For a number of years now, my brother Kelvin and I have used the bullhorn of our respective Daily Republic columns in May to talk about our older brother Kenneth James Wade, who committed a murder/suicide on Mother’s Day 1990.
I have done the guilt/blame thing, been very angry at Ken for his actions and been surprised to discover that the crushing grief can sometimes still, so many years later, feel as fresh as when I heard the tragic news.
Taking a timeout from my regular Monday humor column to focus on such a sensitive, heavy topic serves the dual purposes of hopefully helping someone and giving me yet another positive way to deal with how much I miss my brother.
I recently attended a memorial for a man who killed himself and while he was not a close friend, I experienced the intense ripples of pain that his decision left among those who knew and loved him. That’s why this year I want to focus on those left behind after a loved one commits suicide, and how they deal with it.
Six years ago, a friend of mine was rocked to the core when her husband of 12 years committed suicide, leaving her to raise their son and twin girls alone. She agreed to share her experiences and since her children, who are still quite young, do not know how their father died, she will remain anonymous.
Q: What has been the most difficult part?
The most difficult part is seeing my kids grow up and him not being here to enjoy this experience. Not having my life partner here is not what I envisioned for my life. Anniversaries are hard. Birthdays are hard. Going to a park and seeing a family together is a trigger for me. Going to dinner alone with my kids is a trigger. I used to avoid those things, but now I am able to get through them.
Q: In what specific ways have you dealt with it?
I have a big support system. I have family and I try to stay active and live a healthy lifestyle. The girls are now in counseling, which gives them an opportunity to talk with other children who have lost parents. I have a church, I have my faith and I pray and I cry. I am angry sometimes, too. It is a wave of emotions. I have gotten counseling and did a grief share class twice.
Q: What about “closure” and moving on?
Friends want you to go on, but you can’t rush this thing and people sometimes think they are saying the right things and often they are not. I learned in counseling that life goes on. Other people have lives that are not going to stop just because your husband is gone. A lot of people didn’t feel comfortable around me because they felt I would always have a breakdown. A lot of times I felt like I couldn’t talk about memories of my husband, but I talk about him freely now. I have to make people comfortable around me. And I have people I can call when I am having a down day.
Q: Does talking about it help?
Yes. I have people come up to me and tell me they had a brother who did that. Or they had a cousin who did that. Some people want to talk about it, but some don’t. There are a lot of people out there who are in pain who could benefit from a suicide support group.
Initially, I spent a lot of energy lying about how my husband died. When people ask now, I tell them my husband committed suicide – and then you get all the questions. Working with a counselor, I now know it wasn’t about me. It’s not a reflection on me. I don’t know why this happened to me or my kids or his family, but it has and I have to move on. I can’t let it define who I am.
You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.