Suicide, my Life Sentence


This Thursday was World Suicide Prevention Day, which brought up a lot of mixed emotions for me. 

In the past 25 months since my husband’s death, I have grown and healed and taken many significant steps into my new life, however I don’t think I’ll ever reach the point where I stop wishing that I could have saved him. 

His depression was a disease that prevented his brain from working properly - just like heart disease deteriorates the health of the heart and diabetes affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.  It’s as scientific and physical as that.

However the nature of suicide is, of course, infinitely more complicated. Because he didn’t pass away quietly in a hospital bed or in his sleep or at his desk or running around a football field.  He died at his own hand in a very violent and horrific manner.  He was alone, scared, hopeless and desperate.  

His brain had gone in to a psychosis that stopped him from seeing any alternative for his own life and despite an awareness of the pain he would cause to myself and our families, his broken and malfunctioning brain believed in that moment this his death was the only answer and the best option. 

For the rest of my life I will carry the weight and consequence of that decision.  It’s a life sentence for me.  I miss him in every moment and while I badly want to move forward, live my life to the fullest, love again and break free of the stigma of his depression, I will always be a victim of suicide.  I will never escape that. 

Despite the pain of my personal connection to World Suicide Prevention Day, I also feel hope and gratitude for the movement to bring suicide out of the shadows and in to the light.

Statistically, here in Australian, seven other people will take their own lives today.  That’s 2500 a year, just in Australia alone, leaving devastation and pain for all who love them.  400,000 Australians will experience suicidal thoughts this year and 65,000 of us will actually act on these and feel compelled to make an attempt on their lives.

If I had to put a number on it, I would say there were at least 20 people directly and significantly affected by my husband’s death, including our immediate families who have lost a son, brother and uncle – as well as his closest friends who have lost a really wonderful mate. 

When Dan died, I didn’t know one single other person who’d died from suicide.  I thought we were a minority and I felt very, very alone.  However more men under the age of 44 will die from suicide than any other cause.  More than road accidents, more than cancer, more than anything else.  Which actually makes him far from a minority and places him squarely in the statistical majority. 

These figures are simply overwhelming to me and make my head spin.  So much tragedy, so many lives lost.  I can’t save my husband.  I was not aware of the extent of his depression, I believed him when he said he was ok. 

Looking back, I know I wanted to believe him so badly, that maybe I didn’t question or look harder because I was too afraid of what I’d find.  I also didn’t know what to look for.  I was well out of my depth, we both were.  Now I’m more educated and I hope that with increased public awareness, acceptance, resources and support, others will be too. 

I meet many widowed people who share the horror of losing their loved one to suicide.  It’s a unique and special bond and as much as these people inspire and motivate me with their strength, I’d really like to start meeting less.  I’d like there to be less suicide widows.  I’d like there to be less suicide.

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  • Rebecca Collins
    commented 2015-09-28 14:12:41 -0700
    Christy I’m disorder or your loss, it sounds like a long, difficult road for you and your family. Thank you for sharing about your experience, it really helps knowing I’m not alone – as much as I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone.

    I’ve been struggling again this week with all the complicated emotions that come with such a tragic loss… Confusion, anger, guilt, abandonment. I have to keep reminding myself that Dan was very sick and the disease claimed his life. Your words have helped with this, so thank you for opening up.

    Sending love to you and your children xo
  • Christy Garrison
    commented 2015-09-28 07:08:36 -0700
    Rebecca, I just lost my husband of 15 years to suicide in March this year. He was a father of 3 girls, had a Master’s Degree in Social Work, was very close to attaining his independent license and was super intelligent. I can say that, with the knowledge he gave me over the years of his practicing mental health therapy, I thought I knew all the answers. I was never more wrong. When he started showing symptoms of severe depression, psychosis, and suicidal ideations, which was later diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder, I knew it was time to get him to the hospital. However, the law in our states indicates that he must go on his own free will. No judge or sheriff would intervene. The crisis line only told us to take him to the Emergency Room, which he was reluctant because he knew how the system worked. The only way I could get him to agree was when I contacted a former colleague of his who was the Medical Director at a Psychiatric hospital that made an agreement to get my husband a bed there.

    He was treated and placed on medications and released after 14 days. He felt better, then, like most patients, stopped his meds. At some point, he left his position as a Mental Health Director and was placed on permanent disability for the disease. He stayed home, watched the children and seemed a little better, or at least that is what he wanted me to think. He decided to go back to work as a therapist. After 5 months, and many bad choices, I filed for divorce. He was terminated from his employment, he was living in a low-income apartment, he was only allowed supervised visitation with our girls – ordered by children services and the court, and I still tried to help him. This sickness was the worst I have seen. My father died from terminal brain cancer just a few years before and I knew what to expect. Every day with my husband was like walking on eggshells. When the depression took over and he would not even get off the couch to visit with the children, I offered to take him to the hospital. I begged his mom to get him help, but, eventually, it was just too late. He had a plan and was determined to go through with it.

    I miss him dearly, the person he was before the illness took over. He helped people, it was a passion of his. There are so many bad things that happened between us over the 15 years together, but I still want to only think about the good things he did.
  • Rebecca Collins
    commented 2015-09-17 20:31:54 -0700
    Thank you for sharing Lisa
  • Lisa Richardson
    commented 2015-09-12 23:08:31 -0700
    Rebecca how I wish we didn’t share this bond. And more than that I wish my two children didn’t share it either. After four years it’s still so difficult to answer when someone asks (and they really shouldn’t) “what happened”? And no matter how much knowledge or therapy I have there is a burden in his death I’ll never escape either.

    All the stigma and misunderstanding that goes along with suicide. I’m glad there is some progress in trying to bring the subject to light, but it just doesn’t feel fast enough does it? I wish you and Dan both peace.