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Grieving My Partner's Suicide Helps Me Understand His Depression

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I’ve just hit the fifth month without Ben, the love of my life who I lost to suicide in January this year, and I’ll be honest, I thought by now I’d be a bit further on my “grief journey,” when in fact, I’m probably right at the beginning.

I’m writing this after two days of continuous crying, and when I say continuous, I mean probably three hours of one day when I wasn’t crying and an hour of the other day. I don’t think I’ve cried like that once in the whole five months since Ben has been gone.

Grieving during lockdown has been anything but normal. I’ve been distracted by this absolute chaos we’ve all been living for the past few months. I’ve been distracted by being a mum, teacher, caretaker, dinner lady… and that’s just the kids. I’m carer for my dad, who himself has depression and has experienced psychosis. At times he’s found lockdown extremely difficult. Some days I can get up to 11 phone calls a day from him.

I’ve exercised every single weekday with my friend via FaceTime. I’ve not stopped… and I’ve also not worked, until last week when I made that step forward by returning to work. I’ve been in an actual bubble.

At times that bubble has been hell, for many reasons, but one is that I’ve been unable to leave the house with so so so many wonderful, happy memories, that are now just that. A memory. They won’t happen again, and I can’t laugh and reminisce with that person about them.

It’s also a house with Ben’s toothbrush still sitting next to mine, a house with the emptiest, coldest bed, where I snuggle up to the jumper he wore the last night I saw him that just about still smells of him; alongside the t-shirt that was sent back from Hamburg that he was last wearing; and a pillow covered in pictures of me and Ben smiling, loving life and each other. They are what I snuggle up to now instead of the man I used to laugh with about how cold I always am and how he’d always be there to warm me up — same way I’d cool him down with my ice-cold feet, which we’d say was another reason we were made for each other. I was the cold ying to his hot yang. That actually sounds a bit wrong… but anyway…

With this post I started out with the desire to give you insight into being the one who is left behind. But I realized yesterday during the tears and physical pain that it covers both my pain and Ben’s pain. Now I can put that into words for you to understand it even more.

Ben told me everything about how he felt. And I listened every single time, without judgment, not once. He opened up in detail about things he couldn’t believe he would say to another person. See, Ben was known as being the hard man — actually he wasn’t known, he was. He worked on the doors in Manchester, Chester and other places and he was the best. And he had told me that this was because he didn’t care about dying, because he had lived with depression (and later when he was diagnosed — PTSD) for years. He would happily risk his life. At that time in his life didn’t care and that made him superhuman on the doors.

Pass that baton over to me now and here is where the similarities happen… how grief and depression are the same in so many ways… from my experience of hearing about and living both…

I don’t care about anything. Apart from my children. They are single-handedly the two things keeping me going — that’s it. This is a hard one to get my head around because I often care too much. It’s one my USP’s, but it’s now gone.

I don’t want to be here anymore — I’m not suicidal — but the overwhelming feeling that I don’t want to be here anymore gives me insight to how he felt. I get it. And I get living with that on a daily basis must have been the hardest thing ever. I know/hope this feeling I have will pass, but it kills me knowing this is even close to what he felt so often. When he used to talk about it I’d say I understood, but I didn’t, until now.

I feel like a burden — everybody else’s life has moved on now. And I’m still sat here broken. I feel like people think, jeez, it’s been five months now, get over it. Or, can we talk about something else other than how bad you’re feeling? My friends and family would be horrified to think I feel this because not one of them have acted in a way to make me feel that, in fact they say the opposite. But it doesn’t matter — your head still makes you think that you’re a burden… like having a mental illness makes you feel.

I don’t want to ask for help. Yesterday morning I was inconsolable — my children were downstairs watching TV and straight after I’d given them breakfast I ran upstairs and cried. I just laid in my bed in floods of tears, unable to breath, feeling that heartbroken feeling in my chest that I have made reference to before. I had my phone in my hand and all the people that have said, “Kirsty, call when you are like this, whenever you want or need,” ran through my head… and I was unable to pick the phone up to any of them. Who wants to listen to someone howling down the phone? And more to the point — what can they do? And why do I want to ruin their Sunday morning with my sadness? All the things that Ben used to say to me….

Along with these…

I don’t feel that anybody can help me… I really don’t think anybody can — this is how I feel right now. I know that statement won’t end up being true, but at this moment in time I feel like this is down to me and me only. Same as Ben felt that it was down to him to help himself, which he did like a warrior, with me by his side every day we were together. I don’t have a partner to lean on like he did, but I know I have an army of people waiting to tend to my wounds when I crawl off this battlefield.

I feel weak…. This is the worst when you’re used to being so strong. Ben told me about a time when he had opened to someone and even cried, and he got laughed at and heard, “Look at you, the big hard door man.” Door man or not, he was still a human being. We are all human beings gifted with the same set of emotions and feelings. Which is why I drum into every post the message about being kind. You don’t know people’s stories — what makes them act in a certain way — what has happened to them to make them feel the way they do. Always be kind and always ask, “Are you OK?” even if they are a stranger on the street.

I feel like a fraud because people think I’m stronger than I am… my mum said to me yesterday that I’ve painted a picture of how strong I am and that I now feel I have to live up to it, when in fact I’m not strong at all right now and I’m broken. When I told my daughter, Isabelle, about Ben having depression and PTSD, she cried and said to me… “Mummy, that makes me so sad that everyone thinks Ben is ‘big hard Ben’ and nobody knows that he feels like that.” That sentence has never left my mind. And here I am now, living that same thing.

I think people are rolling their eyes every time I post something on social media about Ben and I…. but luckily see point one, I don’t care. Ben used to feel the same when he’d post something on Facebook about feeling down. Ben hated Facebook in the end. With a passion. In fact he moved to Instagram where it was about capturing moments rather than sharing your views and keeping up with the Joneses.

But thankfully, when I do worry about people rolling their eyes, I channel one of the phrases Ben got me to perfect: “f*ck em’…

What is it they say? You should only look back to see how far you’ve come. Those posts on social media will one day be the reminder that all the things I’ve mentioned above, I will overcome, one day, somehow…

Originally published: November 6, 2020
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