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I Will Not Deny the Story of My Husband’s Suicide

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Even though it has been almost two years since my partner Steve took his own life, there are those who still do not agree with me talking freely about his suicide. Yes, the embarrassment and stigma associated with suicide is still alive and well. I have done a lot of soul searching and sometimes question whether publicizing the cause of Steve’s death is the right thing to do. In the end, I know Steve was a firm believer in helping others, as was evidenced by his career choices as a lifeguard, a coach and applying to FDNY to become a firefighter.

Now, Steve will continue to help others even though he is no longer with us. Bringing the cause of his death out in the open has already helped many. Whether it was from reading “Slipped Away,” my Facebook and website postings or my blog, other suicide survivors have thanked me for my openness. Many of them have said it has given them some small measure of comfort knowing they are not alone in feeling what they are feeling.

Other survivors have shared with me how they now feel empowered to talk about how their loved one died, even though it may have been years since their loved one took his or her own life. Keeping it a secret or denying it for so long had weighed so heavily on their shoulders.

Then, there are those who have shared with me that they have contemplated suicide. After reading about the pain and collateral damage left after a loved one takes their own life, it has given them pause. They told me they had previously thought their loved ones would be better off without them, a sentiment expressed by Steve in some of his final writings. However, my writings have convinced them otherwise.

The burdens carried by suicide loss survivors are way too heavy as it is, and having to hide the cause of our loved one’s death is way too much for anyone to have to bear. Who better than a suicide survivor to articulate the pain and sorrow that results from the suicide of a loved one? I have been given a gift to articulate my thoughts in writing. I will continue to tell Steve’s story as I feel people are helped by it. I believe Steve would have wanted me to choose this path so that something good may come out of his pain and suffering.

The cost of telling Steve’s story has been high in lost relationships, and I have sacrificed my own privacy. Now, when you Google my name, you will find all sorts of references to me, something a few years ago would have caused me to freak out. Now, I look at this in a positive light in that Steve’s story is reaching more and more people.

Is it worth it? Yes, and I will end with two quotes that continue to inspire me in my mission to raise mental health and suicide awareness in spite of what others think or say:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.” — Brene Brown

For more of Jean’s writing, follow the Slipped Away Blog.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Image via contributor.

Originally published: January 4, 2017
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