A Survivor's Story
An account of an employee whose life was impacted by suicide
*Although this was submitted to KEAP in 2004, the perspective is as relevant today as it was then.
Just so you know, I am still a new survivor. You are considered a new survivor up to seven years following the death of a spouse, child or loved one to suicide. Also, let me tell you that the grief to a survivor is just as raw today as it was on the day that our loved ones took their own lives. You just tend to deal with it better over time.
Let me begin by telling you a little bit about my husband. First and foremost, he was a Christian. He knew the Bible better than a lot of ministers and more importantly, he lived it. He was one of the most laid back individuals you would ever meet. He was one of those people that never met a stranger. He had a wide circle of friends from all walks of life. He was educated and outgoing. He didn't have a mean bone in his body and you never saw him angry. He loved his family and friends and in turn everyone loved him. He was the last person in this world you would ever expect to commit suicide.
But, looking back, now that I have had some counseling and have participated in the Kentucky Suicide Prevention Group, I realize that my husband did exhibit a lot of the signs of a person that would commit suicide. I just didn't see them.
To begin my experience I need to go back a little ways. My husband's father committed suicide when he was in college. We were dating at the time and I remember the night I got the call about his father's death. I remember how devastating it was to him. His father left no note or indication of why he committed suicide. Over the years, my husband often asked me how someone could do that? He questioned how his dad could have done that to his family. He also stated on numerous occasions that he could never put his family through what he went through.
Then, on July 4th of 2002, my husband's younger brother, whom he thought of as a son, also committed suicide. I believe that was the beginning of the end for my husband. He often told me that he wished he could have done something. There were a lot of…if only's. He kept telling me that he couldn't get his brother out of his mind. We talked about it on many different occasions and he always asked me that question of how someone could do that to his or her family. Again he made the statement that he would never do that to his family. And, oddly enough, I believed him.
After my husband's mother died in May of 2004 and after our daughter got married and moved out of our house with her three year old son in June the following month, is when I started to notice that he seemed different. Nothing drastic, but just subtle things.
• He seemed to be distracted more.
• He was an avid golfer and played three times a week. He gave it up.
• I had to push him to go out with friends.
• He would sleep more but be up and down a lot during the night.
• He gave away things…like his golf shoes to our grandson.
• We went to a friend's house July 4, 2004 and he seemed like his old self. He interacted with our friends like he always had and told them all how much he cared for them.
Of course, I realize now that these are all warning signs. Warning signs that I wasn't aware of until after his death.
Five days later, on July 9th, my husband committed suicide.
The day before his death, I had taken off work to be with my daughter who had some oral surgery performed. I left the house really early and assumed my husband had gone on to work and would call about her once I got her home and settled.
You need to understand that he talked to her every day. She, along with her brother and grandson, were the light of his life. When he didn't call to find out how the surgery went, I became concerned. I tried to hide that from my daughter but I could see that she was worried too. I told her I was going home for a while and would be back to check on her.
On the way, I began calling everywhere looking for him. He didn't answer his cell phone. I called at his work and was told he hadn't come in nor had he called in. That's when I knew something was wrong. I knew I had to tell my children. I made the calls. They both came home and waited with me. At about 11:00 pm Thursday night, my husband came home. He acted surprised to see us all waiting for him.
My daughter was crying and he seemed confused as to why she would be crying. She told him she was afraid that he had done what Uncle did.
He assured her he would never do that to her or to the rest of us. He loved us and would never put us through that. Appeased, she and my son left to go back to their homes.
At this point, my husband and I went out on the porch and started talking. He revealed a lot of what he was feeling to me that night including a lot of changes going on at work with the new administration, his feelings about the death of his brother and mother, and how quiet the house was since our children had left. But, he assured me that he never entertained any thoughts of taking his own life and never would. But he did admit that he was deeply depressed and couldn't snap out of it.
It was at this point that I realized how depressed he was and that he needed help. I told him we needed to go see a doctor. He agreed with me and told me I needed to get to sleep as I had a big day at work as my boss was retiring and we were having a big luncheon for her. He promised me he would call the doctor the first thing in the morning and make an appointment for us to go in and see him.
I went to bed and left him up watching TV and playing with our dog. When I got up the next morning, he wasn't in bed. This wasn't unusual as he often fell asleep on the couch because he was up and down so much during the night. I didn't think anything about it and got in the shower to get ready for work.
When I came into the den, expecting to find him asleep on the couch, he wasn't there. And, our dog that follows my husband everywhere was in the den. That is when I realized that something was wrong. I went through the house calling for him and then I went outside and that's when I found him.
He had taken a gun that I didn't know he had, gotten in his car, put the gun to his head, and pulled the trigger.
The devastation his suicide left behind for his family, friends, colleagues, and community was something I wish no one would ever have to experience.
The following days were a blur. Family and friends surrounded me with their love and support. With this love and support and my faith in God, I made it through the funeral.
At this point, I must say, that fear of the future was staring me in the face. I didn't know which way to turn. I was totally lost.
Several weeks following my husband's death my funeral director's grief counselor came to see me. She brought with her a folder with all kinds of pamphlets about suicide. It was from these pamphlets that I learned about the Survivors of Suicide meetings sponsored by Hospice. While attending one of these meetings I was invited to attend the "Remembering, Healing and Growing Conference" sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and the Kentucky Suicide Prevention Group, which was held in conjunction with the National Suicide Survivors Day.
I am determined that I will do everything that I can to keep even one person from going through what I went through during and after the suicide of my husband. I have vowed to speak openly about suicide and its effect on me, my family and my friends and to be there for anyone that needs me. Suicide is one of the most preventable deaths there is. So why isn't more being done to prevent it? We have to remember that most suicidal people don't really want to die—they just want the pain to go away. We also have to remember that "Suicide is Everybody's Business" and we all need to get involved to prevent even one more suicide.