A member of my ‘widowed by suicide’ support group shared something with the rest of us this week that has inspired some deep reflection around Dan’s death in a way that I haven’t done in a while.
On Thursday night, for the third time, he presented to a class at the University of Utah about ‘death and dying’, talk specifically about suicide. He shared with us his research notes that he’d prepared for his presentation, including excerpts from Richard A. Heckler’s book ‘Waking up, Alive’. This book is based on interviews with 50 people who had attempted suicide who describe heir states of mind before and just prior to their attempts, as well as describing the work they had to do to recover afterward.
In reading through his notes, I realised that on some level, I had stopped thinking about Dan as depressed and started to disregard the incredible battle he would have been facing in the lead up to his death.
This sounds strange to me now, as I put it in to words, but I sometimes forget Dan was sick and that he died from the symptoms of this disease and instead, I start to think that he just left me. Like, maybe he decided it was all too hard and we’d all be better off without him, so he just gave up and because he didn't care enough to stick around and fight for our life.
I often feel frustrated and angry at him. I’m upset at him for not being here with me, creating a family with me, planning our Christmas lunch and my upcoming visit to Sydney to see his parents with me. But I’m not sure why, because I also understand that it wasn’t his choice to die.
It’s so confusing when these emotions take over. I feel ashamed at myself for forgetting. How could I possibly think that he didn’t care enough? What ignorance! These are the kind of comments that ignite instant fury in me, when I hear anyone else even utter a word like ‘weak’ or ‘selfish’.
I have been a strong advocate for the fight against the stigma of suicide publically ever since he died. Even in the first few hours and days, I repeatedly explained to people that he was sick, that he’d died from his disease and that he had fought with everything he had.
Yet, in the corners of my mind creeps this frustration at him for not trying harder. And as I recognise this in myself, my heart breaks all over again for my darling husband who only ever wanted to be a good husband and protect me from pain.
I’m so glad that this brave person shared with me this week, and that he’s speaking about suicide to others. He’s reminded me how very important it is not to forget. Not to sweep mental illness under the carpet but to draw the curtains and open a window and let light and air in to all corners, banishing the dark spaces where the stigma tries to hide.