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Posts from the ‘The Suicide’ Category

Through It

Note: The four post in this category are posted from the first published to the most recent.

The last entry I made on this blog was one of hope and gladness as I had come back from an illness that left some side effects. I was looking forward to returning to work. But, that didn’t happen and the blog went silent. Why?

In August of 2016 the man that I’ve been posting about in “Being In the Room” (Part 1) (Part 2) decided to leave the room. He completed suicide. I’ve taken a year off to sort out my feelings and begin the healing process.

My husband, Jon, and I had many long talks about his situation. We both cried and we both knew that this could happen: it finally did happen.

I will be doing a podcast on this subject, so I won’t go into all of the details here. I may talk about the specifics in future postings. However, today I want to talk about getting through it. I don’t mean getting over it I mean, THROUGH it.

Let yourself imagine a mountain. You have some options and they each have an outcome that can be managed. Some are better than others and so in making the choice of how to approach this landmark a considerable amount of thought is needed.

In the first hours and days of Jon ending his life, I had to make some radical choices. I think I made some really good ones considering the fact that I was grieving, stunned, and without family physically present. However, I did have some friends who came and gave much needed support. They cooked, cleaned, advised, and tried their best to show up in a nasty situation.

In the first days and weeks, that mountain loomed large, and I knew that I had to decide how to navigate it. I could go over it, around it, or through it.

Each of these thoughts caused me to think of what would happen if I had made the journey in that manner. I’ve never liked the term “get over it” as it seemed condescending, judgmental, and uninformed. I discarded OVER right from the start. In thinking about it further, I didn’t want to track OVER the mountain. I didn’t want to miss things that I would miss by going over it. It didn’t seem like the thorough way of facing this situation. While hiking a mountain can be beautiful, this wouldn’t be that type of journey.

Going AROUND the mountain implied denial, and that wasn’t an option. I thought about how this seemed to imply that I’d view the scenery, but not touch anything, and that wasn’t appealing to me. Going around the mountain would leave the mountain intact, or untouched, and that wasn’t what I wanted to do at all. As I mentioned, suicide is messy and requires some hard work to deal with the damage and ruin that it leaves in its wake. While I knew suicide could happen, I had hoped it never would come into being.

I thought about tunnels. I like the technology that creates them and the stories of their builders. I like everything about driving through them, if they are well-lit. I watched with great interest as the Goddard tunnel in Switzerland was dug from inside the depths of the earth. My first visit to London was not taken on a plane, but through the Chunnel. Yup, I like tunnels and no, I haven’t gone through the Goddard Tunnel yet.

So, in thinking about what I needed to do, the choice for me to tunnel THROUGH this mountain and thinking of my journey in those terms was a natural one.

As I chose to go through the mountain, I chose to be intelligent, wise, weak, vulnerable, and fearless. I realized that I could not control this situation. I could no more control it than control the crazy Netherland’s weather. I do, however, have options even in tunneling through the mountain.

The first option: Realism

For me this has involved planning and visualizing as well as allowing myself to feel the messiness of the entire situation. It also means that if I’m having a bad day I allow myself to feel the bad day in all of its glory and pain.

When I say that I’ve planned this journey it means that I allow myself to think through life scenarios and to imagine the outcomes. For example, the celebration of Christmas could have been really hard. But, thanks to friends, I was not alone, but rather, surrounded in a house of love. Rather than letting the day simply come, I opted to take hold of the day. It wasn’t easy: it was better than waking up to not knowing what would be involved with living through the day. But, trying to maintain a certain amount of control is a good thing.

In visualizing and thinking ahead to the obstacles that come my way, I create positive scenarios. I remember the first “everything” that I’ve celebrated without Jon as being mostly happy. Yes, of course I wish he were here at times, but the reality of it is that he isn’t suffering and for that I’m so thankful.

I’ve cried, or should I say, sobbed. I’ve questioned and wondered if I did a good enough job of supporting him. And after the crying is over the answer is a resounding, yes!

I would not wish this on anyone. Going through hell is not fun and in the past year I have faced hell more than once. The thing I’ve learned about this particular hell, (and there are many such places) is that there is respect required in that place of darkness.

The Second Option: Receiving and Acceptance

My great-aunt was wonderful at giving to others, but she wasn’t very good at graciously receiving another person’s kindness. From a young age I became aware that not only did I need to be a great “giver”, but I also needed to learn to accept kindness with graciousness. This week, I had this lesson driven home to me when a friend came by to see how I was as I’d failed to respond to her emails. During our conversation, she said, “oh, crap” in hopes that I wouldn’t hear it. (I’m not that deaf!) Then, when I reacted to that remark, it clicked and she, in an imaginary shaking of Gail, said, “I want to help”! She was hurt and angry, with good reason. I realized that I wasn’t receiving the service she was offering. I had been sick for two weeks with some kind of illness that had been going around, and I’d become hard to reach. We talked about it and I admitted that having her come by was a good thing. It raised my spirit. It also forced me to realize that I need to assert my needs and let others determine whether or not it is possible to help out. Asserting one’s needs also means allowing others to think about what they are able to do for you.

I realize that in talking about being a recipient of kindness, that this isn’t always the case. People get confused and they don’t know what to say or do. They overreact or underreact. Sometimes, the best they can do for you is to do what they think they’d want done in your situation. They are only human. This isn’t easy to deal with, and I will admit that one of the lessons I’m still learning, as I travel through the mountain, is that I need to accept, not only the kindness, but also the fact that the kindness might not always be there when you need it. It hurts deeply, but when I last checked, there were and are, no perfect human beings on this planet! We are all doing our best, or so we like to think. However, sometimes our best isn’t good enough. When you are the recipient, accepting what is offered is an art that most of us need to learn to be better at. So, there are failures in this process: the hard thing is letting the failures stand on their own merit.

The Third Option: Patience. It is going to take time. It isn’t going to happen speedily.

Nobody wants to remain in grief and pain forever, and yet in order to get through the grief, it is essential to remain there until you can move forward. Forward movement is done in steps. If you try to force this forward movement it actually sets you back. Facing the good days along with the bad, or not-so-bad but not-so-great days, is moving forward. This is not a science but rather a journey. Crossing the milestones, understanding that there will be many such milestones, and allowing them to come naturally is part of the process.

Being kind and gentle with yourself is also needed. Show yourself mercy. Come to understand that you are enough and that simply getting through the death of a loved one is enough. This has been my process. It would be accurate to say that this has been a roller-coaster ride and that I’ve been flipped, raised up, sent flying down and jerked around. I’ve taken a couple of “G’s” and I suspect that I’ll be hit again. Smoother riding will come. (Is life ever completely smooth?) So, be merciful to your soul and it will pay off.

There is so much to be said about dealing with someone’s suicide. I have time to say it in multiple posts. But, the last thing I will say is that I’m at peace with my Jon and his death. I spent 22 years of my life loving and supporting Jon. I got to know his pain and the fact that each day he struggled to find shelter from the depression and pain that he lived with for 30+ years. There are times when loving someone means that you come to a realization that loving them entails letting go completely. Jon walked a pathway of life for years that held struggle and sorrow. Jon did not end his life impulsively, but rather with thought and an understanding that he had done all he could to heal. In his notes, he grieved that this would cause me pain. But, he also expressed his love for me. I respect that and honor his death. And in that I have peace.

The Boring Machine


WARNING: this gets detailed and somewhat graphic for the imagination.  Please read THROUGH IT before reading this post. 

Deep into the earth I go.  Deep into the darkness where hell lives.  I go in deep because where I am now requires me to be there. In order to go Through It I must first face it and expel the debris.  I’ve had to think about not only where his head was at the time of his completed suicide: I’ve had to think about what I was thinking before I knew he’d done, as I call it, “the deed.”  

We had a deal.  At least I thought we had a deal, and for my part, it seemed like the right thing to do.  (Had he kept the first part of the deal I’d now be in jail!) The deal was that: he’d come and talk to me and tell me that he was going to attempt and complete suicide.  The second half of the deal was that I would not be the one to find him dead. The deal wasn’t realistic.  

Had Jon told me about his plan I would have been legally obligated to stop him.  I would have needed to get him to the hospital. On August 28th that is where my head was. I was going to have him forcibly, if needed, hospitalized.  The numbers indicate that those who go into the hospital come out with more energy and actually in a place where they are more likely to carry out a plan.  In Jon’s mind going to the hospital wasn’t an option. Going there by force was most assuredly, less of an option. He spent all day Saturday and Sunday morning making the final decision to leave.  From his notes it wasn’t an easy choice. In the end it wasn’t a long letter that he left on the dining room table but rather a short note that said he loved me. The letters were his thoughts on the “why now.”  I had to read between the lines to understand it as even in dying he couldn’t show it all. He had, over the years, shared everything thus I was able to understand what he couldn’t even write. The note was two short sentences. In small print, so as not to detract from the content of the note, he told me where to find his body.   

He kept the second half of our agreement.  I did not open the door to the shed where he was. The police broke the glass to open the door which had been locked from the inside.  This kept me from using a key to open the door myself. (Yes, on realizing where he was I grabbed the key that hung by the door and went out to attempt to open the shed.) 

When the police came shortly after I had called them I went out with them.  They sternly, once the door was open, told me to go inside the house. I’m told it was messy and I didn’t look and I’m glad that I didn’t look.  The shed had to be sanitized and most everything in there was lost.  

The police were required to check for criminal activity but there was none.  They came into the house and there I sat on the sofa stunned and wondering how he could have done this.  As I mentioned before, this was a shock, trauma, and a bunch of other stuff all rolled into an afternoon that I had never wanted to have to live through.  The police were respectful, kind, and that is all I felt while dealing with them. I was actually able, and I don’t know how, to ask what he’d done. Jon had told me years earlier that he’d decided on a method that would be decisive, swift and not be too painful.  The officer told me that at the most he had one second of pain and three seconds till death would have come. He did not use a gun.  

To give you some idea of where my head was during all of this I asked a really stupid question. “Did he hang himself?”  OK, I knew that there was no way to hang himself in that shed, and we didn’t have the type of rope that would have held for hanging.  My head was pretty discombobulated by that time. His body was whole and for that I’m thankful.  

I share all of this because I had to begin from this point and go forward.  I’m grateful that I had been spared the trauma of finding him. I was lucky that way. 

What is the Boring Machine now sending out on the conveyor belt to be dumped into the earth?  Pain, deep pain, loss, sadness, questions of did I do my best and did I do enough. Could I have done things better?  And in typing these words the tears return. The answer is YES! But it was, and is enough. Maybe that is what haunts so many people in this situation.  This might be the hardest of all the questions to resolve. I was lucky because Jon and I had spoken about our relationship and he recognized, and told me that I’d done enough.  Yet doubts still come because that is the nature of this beast. 

Why didn’t I see it coming? Sometimes you just don’t see it because the person is extremely skilled at hiding it from you.  Sometimes the words are too scary for the person to utter. In so many ways what a person who is seriously planning suicide is going to have to speak is the truth that says I’m going to take my life. I’m going to go to a place that is so unthinkable that speaking the words is a hard act to contemplate.  I’m taking so much control that when I complete this act I can’t reverse it.  

Personally I don’t think that you can remain sane and complete the act of suicide.  I say that because I do know what it required for Jon to go to the place where he could complete suicide.  It wasn’t a calm place. He had once told me that if he could ever bring himself to complete the act he’d have to take himself to a place of hate for me.  That is what he did. For less than four minutes he took himself to a place of hate that enabled him to separate from all that was good, kind, dear and loving to himself.  Having committed such an act towards me he could no longer live because it went against his value system. If you are reading this and saying to yourself that this is crazy-making you are correct; it was, and it is.  BUT, for him it worked. In those four minutes he managed to alienate me in a way that I couldn’t imagine. It worked; I wanted nothing to do with him.  

This does not mean that everyone who completes suicide takes themselves to a place of hate for those who they love.  I don’t think most souls who complete or attempt suicide would think in this manner. There is some evidence that points to those who attempt and complete suicide having tears in their eyes.  That tells me that they don’t go where Jon went.  

Suicide leaves a legacy of damage.  Your spouse, partner, parents, siblings, children, extended family and friends are left to sort out the mess and damage.  

I am left holding a life that is shattered by an act that, when you pause to think about, causes an existential crisis for everyone involved.  How could he go to that ultimate place and contemplate such an act? How do I deal with all the crap that gets pushed out by coping with this issue? Maybe the hardest of all is:  what can a friend or family member say to make it better?  

Let me start off with the “what to say” response.  Firstly, this is the unthinkable act. The reality is that people do consider the existential ultimate powder.  People who hurt badly enough, perceive the solution of suicide as a fix-it for a life with too much pain of whatever type it is they are dealing with; these souls do go to the ultimate place.  They do consider suicide and for some, they act.  

So what do you say to someone who is faced with processing their loved-ones completed suicide?  

In writing this I wrote a list of the do’s and don’ts.  The problem is the list is MY of do and don’t items. So I’ll keep it simple. Do show empathy. That means do what THEY need not what you think you’d want. 

Be honest and tell them that you don’t understand but that you will listen and try to learn and be in the moment with them.  

If you offer support make certain that it is support you can follow through with. 

My one huge DON’T is this: Don’t abandon them because you don’t know what to say.  Say you love them, say you care, SAY SOMETHING! 

Secondly, I’ve been through one traumatic death before and having survived that I can tell you that this is different. Which leads me to explain what I call “the death bubble”  

All death sends you into some kind of bubble. I don’t mean this in a negative way but rather the bubble has to exist in order to give you time to process the event.  For some there is time to say goodbye and for others the death is sudden and unexpected. Still others must process some form of trauma along with death. Then there is completed suicide which is very different to process

Each of these deaths causes us to go to a place of time standing still or ‘the bubble”.  While the rest of the universe continues on with life we are stopped mid-track in whatever place it is we are.  We do what must be done to either bury or cremate, we plan a funeral, memorial service or wake. Most importantly we gather as family, friends, colleagues and we grieve, celebrate, eat, drink, laugh and cry.  After the service and immediate mourning period we exit the bubble to play catch up and realize that life moves on. We might be in slow motion for a while but we do move forward. 

We go home to an empty home, someone missing at the table, someone we can no longer speak to or in some cases we go home relieved that person is no longer there.  But still we leave the bubble. 

With the death of an older relative or parent you know it’s coming.  With younger deaths we may or may not know that they will die; but we may have time to prepare for it thus making it somewhat easier.  Traumatic deaths are an entirely different thing altogether.  

Heaped on top of the normal grief and pain, you have trauma, loss, anger, rage, questioning, disbelief, guilt and this can go on for months.  I must also say that I haven’t exhausted the list of what someone who deals with traumatic death deals with. The bubble either explodes, crashes in, or it remains forever.  

There is no right or wrong way to experience and process death.  People grieve differently. People think differently, and their learned experience combines with all of this to create an individual experience. 

Having said all of that, it takes time to get over the death of anyone.  

My greatest plea in all of this is to have others recognize that grief takes time. Show compassion and please do not shame someone for their process.  They will get through it when they get through it. Their time, their rules, are what matter here. 

 There are some helpful “do’s” that you can engage in IF you are committed to support someone who is grieving the death of a loved one.

There are times when you may need to offer feedback.  Take your time and be gentle. By this I mean create a conversation and ask questions and listen to the responses. Don’t offer feedback until you have learned more from someone. It might be great feedback but if you listen, you may learn something that makes it altogether wrong for that particular time and individual. 

For instance, I realized about six months into my journey within the deep earth that I might benefit from working with a psychologist who specializes in grief.  What I was going through was hell and you should avoid going through that place alone. Friends have been supportive but sometimes you need to talk it out with an objective third party.   I was clued into myself and what was happening well enough to grasp what I needed. It took me another month or two to follow through on it but it was on my radar and I eventually acted. In some cases someone might not know what they need.  Had someone told me that I needed to talk with someone I may, or may not, have been receptive to the idea. I could have said “I’m fine on my own” and pushed the person away. Timing and understanding are everything. 

So, deep inside the mountain I go. Deep into a place that I wish I could have avoided.  Deep, and in some cases very alone, because I’m the only one who can do this work. When the tears come I let them, knowing that tears lift pain in ways that I can’t do without.  

At some point in time there will be light at the end of the tunnel.  Logic tells me this and hope lights the candle that I hold in this space.  Each turn of the Boring, (but necessary) Machine brings me closer to the other side.  For now that is enough. 

Raw


***in the spirit of this post I’ve left it unedited. 

I’ve been thinking about this death, grief, life and recovery-from-it-all-thing. After 22 days of being in a snarky and angry state I will speak. 

December sucks. December sucks worse than raw lemons.  December has been my undoing this year. Why? I have first lived through our anniversary day. Now I must face Christmas alone for the first time in my life.  This must be faced alone because that is how growth intends for it to be: I can’t run from it. Growth isn’t easy. Deep growth requires that we look at painful stuff head on and go through it alone. Some things just ARE.  

In my closet, the Christmas decorations are in a large box. The tree is packed away in a box and secured to the pipes that run through the house.  It could be reached but I have no desire to inflict pain on myself. I do have a smaller tree that sits atop a cabinet. This I’ve decorated with the few things that Jon and I have purchased or been given.  Amsterdam, Salzburg, a wedding present…these items represent the sacred. It isn’t that the sacred is not on the large tree it is rather, that I know that putting up that larger tree is not a place I can take myself emotionally.  Maybe next year.   

I just want this to go away.  I want it over with. The season to me is dead. It hurts to be alone with this and there is no fix for it.  People don’t try to fix it. This fix that I have to wade through is only for me, myself and I. I’m not afraid of doing the wading as I’ve done lots of wading through awful stuff in the past year plus several months.

In talking with others who are making the journey to someplace else after being left by a loved one who completed suicide I’m finding that at least I’m not alone: this is common. Some of us know what we want or need and some of us don’t have a clue.  We all want it gone.

I’m finding that family and friends distance themselves because, for the most part, they don’t really understand what to say.  SAY ANYTHING. Say that you love me, that you care! Say it with cookies and chocolate. Say it with an Audible gift card. Say it with a phone call or an email. JUST SAY SOMETHING and don’t run from me.  Don’t run from us. We don’t have the plague! We’re surviving the worst death that can be had. We’re sorting out a mess of trauma and conflicted thought. We’re doing it while the world is getting happy.  We’re doing it as many of you are busy wrapping gifts to place under trees that for some of us will not be decorated. We just want to get through it. We don’t want to think about the missing gifts, the person who should be present, but that is no longer at the table.  And yet, we remember. We can’t stop remembering and the tears that are bitter, come.

For us our landscapes have changed: permanently.  We can’t get it back, and in my case I wouldn’t want it back because of what Jon suffered. 

I miss the sneakiness of the plans. I miss the thoughtfulness of finding his gift.  I miss his joy of opening it up. I miss him torturing me with the suspense of hiding something delightful from me until Christmas morning…he was so good at that.  It is no more.

In time December will take a new form in my mind and my heart.  For right now it is bleak, empty and frozen. RAW seems to be the theme for now.  It is raw at its worst and soft at its best. It has to stand in this manner right now.

In the future I will create a new landscape that is uniquely mine but for this year, I must get through the hell that is: RAW.

From The Netherlands Peace to all and to all a good 2018

Gail

He Let Go Too

What I’m about to share with you is personal.  This is a complicated post to write precisely because this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, or ever expect to do in my life.  While I’m sharing the experience, I’m not going to dissect what I did. It would take away from what happened. It has been a 3K-plus word project and as I type this I think why not just type three words and leave it at that.  While that would make reading rapid, it won’t get the facts across. So, brew up your favorite drink hot, or cold, and happy reading. I don’t know what the final word count will be.  

When I first met my husband Jon he was recovering from a single manic episode of bipolar disorder.  It had been triggered by medication and now he was working in IT and relieved to be back doing life.  In the years that followed I would learn how mental illness can traumatize the soul.  

The longer we dated, and by the time we married four years later, I was only too aware that I was involved with a man who could take his own life. It scared me.  Bipolar disorder is a killer. It is estimated that 30% of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder will attempt to take their own lives. I now get why. I had become involved with someone at high risk. 

The only way to make a high risk situation work within a relationship is to develop solid communication whereby both parties are committed to honesty.  It isn’t easy work. Marriage, at best, is hard and this only threw a wrench into the mix. We had resolved early on in our relationship to talk things out even if it took days to work it out.  We both valued the hard work of making things work. 

While the first 10 years of our marriage had  challenges, his mental health was mostly stable.  As I learned how to listen to the language of bipolarism better, I was becoming aware of how I could lower his stress levels. When I talk about this the best way to help you, the reader, to understand is to say that it looked a great deal like “emotional violence”. He never touched me physically, but the pain and experience of seeing someone in a type of mental anguish takes a unique toll on the soul.  I had to set boundaries, and when someone is in a rage, that isn’t always easy. I had to learn to get beyond the fear and hold my own. I couldn’t do everything but I could do many things to ease his stress. With some good coaching from the psychiatrist I learned to disengage. By doing this, he learned to calm himself, and I began to trust that he would calm himself. It was a difficult journey for both of us because I wanted to fix it and he needed me to pull back and not fix it.  Fixing it can take away a person’s dignity. This way he claimed the right to know what he could do for himself.  

In 2010 the slide began and this time there was not much I could do.  I watched as a severe depression crept in despite a well constructed cocktail of drugs and a great deal of talk therapy.  In November of 2011 he hit rock bottom. He was in bed and barely functioning.   

It was this episode that caused me to call his psychiatrist.  It was this conversation that forced me to rethink my attitude towards holding on to the fear of “what if he does it.”

As a therapist I knew the statistics. I also knew when, and where, dangerous things could happen.  When he was not functional there wasn’t an issue…it was when the energy returned that all hell could break out.    As a wife I didn’t want to hear any of it. I wanted assurance. And then the doc said “Gail, you have to let go.” This comment, and thought, took me on a three year journey.  For three years I asked myself what this meant to me. Letting go has many meanings: which one was I looking at and struggling to unravel and understand?  

Did I need to let go of the relationship?  Let go of the thoughts that he would fully recover and be able to return to work as he had previously done?  Did I need to let go of the fact that there was a 30% chance he would attempt suicide and succeed? Was I looking at a higher probability that he’d do something?  

I knew that there were things I knew and understood.  Mental illness, at its more intense levels, operates on the theory of “thirds.”  One third of diagnosed bipolar people will never improve no matter what. They’ll struggle with medication and hospitalization, never seeing improvement. This is called “treatment resistant” bipolar, or depression.   Another third will be revolving-door patients. They’ll swallow the pills and when they are feeling great they’ll quit the regimen and wind up back in the hospital and in crisis. For this third, if you can educate them about staying on the drugs and staying in treatment, there is hope. This is hard work and I’m not stating that there is much success with this third.. The last third will seek treatment and do everything they need to do to stabilize themselves.  My husband was in this last group. My nightmare was that something awful could happen. My fear was that something bigger than either of us could deal with would show its ugly head and what would, and could, be done at that point in time. My fear was that in a reckless moment of time he’d do something I couldn’t reason him out of.   

After sitting with the question of what did letting go mean to me, and going through a three-year thought process, I came to the conclusion that “letting go” meant giving up the idea that he would never seriously consider, or act, on suicide.  That he’d want to live above all else. What did this mean in terms of how I looked at him and our relationship?  

As I sat with this question and explored it deeply, I realized that if I was to fully let go, there were two things I needed to ask Jon to do for me.  I had to be very clear about them because once they were out there I couldn’t retract them. 

The time finally came for me to broach the subject of letting go fully and completely.  He cried, I cried, and an understanding was reached between the two of us. He promised to honor my request.  It was liberating for the relationship and it caused deeper healing to occur for both of us. While it took me until 2014 to say the words, the deeper work of healing had begun previous to this disclosure.  During 2011-2012 he made some connections that enabled us to trust more deeply and because of that, things smoothed out for us and peace set in. During June of 2016 I reminded him that I meant what I had said in 2014. I think it was a deep knowledge that he needed to hear the words again  that caused me to repeat them to him. On the 28th of August, 2016 the pain proved too great and he did end it after a weekend of planning.  (I was unaware that this planning was happening. That was not part of what I’d asked for and therefore he felt he could withhold this from me.)  

What I discovered is that my value system would not allow me to hold on to someone that was suffering so much pain and that to hold him here would have been selfish on my part.  As I spent time thinking about my needs and his needs, I came to understand that I had to turn this over to someone far wiser than myself. You can call it your higher power, or God, or whatever you will.  I let go of holding on to him. I had to trust that he’d act in a way that would be good for him and for me even if it was the hard thing to do. 

What I came to understand in hindsight, was that I had done everything in my power to love and honor my husband. I had cared for him in the good times and the hard times. Despite the trials of the bipolarism, I had done well.  Letting go of him has made my recovery a wee bit easier as I’ve not felt the guilt that I might have felt otherwise.  

Having said the above let me also say this:  My husband was in his mid 50’s when this happened.  This was not something he did on a whim. He spent a good 31 years of his existence trying to make life work. He did his best at living.  Sometimes the only way to end the suffering is to stop it completely. As I understood all of this, the ability to let go, while hard, became clear to me.  He deserved someone who would let go.  

I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about all of this.  It is complex, hopeful and a plea, that we do as much as we can to understand why suicide happens and come to an understanding that not every suicide can be stopped.  Stopping suicide is beyond our ability. Putting resources in place to enlighten others IS within our capability.     

Did my husband do the right thing?  Yes, I believe he did. He spent years living and when the relapse hit he made a choice to end the suffering.  He had lived a good, but hard, life. THAT being said….

I”m aware that so many people are working to prevent suicide among one group or another. In particular: LGBTQ youth.  This has made me stop and think. I would not wish what I’ve been through on anyone. I didn’t want this to happen, but I can accept that it did, and that is OK.  It has made me think about others who “find the note”, the body, or hear of the death, and wonder why it happened.  

I’ve asked myself what I would say to a parent with a child between 12-25 who expressed a desire to leave this life. I don’t think there is an easy answer, but there are things that can help along the way.  

I’d take into account that there is so much going on in their young lives and that they aren’t fully developed mentally, or physically. I’d try to remember that for most kids, this time of life can be a real hell and that life is lived intensely from minute to minute and day to day.  I’d offer a safe place to fall. Sometimes mom or dad are too close and are not the option they are looking for. Sometimes parents are the right option. I’d try to remember my own explorations and struggles. I’d try to shovel up every resource possible. Mostly what I’d want to do is create safe-havens for these kids and their parents. It really is all about the resources!  

I think what helps the most, is to listen when it scares you and to accept when it challenges you.  Questioning for understanding and motivation will then be open to you. Be willing to learn the pain of their reality.  Never assume that you know what that pain is because most likely it is what we least expect.  

By opening the door you open up the options! YOU might need to be the one to do the research.  You might be the one that needs to take the lead. Keep in mind that you are raising an adult who is in a child’s body.     

Rather than shutting them down, I would want to hear their stories, and in hearing and then understanding, offer alternatives.  I’d go down the suicide rabbit hole with the understanding that sometimes talking about it can do amazing things for everyone involved.  I’d set some huge groundrules to let them know how keeping themself safe works. I think there is a huge misunderstanding that if the person talks about it they’ll do it.  Talking about it helps someone to explore their fears and the reality of what is in their head. We’ve gotten away from serious conversations about death, and by not speaking about death, we also fail to speak fully about life and what it means to become engaged with it.  

I’d tell them that they are valued for who they are and, even more so, for who they can become.  Telling someone they’d be missed might sound good, but telling them why they’d be missed provides reasons for remaining around and engaging in life.  

One of the huge things I learned in my 20-plus years with my husband is that: suicide takes only three seconds and happens when the person can’t see any resources to bring to the situation.  In my husband’s case, the time for the resources to become effective this time around were too long of a wait. He wasn’t willing to remain in the pain.   

I offer all of this up for consumption in hopes that you, the reader, will not face the experience of walking downstairs to get lunch only to find the note on the table telling you where the body is located.  

I offer this up in an attempt to bring some understanding that the pain survivors live with, is real.  This is traumatic. But, you can recover and move on. I believe my recovery has been smooth in many ways, but rocky in others.  

I offer this up, to bring comfort to those who struggle to let go in life, and death.  There is hope and a pathway to peace. It takes time and the companionship of those who understand and can walk with you. “Letting go” leads to self exploration.  There is no schedule. There are no stages. In facing grief, remember that grief just IS.  

I offer this up because in my letting go, I was able to understand that I had no control over another human being as much as I wanted to hold on to someone I dearly loved.  But, this is the contract of life. We all are born into others’ hopes for us. We hope for a long life, a safe life, a healthy life, or many things in life. We come to believe in all of these things.  We hope for them, and even plan on them. We learn all of this, and in our learning we become deluded! It is our delusions that cause things to come crashing down on us when the ultimate, whatever it may be, happens.  

I offer this to the reader because I understand that letting go is complicated and not something any of us can do easily. I admit that in sorting this out, I found myself in some scary and dark places.  I wish that I’d had someone to talk it through with. I didn’t.   

I offer this to the reader so that those who have become victims of a a loved ones death by suicide will understand that you are enough.  You did your best and it was good enough and nothing could have stopped your loved one from completing an unthinkable act. Give yourself credit for where you were in your thinking and understanding then and the movement to where you are now.  

I offer this up to reinforce that the only thing we have in our control is the power to move through, and beyond.  I recognize that we will never get over this act of violence in our lives, but we will get through it. If you have not faced this awful situation but fear it could happen, seek a safe place to explore your feelings and fears around this subject.  Get to know these particular monsters that dwell in the dark cave. Befriend them and they will teach you in ways you least expect them to.  

I write this to honor those who have found constructive ways of celebrating those who chose to leave this life.  I accept that their reasons were their own. I will not judge anyone’s decision for making the exit. I am thankful to know families who remember with courage and grace.  

I write this in the hope of informing people that peace can be found.  

I write this believing that while we may not be able to stop suicide from happening, we can offer up solid solutions for others so that they can live long and productive lives.  

I type these words knowing that I had to let go.  I don’t regret having done so. He also let go and it was the right choice.