Seven months after suicide - I'm good, how are you?

doc8404November 7, 2007

For all who have posted here, please know you and your families are in my prayers.

I've been asked by one of the previous posters to update the forum on my journey so far after the loss of my wife seven months ago to suicide. She is struggling and asks for a helping hand out of her grief and pain from those that understand our experience. She has also lost her spouse to suicide.

In specific, she asked me to post about any guilt as I've experienced it.

This will be a long post so go grab a cup of coffee.

There could be many sources of guilt - I'll discuss the ones I feel I know about. I am fortunate, I have not experienced much guilt in any form. My wife was ill for 15 years - desperately so for the last 12. I am comfortable with the knowledge that her doctors and I did all we could to treat her depression, ADD and bi-polar conditions. We tried every resonable treatment. I did everything she asked of me so as not to upset her and to try and calm her fears. I changed jobs, dropped friends, pretty much dropped everything I wanted to do in order to help her out. I didn't say a thing when she ripped out entire walls of the house and on and on and on. I built my life around her care and made all efforts to make her life as smooth as possible.

I told her at least once a day that I loved her and I would never leave her. I'm sure she believed me. I meant it.

For a very short time, 3 or 4 days immediately following her death, I did feel a bit guilty about having a gun in the house. (She shot herself in our bedroom while I was out of town with my two sons). I had previously moved it to an other location and had recently brought it back as she had completely turned herself around. She was bright, happy and upbeat. It was a side of her I hadn't seen in years. I thought she was in remission so to speak. Obviously, I was wrong.

But, both the coroner and the chief of police spoke to me in detail about this. I told them of my feeling of guilt. They both told me to forget it. They said the means of her death was not important because she would have killed herself anyway, even if the weapon was not available. The coroner said she would have found another means and that it would not have been as quick or painless as the method she chose. As hard as it is to accept, he said this was a blessing.

One final little bit of short term guilt. I thought "maybe if I was home, I could have stopped her." Again the chief of police disabused me of that notion. He said, No, if you had fought with her to take the gun away you'd be dead too and your boys would be orphans. I'm sure he is right.

I know my wife was not in her right mind when she left us. I know there is nothing I could have done differently that would have changed the outcome. Oh, her death may have come at a different date or time, but it would have been by her hand in any case.

Ultimately, my wife was in charge of herself and her actions, not me. She may have not been in control, but I would never been able to take that control from her and change the outcome. If someone wants to kill themself, they will.

This post is way longer than it should be already. I'll address the other two areas that I was asked about in

later posts.

What have your experiences been with guilt? Anything you are feeling or things you did to relieve guilt if you had any?

Please let me know.

Best wishes,


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I want you to know that you and your sons are in my thoughts frequently - I am glad you are healing from your tragic loss.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 7:58PM
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Your story offers a tragic reminder to everyone to *never* take for granted that a depressed loved one is "recovered" enough to be safe with a weapon in the house or that he/she "won't find it".

my best heartfelt healing thoughts to you & yours.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 1:06PM
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Hi Doc and Friends, it's freezing here -22 degrees and we now have about 8 inches of snow on the ground after a big snow yesterday, but it didn't stop me from blazing a trail to see Al this morning, i felt soooo bad, he must be so cold, i am not a crier in public but there i was talking to him and whipping the snow away, it has a bad day. i have made it to just over 9 months, and im still not coping well. Al was bed-ridden for 10 years, and yes i kept him at home, i gave him insulin 4 times a day, washed his hair, and cut it, made him anything he wanted to eat, and he thanked me many times a day, i told him it was my job and to stop it. i started cleaning the other day upstairs in our loft, and filled a small BFI bin with just junk. i then came across his guitar, and that sent me into tears again (which i will admit felt good). i can't see a doctor as mine is on sick leave till the new year (canadian rules) and there is no grief support here. i made it through our anniversary on nov 6, his birthday on oct. 20, and you can see i am worried about holiday time. we live right in the middle of canada, so any flights would be about 800.00 each x 3 people, plus our son has to be at work on the 26th, or we'd be gone somewhere (his boss said he can't have the time off), driving is out of the question toronto is about 28 hours away and winnipeg is about 16 and to drive to the states, we don't travel so we have no passports.
i will be honest and say i have no guilt, i did a really good job and also basically brought up the kids myself and they are great kids, the only guilt i do have is not being able to speak up and tell my mother in law and his sisters that how cold they not come over and help out even for 1/2 an hour. our daughter and i went to see a movie about a month ago and the last movie i remember seeing was Mr. Mom! - lol, they didn't have a clue that caregivers need a break, they figured hey, you;re home you're not tired.
Doc, do you get to go out at all? Did you pick up any of your old interests? (i have started knitting and have cut out a quilting pattern). Do you find your mind wandering, i was a big reader, - about a book a week, i have been reading one of my favourite authors for 10 weeks now!
keeping warm with all this snow!


    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 11:06PM
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Hi Debbie. Thanks for the kind thoughts Kay and Sylvia.

Yes, I have re-established many activities and relationships that were in the past. I have rejoined my old church which my wife had refused to attend. I found it very comforting to return - just like going home.

Also, over the years Tam had withdrawn from everyone and everything she had known. We hadn't gone out or had anyone over socially for over four years before her death. Believe me, I tried.

Well, no more of that - next Saturday I am having a Christmas dinner party here at the house for all of our old friends. I'm doing the cooking and my sons are thrilled to be helping. This may sound harsh but it feels good to be among the living again.

I've made many changes throughout the house with painting and decoration and some new furniture. I'm making the house my own. I have more time available now to do whatever I want than I ever did before. I had always done all the housekeeping along with working full time and then caring for my wife when I was home. Without the caregiving I can actually get ahead of the work.

Many of my family and friends have said something along the lines of "oh, the holidays will be so hard for you." I don't tell them, No. This year will be easy. I watched my wife die a little bit each day for over 10 years. It broke my heart. And even though I miss her terribly, the fact is she is at peace and happy now.

My youngest son laughed out loud a few weeks ago which I haven't heard in years. As hard as Tam's illness was on me, it was worse on the kids. They love(d) their mom, but now they are free to just be little kids and not preteen caregivers when I wasn't around.

I've started to go out socially too. To hear a woman laugh was a distant memory for me. It's a beautiful sound.

I've started painting again and competing in regattas. I had put all that on hold years ago.

I believe everything God sends us can be used to live an inspired life. Those same gifts you can use to destroy yourself.

I think Tam is happy I choose life.

Glad to hear you are doing well.

Best wishes!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 10:37PM
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WELL Doc, you seem to be adjusting very well, keep it up! i have basically redone the whole main floor of the house, i even bought myself a little table saw and put that liminint flooring in with my daughter! we painted too, we like bright colours no pastels here! as i said i am still cleaning up the loft and that's taking time, but i've got lots of that! my Al was a graphic artist, what medium do you use? Al used to make our holiday cards every year. i also cooked supper 4 times this week! and hot dogs don't count-lol and i also made cream puffs from scratch this evening, it was the puppy's birthday, so that was my excuse for making them. our daughter has to write 2 exams but has started her holidays on thurday, and our son is mad at me, just because, i think he feel that there might not be holiday cheer, i have decided to buy a real tree, however, Al was a fan of hallmark onaments, so we will put something else to decorate the tree, and only put lights on the 2 trees by our front door, i used to go all out decorating the ramp, but as you say it is time to more forward. i don't think that you'd be doing any rowing here, we had a bad snow storm last night and today, the snow was up past my knees - i;m tall 5ft, 9 so you know it was deep! the stores were even closed today as well as the city buses, i don't like winter but it does look pretty. keep warm and i'm happy that your sons are adjusting (i wish my would, you think at 19 and 24 well you know!)


    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 10:43PM
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Hi Doc and friends,
Thanks to you I can feel better and see life different today. It has been over 5 months that my husband decided to take his life and now I am to the point of accepting his decision. I sleep better now and I have regained my motivation for my work and my students. I believe my college students forced me to be on top of things and be a role model for them. I am through with teaching and now I am in the process of final papers and grading. My husband is still with me, but now in the form of a sweet and peaceful memory. Sometimes I caught myself laughing at some funny story together. No matter how violent was his final moment and how much he hurt us with his decision, I have come to the conclusion that I could have not changed his decision. I am at peace with that and giving the necessary steps to move on with my life and give the best of me to others. My husband Jim told me one " I want you to be as much you can be", so I will honor that and start working on my publications which have been pending for exactly five months. My daughter got marry a month ago, my son moved out and now it's just me and the cat ready for a new life. I am enjoying my quiet time but slowly I will go back to be more social again. Thanks to all of you for sharing your stories and helping me out with mine.
Best wishes,

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 11:05PM
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We are all very lucky people - we are moving forward. I am so happy to hear all the stories of recovery - keep moving onward. Don't forget to come back and let everyone know how it's going.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 8:32PM
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I wish I had the same kind of responses that you seem to be having. I lost my daughter back on 1/1/03 to suicide ~today is her birthday and I deal with major depression issues due to medical issues of my own and then I live with the fact that I saw my daughter shot herself in front of me. Anyone that says it gets easier over time I wish you could explain to me how because it is stills as painful as the second that it happened.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 10:59AM
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pc, I'm so sorry you lost your daughter in that horrible way.

I'm sure it has been a devastating blow.

I don't think the emotions expressed on this one thread are par-for-the-course.

In some ways, this thread has more to do with the feelings of relief when a chronically ill person is gone & the stress finally is over.

not that there isn't sorrow, but it isn't a shocking, unexpected kind of grief.

My mother-in-law was the best in the world when her husband had cancer, but her grieving was over long before he died.

When he finally passed away, 10 years worth of stress lines disappeared from her face.

That's not the "normal" way things happen when a loved one commits suicide.

If you'll put this on your own separate thread,
more people will see it & respond.

Again, my condolences & all my best thoughts are with you.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 11:19AM
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Thanks sylvia for the kind response to pc. My husband experienced a panic attack and in a very impulsive way he decided to end his life. Her son and I restrained him for over an hour until we thought he had calmed down just to realize that few minutes after that he would find his way to get bullets, load one of his guns with no magazine at all and kill himself in the back yard, right in front of his son. He threatened us with a knive, so he could have his way to get the bullets. When we run away from the house to the porch he managed to get the gun ready and ran to the backyard. His son followed him but he was afraid to tackle him. I was calling the police when I heard the shot. It couldn't be more cruel and public. That was not the way I expected him to die. He did not say good-bye; he did not apologize and he did not "shed a tear" before dying, as his son pointed out. He was absolutely determined. This is a tragedy, because we couldn't do more and we have been working over that guilt. For the first few months I did not know if I was going to survive or not. The first month I wanted to die. People around me was worry about my depression. I was always agitated. I could not sleep in 3 months. I thought I was going to go crazy, but over the months I have seen so many people caring about me that I have been taking their love and affection and using it as a healing energy to recover myself. I am not 100% happy. It will never be like before. I have in my mind the picture of the man I loved lying in the backyard. I don't know how to explain this, but slowly I have committed to take care of myself because I was left behind and I am alive. I am emerging from a terrible story, not in one piece, but I am struggling to be happy again and to find some joy in little things and gestures. I didn't decorate my place, but I prepared simple gifts for people that have been important during this healing time and I wrote Christmas cards to all the people who went to the funeral and to Jim's best friend. In one way or another, they have been pulling me away from my sadness. I keep repeating to myself that I am alive and there is a purpose in that. Now I will be looking after a puppy dog, I guess that will keep me very busy and will force me into a more organize daily routine.
I wish you the best during these holiday seasons.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 10:50PM
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Hello Everyone it is late here and I am sitting here reading everyone's post. I first came to write a note to wish everyone a peaceful Christmas,but I read on so I decided to write a post. My only son Darryl commited suside on Sept. 27 2004 . Until recently I went around telling everyone he had a heart attack. We only got the reports from the blood work 4 months later so i guess it was ok up to then. My son and his wife had split up and he was very upset. then for 4 months he went around pretending he was ok. He hid this from us for a long time. He left with no good bye's to no one. I think if he would of he might of changed his mind and that was what he wanted to do. I know you can relate when I say I was numb for soo long. The first yeaar was the worse then little by little it got better. The other day I was telling someone it took three years for me to be able to laugh and mean it not pretend. I know that Darryl is at peace now but it's always the ones left behind. I am so sorry for all your losses only the ones that have gone though this can really understand. My son left behind 2 small boys that are finally starting to ajust and be happy. I hope you all try to have a peaceful Christmas even if you are just going though the motions. Happy Holidays to you all and remember you are not alone. Darlene...DarrylsMom

    Bookmark   December 22, 2007 at 12:41AM
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Pucky, Darlene, I'm so sorry.

We all want to shoulder the pain & lighten the burdens of our loved ones, but there are some things we cannot do.

I once visited a friend in the maternity ward & overheard her mother crying & saying, "Oh, honey, I wish I could have the baby for you"

but she couldn't.
My friend had to have her own baby.

A wise teacher told me, one day when I wanted an absolute, sure-fire, guaranteed-to-work formula for keeping a dear one from doing something disastrous,

"I don't know that there's anything you *can* do:
I don't know that anyone can prevent anything from happening."

not that she believed in standing by passively;
this teacher has helped many of her students through tumultuous times.

but she was right about changing another person's will.

We can't read the writing on another person's heart,
we can't erase it & write something more sensible,
& we can't talk someone out of doing what he/she is determined to do.

I always used to feel guilty, not only over my own blunders, but over everyone else's as well:
When my brother fell off the hood of his friend's car, going 40 mph in a parking lot, I felt like I should have been there, I should have done something.

This teacher's words finally got through my guilt;
everyone has sovreignty over him/herself.

You can't, no matter how much you love someone, be there all the time,
you can't shoulder anyone else's burdens all the time,
you can't talk people into being sensible or talk them out of being mad with pain.

This is the season when friends & family gather to celebrate;
saturate your senses with new images of joy & happiness & bright colors, & when you think of your lost loved ones, send up a little prayer or good thought for peace.

I wish all of you peace & joy.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2007 at 10:49AM
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Well, did everyone do 'ok' through the holiday? It was a quiet day for me - just another day. I had a friend over for lunch and a movie, then spent the rest of the day playing on the computer and reading a book.

Post and let us know how you are.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 8:50AM
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Doc, it's great to see that you are doing so much better. Good for you. We have to continue living even though at times, it's hard. Our loved ones would want us to live the best that we can until it is our time.
Kay, I'm doing okay. It was our 10th year without Christin, but we focused on all the good that we have and remembered as always, that we will be reunited.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 11:08PM
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We had a suicide in our family too, and although it happened several years ago we still feel extra sad today, New Year's Eve, which was my stepsister's birthday.

I try to focus on the fun times, when she was feeling well and doing well. I'm very proud of her daughters, who were only 11 and 13 at the time -- they are adults now, have overcome the trauma to a large degree and are leading successful lives.

I hold the good thought for you others who struggle with this. It isn't easy, but we can get through it.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 10:02PM
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I need some serious advice, and all of you seem like very good people with sincere approaches to coping.

My brother took his life eleven months ago today. I so dread the one-year anniversary. This was not his first attempt, but was the only time he tried that he really meant it. The other times clearly were a call for attention. This time, there was absolutely no stopping him. I'll spare you details and get onto my two issues.

First, I have been paralyzed from having any relationship with my sister-in-law since my brother's passing. I know I need to reach out to her, but I simply cannot. About three weeks after Chad's passing, my sister-in-law called to ask me a favor, which I quickly performed. During the conversation, though, she digressed into telling me about the last conversation that my brother had with Mom and Dad. It was very clear that my sister-in-law blames my Mom and Dad and my brother's upbringing. This caused two problems for me. First, it really made me question who I am ... if Chad and I shared the same upbringing and Chad took his life, what does that mean for me? Second, we all have to have our own "reality" about why Chad passed in the way that he did, but my reality cannot be to blame my Mom and Dad in any way whatsoever. In fact, my relationship with my parents is stronger than it ever was before. The day that my sister-in-law and I had this conversation was absolutely the most difficult day of coping that I have had. I was literally in the car on the way to work when she called, and I had to pull over, get out of the car, pace and cry while we talked and for a long while thereafter. I could not make it into work for two days following. Hence, I have not been able to make myself call her in months. At forced family gatherings, there is a tension but we're cordial. But, we have no relationship. I hate that, but I'm so apprehensive too. My dad is begging me to call my sister-in-law, and I cannot tell him that I can't call her b/c she blames him and Mom. I've written eight letters to her in an attempt to explain why it is so difficult for me, but I haven't had the courage to mail any of them yet.

My second issue is that a couple of months before Chad's passing, he announced to the family how proud he was of himself for quitting smoking. He said it was all because of the anti-smoking pill Chantix. Now, I've learned that the FDA has linked Chantix to suicide. I've carried a ton of anger since Chad's passing and now I'm mad at hell at the pharma company. To make Chad a class rep in a class action against the pharma company may give me an outlet for my anger and grief, but I don't want to be the selfish little sister that drudges the rest of the family through even more pain. Of course, my sister-in-law would have to be on board and that would require my talking it over with her. I'm an attorney by the way.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 12:12AM
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Sooner - give me a day or two to digest your post. I have some ideas for you but I need to hash them out in my mind first.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 2:34PM
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Hi, Doc! It's good to see you posting.

I hesitate to add my half-cent's worth, but I will make a couple of comments, from my own personal experience:

I quit smoking one year ago, using Chantix, and it was as easy as falling off a log FOR ME - I had absolutely no thoughts of hurting myself or nervousness or any mental challenges from using it.

I actually was going through the trauma of watching my husband die of pancreatic cancer, so if anyone had reason to want to commit suicide, it was me! The thought never crossed my mind.

Suicide is NO ONE'S 'fault' - it's the end to a battle the person had going on inside themselves - it's not really an activity that anyone can rationalize .

I have been in the mental health field for many years, suicide is not that uncommon with regard to the mentally ill, and there is no 'reason' someone takes their own life - it seems to be the person's way of 'coping' with their own personal issues.

Doc can explain his theory on suicide, because he has lost a loved one to suicide. Doc is a wonderful person, whom we all (at least on this forum) love and respect. He will come along with some helpful words, I am sure! Take care of yourself, please.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 9:34PM
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Doc, my friend - where are you? HOW are you?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2008 at 12:14PM
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Dear Sooner - I am so sorry to have taken this long to get back to your post. Too many balls in the air but that is no excuse - please forgive me. I am so sorry to hear of your brother's passing - please accept my deepest sympathy.

You brought up a number of points - I'll comment as best I can and pray it provides a bit of relief for you.

My feeling about bringing a suit against the drug company for a possible cause by Chantix: A lawsuit brought for the purpose of providing a outlet for anger and grief seems to be poor use of the legal system. As you stated, your parents will have to relive their pain every day the suit drags on and the wounds of their loss will never have a chance to heal. It will take years, and every day the hearings continue, your Mom and Dad will die a little bit more. Have you considered the possiblity that your relationship with your Mom and Dad may suffer because of your involvment with the suit? There are a million ways for this to be a source of friction between the three of you and that is the last thing they (or you) need. I advise against it - If in fact this is a suit that should be brought, let someone else do it - a disinterested party who can view everything dispassionately.

Your first point: the relationship with your sister-in-law. All relationships change over our lifetimes. Some get much deeper and more fullfilling. Others wane and some are lost and destroyed. The old relationship with your sister in law is gone. There is nothing you can do to change your sister in law's idea that your parents contributed to your brother's death. She is grieving in ways that God only knows and we can't understand. Just as she does not understand what you are going through, we do not fully grasp what is going through her mind. In her grief, she will blame anything and everything in order to try to make sense of the private hell she is in. Hard as it is, she is to be pitied for she truely doesn't know what she is saying.

Let her go - if in the future sometime she is able to reach out to you in a friendly and loving manner, that would be wonderful. She needs to work through her grief how ever she can and on her own time.

Best wishes and I pray for you and your family,

Kay - I'll start a new thread for you. Lots of good news here.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 11:02PM
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