husband take his life when he had so much to live for?  Of course, it’s not that simple and I don’t mean to sound like I’m trivialising it… but that’s the thing about suicide.  Despite all my research, understanding and education about mental illness, there is still that part of me who feels like a woman abandoned by the person she loved the most.  

That moment of rejection, frustration and anger passed as quickly as it came upon me when I remembered how much Dan loved me and realised how hard he would have tried.  But I hate the way, after more than two years, those questions that will never get answers can still hit me like a tsunami.  


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  • commented 2015-11-01 07:58:04 -0800
    “Depression” is so complicated. Thank you, readers, who share. You may have hit the button that applies, and bring enlightenment of what may have happened. In the end, it is what happened to you…..and hopefully, your finding peace with it.
  • commented 2015-10-11 04:01:13 -0700
    Thanks so much for your comments and support ladies. Lisa, I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through. Kelley I had that same thought about the Castaway movie. Since Dan’s death, through my research and general need to understand depression and suicide, I have had (probably) hundreds of conversations with people who have felt suicidal – similar to your friend. I understand that they weren’t in control or making logical decisions, I know Dan didn’t want to die, I get that it’s a disease however unfortunately all of that knowledge can still fail me in the throes of grief. That’s one of the shitty things about a complicated grief.
  • commented 2015-10-10 23:41:03 -0700
    Dearest Rebecca, I’m so very sorry. My husband Tony faught his depression for two long years. He did everything he was asked to do, tried every medication, was hospitalized three times for suicidal ideations and depression. In the end none of it worked. He asked for my help and we faught it together. I know how exhausting it all was. And yet, like you, I have those feelings of abandonment. The triggers are still there in all those unexpected places. They still hit me after four years. I know how much he loved me, that he never would have left of free will. The disease they faught wore them down and ultimately they couldn’t fight any more. I have seperated the two parts of my darling Tony in my heart and mind. The man I loved I carry in my heart. The disease that took his life died that day and now is gone. It’s the only way I can make any kind of sense of it all.
  • commented 2015-10-10 12:05:02 -0700
    Oh, Rebecca, I am so sorry…those questions never to be answered, so painful. I hope it helps, even if just a little bit, to write it out and share the times when that god-awful tsunami of grief washes over you. Sending you lots and lots of warm hugs to comfort you.
  • commented 2015-10-10 11:55:43 -0700
    Makes total sense to me why that might be an unexpected trigger for you. This movie premise reminds me a lot of Tom Hanks in “Castaway” – similar theme, a man trying to survive on a deserted island after being the sole survivor of a plane crash. I dont know if this might help or not to understand a little bit what might have been inside Dan’s mind, but one of my good friend’s attempted suicide a few months ago. He actually was stopped by police breaking down the door to his hotel room where he had brought his dad’s gun and was seconds away from doing it. He explained to me what it felt like in the moment right when he was going to pull the trigger. He said it was as if someone else was doing it, someone else or some force in his brain was in control, and not him. He said he felt almost paralyzed by the fog and that NOTHING was on his mind about his family or friends or anything like that – just this intense need that this must be done. When the cops came in and he saw his friend who had called them to stop it, he fell out of the fog and ran and broke down in his friends arms. Again, I hope this isnt MORE upsetting, but Im telling you this because I think in that moment, the brain of the person who is doing this goes somewhere that we cant understand. And even they cant understand it, and if they could stop it, they probably would. But it takes over and they cant see anything else except that. So, in a way, Dan probably did fight for his life, but he just didnt know how maybe. I hope Im making sense.

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