Surviving My Spouse's Suicide
PBS sent an article to me today on Facebook about suicide. It seems the rate of elderly suicide is twice that of youths. And they don't have many practice runs. I've known for sometime, this to be true. About 40,000 people die by suicide every year. For people aged 75 and over, the rate is 16.3 per 100,000 and for men 75 and over, it's 36 per 100,000.
There are many reasons for this … poor health, finances, loneliness, etc. And there are signs to look for, one of which is if they talk about it. But, some don't ever say much along those lines. At least that's what I found in my personal life. Mostly, I heard, “you'd all be better without me.” But I never took it to heart or seriously. I mean, it was unfathomable that someone would choose to die.
My husband died December 21, 1998 by his own hand. I was not expecting it. If someone would have asked me if he was contemplating this, I would have said a resounding, “No!” But, obviously, I was wrong. Very wrong. There were times in his life when I did expect it. Many times. But not at this time. We had just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary the week before.
I've only been married once and haven't had any other experience with losing a spouse, so I don't know if the years since then (the grieving process, etc.) have been that much different than if he had a heart attack or died of cancer. I do know the horror of losing a loved one this way, though. That is something I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I really wish he had been able to hold on for one more day, he might have not felt so inclined to take the route he did.
He was in his 50's – not in the above referenced age group. But one thing I learned in the aftermath of his actions … many families are touched by suicide. I had so many people I didn't know come to me to share their own stories. I had no idea it was so prevalent. An epidemic, it seemed and is. And I had people turn away from me because they didn't know what to say or how to deal with it. In fact, most of the people I would have called my good friends were the ones who disappeared. I ended up relying on all the wonderful people who stepped in and took over for them.
I joined an Internet Spouses of Suicides group. I honestly don't think I could have gotten through it without their support. I would rush home each day and pour my heart out to those wonderful people. And someone was always ready to give a hug … a suggestion … or bit of encouragement. I hold a special place in my heart for Eilleen, Linda, Barbara, Dawn, Karma, Kandy, Diane and so many others.
And that's what you do … get through it. You never get over it. You get through it. I think of him everyday in small ways. I look at my grandchildren and wish they could have known him and him them. He would have been a great grandpa.
I have emerged to the other side of my grief, many years now. I'm happy. I moved across the country and have created a new life. I have new friends and new adventures … new interests. I think I have a very full and satisfying life. But, I've been forever changed. I'm not the person I was before.