Widow by Suicide

When asked, I don’t usually tell people how Kevin died unless I trust the person. I just say that he was sick and in pain for a long time. It’s not that I’m ashamed of his suicide, because I’m not. I don’t want to deal with people’s reactions. People don’t truly understand that particular type of loss unless they’ve experienced it. If they haven’t, they don’t know how to react, and I really don’t blame them. Especially when I tell them that my life is better now than it was when he was alive. (Better is really subjective, because it’s much different. The differences are positives. It’s hard for me to balance all those emotions in my head.)

When you lose a loved one to suicide, encountering a situation where someone died by that method of death can be triggering. For the past six years, hearing about other people killing themselves has always triggered a flood of memories about Kevin. These days, hearing of a suicide reminds me exactly why I’m on medication and that I shouldn’t be so eager to get off it.

It all started when Robin Williams died 4 weeks after Kevin. Robin’s death was a shock that was very difficult to process until I learned about the aggressive type of dementia he had called Lewy Body Dementia. His brilliant brain turned against him in a brutal way, and he was no longer himself. That’s what caused him to end his life, and I feel we owe it to him to get that right and not let memes let us get lazy about the truth of his suicide. He should get a pass because that disease is horrendous. But I digress.

It was emotionally overwhelming to see the world mourn that unique soul the day after I had to endure Kevin’s first post-mortem birthday. Somehow I got through that time. I’m really not sure how, honestly. That time is a blur. I was in such a fog trying to cope with the loss of my soulmate and trying to figure out what kind of a life I going to have now that I was on my own at nearly 40.

In the 6 years since we lost Robin Williams, there have been other suicides in the world at large and in my little world, and it’s never really easy to deal with. It’s gotten easier as the years pass, but it still takes time for me to snap out of remembering that blurry time. I can’t do it too soon or it’ll just pop up again, but I can’t let it drag on or it won’t stop. It’s a delicate balance I’m still trying to figure out.

For how long is it healthy to keep playing those memories in my mind’s eye like a montage set to whatever song that reminds me of him pops into my head? Do I try to listen to a couple songs to see if they still carry intense sense memories? Or do I just go through the snippets of memories over and over again?

I remember:

  • how all the music the night before when I was up late shuffling through his iTunes library that hinted that he may be gone and I shouldn’t be waiting up for him to come back.
  • Not wanting to fall asleep the night after he died because I couldn’t face my first day as a widow.
  • How hoarse my voice got with all the talking I did those first few days.
  • All the times I was called brave when sharing the news with others. As if I had no other choice but to continue to live.
  • So many migraines. It was the only thing I allowed myself to stay in bed for.
  • Days like one last week where all sorts of songs that remind me of Kevin that I haven’t heard in ages pop up randomly from however You Tube Music decides to generate customized playlists. It can randomly get overwhelming, which isn’t ideal during the workday.

The truth is, after six fargin years, I still can’t think too much about losing him because the emotional pain can causes physical pain. All the intense sense memories that pop up when listening to music that prevent me from listening to music I adore. It sucks and I hate going through it. And I accepted it was going to happen beforehand because I’d done everything I could to take care of him and keep him alive as long as I could.

Meds help keep me from wallowing in that pain, but I still feel it. For years, and even still now to a small extent, it’s been easier to think of those 18 years as a dream. I’ve done a lot of work to process the loss, and have learned better coping mechanisms, for the most part. It hasn’t been easy. Hindsight is bittersweet as well as 20/20, and I’ve made a lot of realizations about my years with Kevin that explained so much and would have made a lot of things easier.

Still, when a suicide happens, I try to have compassion for the newly deceased and learn what made them decide to stop living. I feel for the family and am once again grateful we were childfree and all our cats were gone. I feel for all those who would have gladly helped that person find reasons to live. Survivor’s guilt is a drag.

Yet, compassionate as I may be, it puts me in a funk for a few days and I start to miss Kevin. It’s hard to find the balance between “I miss my soulmate” and “My Sweeties are the love of my life.” Do I feel bad that I wouldn’t take him back if he somehow magically came back to life or proud that I’ve grown into a different person over these past 6 years? Trying to balance this reminds me of two things in college: Balancing equations in Chemistry and diagramming sentences in an English Grammar class. It was hard doing those two things, but I managed to figure it out enough to pass both classes.

So yes, it’s hard, but I do my best to weather out the storm and get on with life. I’ve learned how to function well during this time. It’s mentally exhausting at times, but continuing to live helps keep me from wallowing in the loss. Having my Sweeties to call on when I need them is a tremendous help. Their love is the antidote for the pain of losing Kevin. It’s not a substitute, it’s an upgrade.

I hope I’ve done a decent job trying to convey my perspective. At the very least, if you’ve lost a part of your heart to suicide, you know you’re not alone. I know rom personal experience that does help.

Mostly Narrative Freewriting #6: Self Image

I remarked to my favorite Maternal cousin the other day that I was still getting used to being seen as desirable by my Sweeties. Meds have caused some weight gain, and I’ll be on them for a bit longer, it seems. But that doesn’t matter to them. It’s wonderful yet hard to accept.

In my last post I talked about giving the voice that tells you to harm yourself a name and fight it like a bully. That’s a tip I learned at the turn of the century when I frequented the forums of an support group for Eating Disorders. I was 26 and a mere 2 pounds away from mandatory hospitalization when I finally got into therapy. I weighed 103 when I was 14 and that freaked me the fuck out. So I cut out meat to make it easier not to eat. That lasted until college, when I finally had some control over my life.

It took a dozen years to get diagnosed because I wasn’t your stereotypical anorexic obsessed with looks. It was all about control. Growing up, there were only two things I really had control over–the state of my room and what I ate. My room was a mess and I didn’t weigh over 100 pounds until years after I moved out. Oddly enough, the messiness thing lingered even when I was eating like a normal, healthy person. Let’s not digress about that today though.

Until I hit 40, I never really felt like I could be accepted for who I am. Everyone who loved me seemed to not like something about me that they would point out often. It made me feel like people were doing me a favor by loving me, so I should let those people control me. I didn’t kick that bad habit until after Kevin died. I had a clean slate, and there were many things I swore “never again will I tolerate this behavior.”

Now that I’m halfway through them, I’m still working on accepting that I’m loveable for who I am at this moment in time. My Sweeties are unconditionally accepting and supportive of me yet are frank with me when the situation merits it. It’s a great thing we have, and I’m really lucky.

Ah yes, the voice thing. I named my eating disorder Calvin Ferguson, the nemesis of the Ghostwriter Team, which were characters from this show that was on PBS on Sunday nights. I was a couple years older than the normal demographic for the show, but I still enjoyed it. Calvin was the Snidley Whiplash type of villain–it was clear you were never to sympathize with him. I figured that was a fitting name for that voice that told me I’d feel better the longer I went without eating. It really helped with recovery, and I started eating like a normal person. My Calvin popped up after the first couple years of Kevin’s illness. I had to admit that I had that problem again, as that was probably a source of the oodles of the nearly 3 dozen migraines I had that same year. Calvin was admonished as much as possible.

These days, I will enable myself to easily eat when I know I’m prone to start restricting. At the beginning of quarantine, I ate a lot. Then I didn’t eat much until after I went back to the office. I like making my lunch because it’s cheaper than going out to eat all the time. Plus, I don’t blow half my lunch acquiring it.

It’s funny, I still her Calvin sometimes. Only now his voice sounds like Kevin’s. He loved to refer to my shape or my room as “piggy.” I was a reasonable weight for my body type and age. Just some bloating or weight gain from being on meds. “Don’t eat so much at night.” (Heaven forfend I make too much noise in the morning when you’re sleeping in the morning!)

Oh, I could go on, but I’m not going to. I’d rather shift my mind back to the part where my Sweeties find me desirable and loveable just the way I am. We’e got our space and we all can just live honestly for a change. It really has worked wonders for my self image. I know what they say is true, and I’m starting to see what they see when I look in the mirror.

If You’re Suicidal, Read This

So, you’re contemplating killing yourself. Indeed a tough decision. However, there’s a few things you should know before make your attempt.

Before I continue, I know there are several common reasons people contemplate suicide. I’d like to address a few of them.

If you suffer from a mental illness or are healing from trauma, let me try to encourage you to keep living. That voice that keeps telling you that you’re so much of a burden that it’s time to end it all is a motherfucking liar. No, really, it is. You’re suffering from a disease or disorder. That voice wants to destroy your sense of ease. It wants to make you feel horrible and think you’re worthless. Do people tell you you’re a wonderful person? Are you noted in your little corner of the world for being good at something? All those complements are TRUE. You’re getting them because you’re worthy of them. Yeah, we’ve all got haters, but you really can’t please everyone, can you? The ones who love you truly care about you and would miss you deeply. If you die, all your pain is going to be scattered around to people you’re close to and others whose lives you’ve touched (and you know you have because they tell you). Anyone who is a survivor of someone else’s suicide is going to be genuinely triggered. You’re going to open up a wound for that person. To me, that’s selfish.

Suffering from mental illness and got triggered from someone else’s suicide? Boy, do I feel ya. That’s precisely why this post exists. Someone I worked with on and off for a couple years killed herself a few days ago. I’m sure the voices in her head were just too loud because life circumstances were making them hard to ignore. I’m sorry she got to that point. But she had people who would have seen her through the darkness. Her death made me realize people need to know these things.

Shared pain is lessened if the person is around to be helped. Reach out to people who say they love you and tell them that you’ve got this damn voice in your head that’s trying to get you to harm yourself. I guarantee you they will want to help you live. Sure, nobody has a magic wand that will solve all your problems, but they’ll help you tell that damn voice to shut up until it silences. Please get it through your head that helping a loved one is much easier than mourning them. You owe it to everyone who says they love you to give them a chance to help.

Now, I will address the terminally ill. Yours is a much different situation. I will never tell another human being they need to keep on suffering just so they can let the disease take its course. Western Society really needs to accept death as a natural part of life and allow an adult to opt out of prolonged suffering. Until then, get as much as you can out of life for as long as you can. Try to minimize the trauma to your family, please.

If you’re chronically ill and are only going to get worse, that’s similar to the above. Share your feelings with your loved ones. Be honest about how you’re feeling. You’re more than your illness. Those who love you know that. They will also know when the illness has stolen your essence. That’s what helped me when my husband killed himself. I knew how miserable life was for him, and I accepted that he should be the one to say when he’d suffered enough. It still hurt like hell when it happened, and six years later it still hurts sometimes. Not everyone can reach that level of acceptance quickly–you need to give them time. It took me a couple years before I even tried to accept the illness had truly destroyed him.

Finally, we’ll address the “I don’t know how to deal with life right now” type of suicidal feelings. Usually this happens because of a huge change in life circumstance that isn’t a terminal illness or a chronic mental illness flares up.

Has your life as you know it changed and all you can think about is death because a relationship of some sort ended any number of ways? I get it, the feels are too much and you don’t know how you’re going to continue living without something or someone that was a major part of your life until now. You gotta come up with a better reason. Change is scary as hell, but it’s not insurmountable. I was a little suicidal at 20 when I broke up with my high school sweetheart after 5 years. I could not imagine life without him. We’d planned so much. I’m so glad I stuck around and got over him. I’ve had a quarter century of life since then, and it’s been quite a ride.

Don’t want to face the consequences of your evil actions because you finally got caught? You’re a fucking coward in addition to being a deplorable human being. Just make sure you own up to your dirty deeds before you kill yourself, if you must. Leave your victims with some closure, at least.

With the exception of evil people and the terminally ill, there are reasons to keep living. Name that damn voice in your head and fight it like the bully it is. Share the name with your people and tell them when the bully is around. They’ll have your back. People want to prevent your funeral. Living well is the best revenge to those who hurt you.

Stick around, if at all possible. Reach out to someone before you make your decision. You really do owe it to those who love you. And you do matter in this crazy world.