Lessons Learned 18 Months After Losing a Partner to Suicide
As I have learned from other suicide survivors, many of us have regrets over what we could have done differently to prevent our loved one from taking their own life. I am no different in that respect. For the most part though, I have come to terms with the fact I am not responsible for Steve’s suicide.
The last few years of his life, Steve frequently went through peaks and valleys of clarity and despair. Since he was so good at hiding his inner turmoil, he could fool many, even those closest to him. At times, it appeared he was coping well and possibly on the road to recovery. It is only now, going through my grief journey, a lot of therapy and connecting with other survivors, that I can understand how much pain he was in, especially for the past several years.
As an armchair quarterback, I reflect on what I might have done differently. Now, knowing more about the pain Steve was in, I would have tried to be more sensitive to that. I would not put him in a position to address some things that now, in the grand scheme of things, were really not that important.
There were times in Steve’s final months, when I believed he was doing well. I thought it was an opportunity to approach him with some business decision to be made or some other concern I would not have brought to his attention if he was in a pit of despair. As an example, a few months before Steve died, someone whom we both knew was cyber-harassing me in spite of cease and desist orders. Since Steve seemed to be on the upswing, I told him about it. I will never forget what he said.
“I don’t want to hear this.”
Although stressful, a person in good mental health would be able to deal with situations like this. However, in Steve’s case, I believe due to his fragile mental state, he was probably devastated knowing he was powerless to help me, which sent him spiraling down again.
I wish I had realized my actions may have further stressed Steve even though he appeared well. I wish I was more cognizant of the fact that he needed time to enjoy his brief moments of clarity.
What have I learned in the 18 months since Steve has passed?
1. I need not be so hard on myself.
I needed to know I did what I thought was in Steve’s best interests. Had I acted on it when Steve was alive, the regret I have now would not have changed anything or prolonged Steve’s life. I think this is the only way Steve felt he could protect himself. I couldn’t do it for him.
2. Things are not always as they seem.
Those struggling with mental illness, even though laughing and smiling on the outside, could very well be in intense pain on the inside.
3. Hindsight is 20/20.
Follow this journey on Slipped Away.
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