Jean Mellano

@jean-mellano | contributor
When Steve, my soulmate of 33 years,took his own life on March 15, 2015, my world changed dramatically and my life was turned upside down. I began to take solace in writing about Steve and found purpose in trying to bring more awareness to mental health by telling Steve’s story. Seven months after Steve passed, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Now, in addition to Steve’s story, I am telling my own.
Jean Mellano

Finding a Letter of a Loved One Who Died by Suicide

It has been a while since I have written about suicide. That does not mean I have forgotten about Steve and “moved on” with my life. Steve took his own life in 2015, but the pain of his loss is still so fresh and deep. It is not unusual for me to still have meltdowns when I talk about him. As it is with most suicide loss survivors, we are left with so many unanswered questions after the demise of our loved one. I had always wondered why Steve had not written me a letter before he took his own life. He was a great communicator, such a prolific writer and a kind, sensitive man. How could he possibly not write some parting words to me? Some of Steve’s writings have recently come to light that I suspect he had penned just before he died. Through his words, I could sense his confusion over why he felt the way he did. I could feel his despair over what he was about to do. His words re-enforced the love he had for family and friends that tried to help him. In this letter, Steve also tried to re-assure his loved ones that he knew we all tried our best to help him. Just before his final words to me, there was a sentence that truly broke my heart all over again. Steve wrote: “I always knew what I needed, just could not do it.” I am sharing this very personal information as I hope it can help other suicide loss survivors looking for answers. Reading this letter has not given me closure but it does re-enforce to me how much Steve was struggling and how helpless he felt. I don’t think it will ever be possible for me to have closure and I must continue to “move through” life without my soul mate. “You want a storybook kind of closure with someone when they die, but I think that kind of thing is impossible.” — Jesse Andrews

Jean Mellano

Rock Steady: Boxing to Fight Parkinson's Disease

“She’s living in a world, and it’s on fire Feeling the catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away Oh, she got both feet on the ground And she’s burning it down Oh, she got her head in the clouds And she’s not backing down” — Alicia Keys Recently Michael, one of the volunteers in my Rock Steady boxing class told me I was “on fire” in class. I knew exactly what he was talking about because there were moments (more than a few) where I felt strong and powerful while performing some of the drills. My energy level felt good and although I was still feeling tired, somehow I was able to dig deep and really hammer parts of my workout. Before I wrote about this experience, I felt the need to be sure it wasn’t just a one-shot deal and I wanted to get in a few more classes to make sure this was not an anomaly. With Parkinson’s disease, there are good days (don’t have too many of those) and bad days and I wanted to see if I could produce the flames again in spite of my PD. I am happy to say, for the next few classes I re-discovered the ability to train hard, even if only for five or 10 minutes at a time. As an unexpected bonus, in my last class I found some of my lost rhythm as Coach Michelle had us dancing up to the heavy bag for our punching drills. The energy levels were off the charts and my fellow boxers and I were having a blast, dancing with abandon! That day, I had dedicated my class to my good friend Mike, who took his own life a few days prior. Mike was such a great supportive friend, especially during my times of great need after my husband Steve died by suicide in 2015. During the class, while the theme song from “Rocky” was playing and we were doing heavy bag drills, I had an emotional meltdown. I thought for sure I would have a huge setback and my PD symptoms would rear their ugly heads with a vengeance. Stress and emotional trauma can wreak havoc on those with PD. However, my fellow boxers, Coach Michelle and the volunteers showed me such great kindness and support, I was able to persevere and finish the class. Through their compassion,  drawing on my newly found physical strength and thinking about the great courage Mike had fighting his battles and the great strength and bravery of his family kept my fire going. After over four months of Rock Steady boxing classes, two times per week, I am starting to see a consistent difference in my physical abilities and my confidence is growing. I hold no illusions that I am “cured” and I understand there will still be some bad days, but I truly believe Rock Steady boxing will make a positive difference in my quality of life. This girl is “on fire.”

Jean Mellano

Losing My Boyfriend to Suicide: 11 Lessons on Grief

March 15, 2015 was the day I lost my life partner and soulmate to suicide. To quote Michelle Steinke, “All other bad days before and after have been defined by that moment.” “Beware the Ides of March” was the soothsayer’s message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death. According to Wikipedia, some have said the death of Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history, as one of the events that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. The death of Steve has surely marked a transition point in my life, from over 33 years of having a loving and fun-filled relationship to a life of loneliness. As I reflect on this sad one-year anniversary of Steve’s death, I have observed the following and have come to some conclusions: 1.  People I thought were friends were not there for me during the lowest time in my life. This could be because they were really never a friend in the first place or they were so caught up in their own grief, they cannot bear to talk to me, as I am a reminder that Steve is no longer here. The silence of these “friends” is deafening. 2.  People that I least expected to reached out to me and supported me in my time of grief. These were people I hadn’t spoken to or seen in quite some time or people who had known Steve but didn’t know me, yet they reached out to me with such compassion. I was always touched and amazed by the kindness of complete strangers when I would have a meltdown in a public place. 3.  It is OK to cry in public. Crying is part of the human condition, and to this day, I still will break down in tears over a simple reminder of Steve. There is no rhyme or reason as to what that might be. It could be seeing a car like his or hearing a favorite song of ours. Hearing a special song one day may tear me apart, yet on another day, hearing that same song will make me smile at the memory. 4. Intellectually, I understand one needs to remain positive and have gratitude for things to change for the better, however, putting that into practice is so difficult, harder than anything I have had to do in my life. I try to do all the “right” things: exercise, yoga, therapy, group therapy, socialize, volunteer work etc., and I will continue to forge ahead in my new life without Steve.  But, when one is so depressed it is easier said than done. I remember thinking how could Steve find it so difficult to exercise for only 20  minutes when he had been such an incredible athlete, once so committed to his training. Although he suffered from clinical depression and I am suffering from situational depression, I now understand how hard it was for him to help himself. Exercise has always been a focal point in my life, whether it was dance, tennis, lifting weights, cycling or race-walking.  Yet, now it is exhausting for me to do the simplest exercise and I must force myself to do it. 5. Bringing food to people who are grieving is so important. I never understood why this custom was so essential until I was the recipient. If it wasn’t for my friends bringing me cooked food, I probably would have wasted away to nothing.  I didn’t and still have no desire to cook, and I eat to live when I used to live to eat. 6. Most people are clueless on how to deal with someone who has suffered an incredible loss, let alone a loss to suicide. Showing compassion and even just saying “I’m sorry” or “How are you doing today” or just giving a hug with no words is appropriate. 7. No two grieving processes are alike. I lost both my parents years ago and yes, I grieved and cried. However, my grief over the loss of my mom and dad pales in comparison to what I am experiencing with the loss of Steve. 8. One can never “move on” after such a devastating loss. I can only move through it. “Move on” is something I have learned to never say to someone who has lost a loved one. 9. I notice when some people ask me how I am doing and I tell them the truth. I usually never hear from them again. But I will not lie and say I am doing great, just so they can feel good about asking me. 10. I believe that not being Steve’s wife has made a huge difference in how some people have treated me. Society deems marriage to carry certain tangible and intangible benefits. 11.  What I do know for a fact, and no one can ever dispute this, is that Steve and I were like two peas in a pod. We knew each other so well and could finish each other’s sentences.  Our love was so strong, and no one can ever take that away from me. Yes, there were trials and tribulations for us in the last two years of his life that were exacerbated by his mental illness, but we never stopped loving each other. Unless someone has walked a mile in my shoes, they have no right to judge my actions or dispute the never-ending love Steve and I had for each other. Mental health professionals and bereavement counselors have all told me my feelings and experiences are not unique to me. As it is with mental illness and suicide, no one likes to talk about death and grieving, and most people choose to remain silent.  My hope is that someone who reads this blog can take away something to help a person in their life who may have suffered the loss of a loved one. To this day, I am still grieving and trying my best to move through life without my beloved Steve. Sadness over what has transpired since Steve took his own life continually haunts me. There are some bright spots in my life, and since I don’t want this blog to be a total pity party, I will end it on a positive note by expressing my eternal gratitude to my closest friends who have been by my side every step of the way and to those people who have shown me such compassion and kindness  in my journey of grief.  I am so blessed to have them in my life. Although I may always be lonely, I will never be alone. Jean and her husband, 1985 Follow this journey on Slipped Away. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Jean Mellano

Losing My Boyfriend to Suicide: 11 Lessons on Grief

March 15, 2015 was the day I lost my life partner and soulmate to suicide. To quote Michelle Steinke, “All other bad days before and after have been defined by that moment.” “Beware the Ides of March” was the soothsayer’s message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death. According to Wikipedia, some have said the death of Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history, as one of the events that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. The death of Steve has surely marked a transition point in my life, from over 33 years of having a loving and fun-filled relationship to a life of loneliness. As I reflect on this sad one-year anniversary of Steve’s death, I have observed the following and have come to some conclusions: 1.  People I thought were friends were not there for me during the lowest time in my life. This could be because they were really never a friend in the first place or they were so caught up in their own grief, they cannot bear to talk to me, as I am a reminder that Steve is no longer here. The silence of these “friends” is deafening. 2.  People that I least expected to reached out to me and supported me in my time of grief. These were people I hadn’t spoken to or seen in quite some time or people who had known Steve but didn’t know me, yet they reached out to me with such compassion. I was always touched and amazed by the kindness of complete strangers when I would have a meltdown in a public place. 3.  It is OK to cry in public. Crying is part of the human condition, and to this day, I still will break down in tears over a simple reminder of Steve. There is no rhyme or reason as to what that might be. It could be seeing a car like his or hearing a favorite song of ours. Hearing a special song one day may tear me apart, yet on another day, hearing that same song will make me smile at the memory. 4. Intellectually, I understand one needs to remain positive and have gratitude for things to change for the better, however, putting that into practice is so difficult, harder than anything I have had to do in my life. I try to do all the “right” things: exercise, yoga, therapy, group therapy, socialize, volunteer work etc., and I will continue to forge ahead in my new life without Steve.  But, when one is so depressed it is easier said than done. I remember thinking how could Steve find it so difficult to exercise for only 20  minutes when he had been such an incredible athlete, once so committed to his training. Although he suffered from clinical depression and I am suffering from situational depression, I now understand how hard it was for him to help himself. Exercise has always been a focal point in my life, whether it was dance, tennis, lifting weights, cycling or race-walking.  Yet, now it is exhausting for me to do the simplest exercise and I must force myself to do it. 5. Bringing food to people who are grieving is so important. I never understood why this custom was so essential until I was the recipient. If it wasn’t for my friends bringing me cooked food, I probably would have wasted away to nothing.  I didn’t and still have no desire to cook, and I eat to live when I used to live to eat. 6. Most people are clueless on how to deal with someone who has suffered an incredible loss, let alone a loss to suicide. Showing compassion and even just saying “I’m sorry” or “How are you doing today” or just giving a hug with no words is appropriate. 7. No two grieving processes are alike. I lost both my parents years ago and yes, I grieved and cried. However, my grief over the loss of my mom and dad pales in comparison to what I am experiencing with the loss of Steve. 8. One can never “move on” after such a devastating loss. I can only move through it. “Move on” is something I have learned to never say to someone who has lost a loved one. 9. I notice when some people ask me how I am doing and I tell them the truth. I usually never hear from them again. But I will not lie and say I am doing great, just so they can feel good about asking me. 10. I believe that not being Steve’s wife has made a huge difference in how some people have treated me. Society deems marriage to carry certain tangible and intangible benefits. 11.  What I do know for a fact, and no one can ever dispute this, is that Steve and I were like two peas in a pod. We knew each other so well and could finish each other’s sentences.  Our love was so strong, and no one can ever take that away from me. Yes, there were trials and tribulations for us in the last two years of his life that were exacerbated by his mental illness, but we never stopped loving each other. Unless someone has walked a mile in my shoes, they have no right to judge my actions or dispute the never-ending love Steve and I had for each other. Mental health professionals and bereavement counselors have all told me my feelings and experiences are not unique to me. As it is with mental illness and suicide, no one likes to talk about death and grieving, and most people choose to remain silent.  My hope is that someone who reads this blog can take away something to help a person in their life who may have suffered the loss of a loved one. To this day, I am still grieving and trying my best to move through life without my beloved Steve. Sadness over what has transpired since Steve took his own life continually haunts me. There are some bright spots in my life, and since I don’t want this blog to be a total pity party, I will end it on a positive note by expressing my eternal gratitude to my closest friends who have been by my side every step of the way and to those people who have shown me such compassion and kindness  in my journey of grief.  I am so blessed to have them in my life. Although I may always be lonely, I will never be alone. Jean and her husband, 1985 Follow this journey on Slipped Away. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Jean Mellano

Losing My Boyfriend to Suicide: 11 Lessons on Grief

March 15, 2015 was the day I lost my life partner and soulmate to suicide. To quote Michelle Steinke, “All other bad days before and after have been defined by that moment.” “Beware the Ides of March” was the soothsayer’s message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death. According to Wikipedia, some have said the death of Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history, as one of the events that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. The death of Steve has surely marked a transition point in my life, from over 33 years of having a loving and fun-filled relationship to a life of loneliness. As I reflect on this sad one-year anniversary of Steve’s death, I have observed the following and have come to some conclusions: 1.  People I thought were friends were not there for me during the lowest time in my life. This could be because they were really never a friend in the first place or they were so caught up in their own grief, they cannot bear to talk to me, as I am a reminder that Steve is no longer here. The silence of these “friends” is deafening. 2.  People that I least expected to reached out to me and supported me in my time of grief. These were people I hadn’t spoken to or seen in quite some time or people who had known Steve but didn’t know me, yet they reached out to me with such compassion. I was always touched and amazed by the kindness of complete strangers when I would have a meltdown in a public place. 3.  It is OK to cry in public. Crying is part of the human condition, and to this day, I still will break down in tears over a simple reminder of Steve. There is no rhyme or reason as to what that might be. It could be seeing a car like his or hearing a favorite song of ours. Hearing a special song one day may tear me apart, yet on another day, hearing that same song will make me smile at the memory. 4. Intellectually, I understand one needs to remain positive and have gratitude for things to change for the better, however, putting that into practice is so difficult, harder than anything I have had to do in my life. I try to do all the “right” things: exercise, yoga, therapy, group therapy, socialize, volunteer work etc., and I will continue to forge ahead in my new life without Steve.  But, when one is so depressed it is easier said than done. I remember thinking how could Steve find it so difficult to exercise for only 20  minutes when he had been such an incredible athlete, once so committed to his training. Although he suffered from clinical depression and I am suffering from situational depression, I now understand how hard it was for him to help himself. Exercise has always been a focal point in my life, whether it was dance, tennis, lifting weights, cycling or race-walking.  Yet, now it is exhausting for me to do the simplest exercise and I must force myself to do it. 5. Bringing food to people who are grieving is so important. I never understood why this custom was so essential until I was the recipient. If it wasn’t for my friends bringing me cooked food, I probably would have wasted away to nothing.  I didn’t and still have no desire to cook, and I eat to live when I used to live to eat. 6. Most people are clueless on how to deal with someone who has suffered an incredible loss, let alone a loss to suicide. Showing compassion and even just saying “I’m sorry” or “How are you doing today” or just giving a hug with no words is appropriate. 7. No two grieving processes are alike. I lost both my parents years ago and yes, I grieved and cried. However, my grief over the loss of my mom and dad pales in comparison to what I am experiencing with the loss of Steve. 8. One can never “move on” after such a devastating loss. I can only move through it. “Move on” is something I have learned to never say to someone who has lost a loved one. 9. I notice when some people ask me how I am doing and I tell them the truth. I usually never hear from them again. But I will not lie and say I am doing great, just so they can feel good about asking me. 10. I believe that not being Steve’s wife has made a huge difference in how some people have treated me. Society deems marriage to carry certain tangible and intangible benefits. 11.  What I do know for a fact, and no one can ever dispute this, is that Steve and I were like two peas in a pod. We knew each other so well and could finish each other’s sentences.  Our love was so strong, and no one can ever take that away from me. Yes, there were trials and tribulations for us in the last two years of his life that were exacerbated by his mental illness, but we never stopped loving each other. Unless someone has walked a mile in my shoes, they have no right to judge my actions or dispute the never-ending love Steve and I had for each other. Mental health professionals and bereavement counselors have all told me my feelings and experiences are not unique to me. As it is with mental illness and suicide, no one likes to talk about death and grieving, and most people choose to remain silent.  My hope is that someone who reads this blog can take away something to help a person in their life who may have suffered the loss of a loved one. To this day, I am still grieving and trying my best to move through life without my beloved Steve. Sadness over what has transpired since Steve took his own life continually haunts me. There are some bright spots in my life, and since I don’t want this blog to be a total pity party, I will end it on a positive note by expressing my eternal gratitude to my closest friends who have been by my side every step of the way and to those people who have shown me such compassion and kindness  in my journey of grief.  I am so blessed to have them in my life. Although I may always be lonely, I will never be alone. Jean and her husband, 1985 Follow this journey on Slipped Away. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Jean Mellano

Losing My Boyfriend to Suicide: 11 Lessons on Grief

March 15, 2015 was the day I lost my life partner and soulmate to suicide. To quote Michelle Steinke, “All other bad days before and after have been defined by that moment.” “Beware the Ides of March” was the soothsayer’s message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death. According to Wikipedia, some have said the death of Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history, as one of the events that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. The death of Steve has surely marked a transition point in my life, from over 33 years of having a loving and fun-filled relationship to a life of loneliness. As I reflect on this sad one-year anniversary of Steve’s death, I have observed the following and have come to some conclusions: 1.  People I thought were friends were not there for me during the lowest time in my life. This could be because they were really never a friend in the first place or they were so caught up in their own grief, they cannot bear to talk to me, as I am a reminder that Steve is no longer here. The silence of these “friends” is deafening. 2.  People that I least expected to reached out to me and supported me in my time of grief. These were people I hadn’t spoken to or seen in quite some time or people who had known Steve but didn’t know me, yet they reached out to me with such compassion. I was always touched and amazed by the kindness of complete strangers when I would have a meltdown in a public place. 3.  It is OK to cry in public. Crying is part of the human condition, and to this day, I still will break down in tears over a simple reminder of Steve. There is no rhyme or reason as to what that might be. It could be seeing a car like his or hearing a favorite song of ours. Hearing a special song one day may tear me apart, yet on another day, hearing that same song will make me smile at the memory. 4. Intellectually, I understand one needs to remain positive and have gratitude for things to change for the better, however, putting that into practice is so difficult, harder than anything I have had to do in my life. I try to do all the “right” things: exercise, yoga, therapy, group therapy, socialize, volunteer work etc., and I will continue to forge ahead in my new life without Steve.  But, when one is so depressed it is easier said than done. I remember thinking how could Steve find it so difficult to exercise for only 20  minutes when he had been such an incredible athlete, once so committed to his training. Although he suffered from clinical depression and I am suffering from situational depression, I now understand how hard it was for him to help himself. Exercise has always been a focal point in my life, whether it was dance, tennis, lifting weights, cycling or race-walking.  Yet, now it is exhausting for me to do the simplest exercise and I must force myself to do it. 5. Bringing food to people who are grieving is so important. I never understood why this custom was so essential until I was the recipient. If it wasn’t for my friends bringing me cooked food, I probably would have wasted away to nothing.  I didn’t and still have no desire to cook, and I eat to live when I used to live to eat. 6. Most people are clueless on how to deal with someone who has suffered an incredible loss, let alone a loss to suicide. Showing compassion and even just saying “I’m sorry” or “How are you doing today” or just giving a hug with no words is appropriate. 7. No two grieving processes are alike. I lost both my parents years ago and yes, I grieved and cried. However, my grief over the loss of my mom and dad pales in comparison to what I am experiencing with the loss of Steve. 8. One can never “move on” after such a devastating loss. I can only move through it. “Move on” is something I have learned to never say to someone who has lost a loved one. 9. I notice when some people ask me how I am doing and I tell them the truth. I usually never hear from them again. But I will not lie and say I am doing great, just so they can feel good about asking me. 10. I believe that not being Steve’s wife has made a huge difference in how some people have treated me. Society deems marriage to carry certain tangible and intangible benefits. 11.  What I do know for a fact, and no one can ever dispute this, is that Steve and I were like two peas in a pod. We knew each other so well and could finish each other’s sentences.  Our love was so strong, and no one can ever take that away from me. Yes, there were trials and tribulations for us in the last two years of his life that were exacerbated by his mental illness, but we never stopped loving each other. Unless someone has walked a mile in my shoes, they have no right to judge my actions or dispute the never-ending love Steve and I had for each other. Mental health professionals and bereavement counselors have all told me my feelings and experiences are not unique to me. As it is with mental illness and suicide, no one likes to talk about death and grieving, and most people choose to remain silent.  My hope is that someone who reads this blog can take away something to help a person in their life who may have suffered the loss of a loved one. To this day, I am still grieving and trying my best to move through life without my beloved Steve. Sadness over what has transpired since Steve took his own life continually haunts me. There are some bright spots in my life, and since I don’t want this blog to be a total pity party, I will end it on a positive note by expressing my eternal gratitude to my closest friends who have been by my side every step of the way and to those people who have shown me such compassion and kindness  in my journey of grief.  I am so blessed to have them in my life. Although I may always be lonely, I will never be alone. Jean and her husband, 1985 Follow this journey on Slipped Away. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Jean Mellano

Losing My Boyfriend to Suicide: 11 Lessons on Grief

March 15, 2015 was the day I lost my life partner and soulmate to suicide. To quote Michelle Steinke, “All other bad days before and after have been defined by that moment.” “Beware the Ides of March” was the soothsayer’s message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death. According to Wikipedia, some have said the death of Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history, as one of the events that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. The death of Steve has surely marked a transition point in my life, from over 33 years of having a loving and fun-filled relationship to a life of loneliness. As I reflect on this sad one-year anniversary of Steve’s death, I have observed the following and have come to some conclusions: 1.  People I thought were friends were not there for me during the lowest time in my life. This could be because they were really never a friend in the first place or they were so caught up in their own grief, they cannot bear to talk to me, as I am a reminder that Steve is no longer here. The silence of these “friends” is deafening. 2.  People that I least expected to reached out to me and supported me in my time of grief. These were people I hadn’t spoken to or seen in quite some time or people who had known Steve but didn’t know me, yet they reached out to me with such compassion. I was always touched and amazed by the kindness of complete strangers when I would have a meltdown in a public place. 3.  It is OK to cry in public. Crying is part of the human condition, and to this day, I still will break down in tears over a simple reminder of Steve. There is no rhyme or reason as to what that might be. It could be seeing a car like his or hearing a favorite song of ours. Hearing a special song one day may tear me apart, yet on another day, hearing that same song will make me smile at the memory. 4. Intellectually, I understand one needs to remain positive and have gratitude for things to change for the better, however, putting that into practice is so difficult, harder than anything I have had to do in my life. I try to do all the “right” things: exercise, yoga, therapy, group therapy, socialize, volunteer work etc., and I will continue to forge ahead in my new life without Steve.  But, when one is so depressed it is easier said than done. I remember thinking how could Steve find it so difficult to exercise for only 20  minutes when he had been such an incredible athlete, once so committed to his training. Although he suffered from clinical depression and I am suffering from situational depression, I now understand how hard it was for him to help himself. Exercise has always been a focal point in my life, whether it was dance, tennis, lifting weights, cycling or race-walking.  Yet, now it is exhausting for me to do the simplest exercise and I must force myself to do it. 5. Bringing food to people who are grieving is so important. I never understood why this custom was so essential until I was the recipient. If it wasn’t for my friends bringing me cooked food, I probably would have wasted away to nothing.  I didn’t and still have no desire to cook, and I eat to live when I used to live to eat. 6. Most people are clueless on how to deal with someone who has suffered an incredible loss, let alone a loss to suicide. Showing compassion and even just saying “I’m sorry” or “How are you doing today” or just giving a hug with no words is appropriate. 7. No two grieving processes are alike. I lost both my parents years ago and yes, I grieved and cried. However, my grief over the loss of my mom and dad pales in comparison to what I am experiencing with the loss of Steve. 8. One can never “move on” after such a devastating loss. I can only move through it. “Move on” is something I have learned to never say to someone who has lost a loved one. 9. I notice when some people ask me how I am doing and I tell them the truth. I usually never hear from them again. But I will not lie and say I am doing great, just so they can feel good about asking me. 10. I believe that not being Steve’s wife has made a huge difference in how some people have treated me. Society deems marriage to carry certain tangible and intangible benefits. 11.  What I do know for a fact, and no one can ever dispute this, is that Steve and I were like two peas in a pod. We knew each other so well and could finish each other’s sentences.  Our love was so strong, and no one can ever take that away from me. Yes, there were trials and tribulations for us in the last two years of his life that were exacerbated by his mental illness, but we never stopped loving each other. Unless someone has walked a mile in my shoes, they have no right to judge my actions or dispute the never-ending love Steve and I had for each other. Mental health professionals and bereavement counselors have all told me my feelings and experiences are not unique to me. As it is with mental illness and suicide, no one likes to talk about death and grieving, and most people choose to remain silent.  My hope is that someone who reads this blog can take away something to help a person in their life who may have suffered the loss of a loved one. To this day, I am still grieving and trying my best to move through life without my beloved Steve. Sadness over what has transpired since Steve took his own life continually haunts me. There are some bright spots in my life, and since I don’t want this blog to be a total pity party, I will end it on a positive note by expressing my eternal gratitude to my closest friends who have been by my side every step of the way and to those people who have shown me such compassion and kindness  in my journey of grief.  I am so blessed to have them in my life. Although I may always be lonely, I will never be alone. Jean and her husband, 1985 Follow this journey on Slipped Away. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Jean Mellano

Speaking Out to Eliminate Suicide Stigma After My Partner's Death

“ If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.” – Barack Obama Four years ago, on March 15, 2015, Steve Tarpinian, my soulmate for over 33 years, took his own life. Stigma: That Was Then At the time of Steve’s death, the suicide/mental health stigma was alive and well. Stigma is defined as a strong lack of respect for a person or a group of people or a bad opinion of them because they have done something society does not approve of. In the first few months after Steve died, I myself perpetuated the suicide stigma with my silence on the cause of his death. Eventually, I concluded that silence perpetuates stigma. Thus, I wrote Steve’s memoir, “Slipped Away,” and published it seven months after he passed in an effort to inspire conversation about mental health and suicide. If we can eliminate the stigma, those who struggle with thoughts of taking their own life will not feel embarrassed to reach out for help. Also, for the loved ones of those that continue to be lost to suicide, perhaps the permanent sadness in the eyes of the suicide loss survivors will lessen slightly when they no longer have to carry the suicide stigma burden. This heavy weight these loss survivors shoulder only deepens that sadness. I can clearly remember the strange looks and reactions of people when they were told the cause of Steve’s death was suicide. Some told me they thought it was wrong for me to share that information. It is my firm belief that people were uncomfortable with the conversation and did not know what to say about such a “taboo” subject. There was a time when no one talked about cancer or HIV/AIDS due to the associated stigmas. Now that they are more freely spoken about for the diseases they are, more treatment options and support are available for those that have these diseases. As a society, our attitudes towards mental health and physical health should be no different. Fame Put to Good Use: This Is Now Since Steve took his own life in 2015, many are now using the power of their celebrity to raise awareness by sharing their own mental health struggles or the struggles of their loved ones. The British royalty (Prince William and Prince Harry), Chris Cornell, Demi Lovato and Glenn Close and her sister are some examples. Families of celebrities who died by suicide have not suppressed the cause of their loved one’s death. Such was the case in the deaths of Kate Spade, Chester Bennington and Margot Kidder. In 2017, Logic, a popular young singer, released a powerful suicide prevention anthem. The title of the song is the toll-free suicide prevention hotline: “1-800-273-8255” and the lyrics are written from the perspective of one who has called the hotline because they wanted to end their own life. The hotline has received record call volumes since the song’s release. Steve was an excellent swimmer and he admired and respected Michael Phelps, who has been very open about his struggles with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts since 2018. If Steve was still alive when Michael shared his feelings, would he have felt differently knowing he was not alone in dealing with depression? Maybe, maybe not. At the 2019 Grammy Awards, Lady Gaga won the Best Duo/Group Performance for her Bradley Cooper collaboration “Shallow,” taken from the soundtrack to their film “A Star Is Born.” In her acceptance speech, she dedicated her award to mental health awareness, highlighting it as one of film’s prevalent themes. “I’m so proud to be part of a movie that addresses mental health issues — they’re so important. A lot of artists deal with that, and we’ve got to take care of each other. So, if you see somebody who’s hurting, don’t look away.” – Lady Gaga Social Media Is Helping to Spread the Word: This Is Now In 2000, Kevin Hines attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He survived and is telling his story. Finally, 19 years later, it seemspeople are listening. A recent video about Kevin’s journey to a suicide attempt was posted on Facebook. The post had over 7.4 million views, 1500+ comments, 21,000+ reactions and almost 94,000 shares. In 2015, I created a Facebook page to honor Steve’s legacy and since then, I have posted weekly photos and anecdotal stories of our lives together which were all well received. Occasionally I would share links about mental health or suicide in an effort to educate. In the early beginnings of that page, there were virtually no interactions, comments or shares to the mental health or suicide related posts. As time has gone on, people seem to be no longer afraid to comment on or share these types of postings. The Activism of Young Adults Is Our Greatest Hope The future of reducing the stigma is in the hands of the young and here are some examples of them being up to the task. P.S. I Love You Day was founded by Brooke DiPalma in 2010 seven months after her father died by suicide. Her intent is to boost awareness for mental health. This year was the ninth annual event and was marked by several assemblies and activities in 95 Long Island, NY schools. The February 7, 2019 and February 8, 2019 editions of the Long Island newspaper, Newsday, gave press coverage to this mental health campaign. Youth Aware of Mental Health, or YAM, was developed by researchers atKarolinska Institute in Stockholm and Columbia University in New York. OnFebruary 9, 2019, the Associated Press reported on school kids learning aboutmental health through the YAM program in Dallas. In 2018, New York and Virginia became the first two states to enact laws requiring mental health education in schools. Progress? Although we still have a long way to go, progress is indeed being made in reducing mental health and suicide stigma. It may not happen in my lifetime; however, I feel confident that someday, in the not too distant future, people will be able to speak freely about these topics without shame or embarrassment. Mental health will be treated as importantly as physical health is now. Although my voice may be small, my journey to eliminate the stigmas associated with suicide and mental health that began just under four years ago will continue. “ My voice is never much louder than a ripple, but even small voices sound loud when you talk about things that matter.” ― Natalie Lloyd

Jean Mellano

Speaking Out to Eliminate Suicide Stigma After My Partner's Death

“ If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.” – Barack Obama Four years ago, on March 15, 2015, Steve Tarpinian, my soulmate for over 33 years, took his own life. Stigma: That Was Then At the time of Steve’s death, the suicide/mental health stigma was alive and well. Stigma is defined as a strong lack of respect for a person or a group of people or a bad opinion of them because they have done something society does not approve of. In the first few months after Steve died, I myself perpetuated the suicide stigma with my silence on the cause of his death. Eventually, I concluded that silence perpetuates stigma. Thus, I wrote Steve’s memoir, “Slipped Away,” and published it seven months after he passed in an effort to inspire conversation about mental health and suicide. If we can eliminate the stigma, those who struggle with thoughts of taking their own life will not feel embarrassed to reach out for help. Also, for the loved ones of those that continue to be lost to suicide, perhaps the permanent sadness in the eyes of the suicide loss survivors will lessen slightly when they no longer have to carry the suicide stigma burden. This heavy weight these loss survivors shoulder only deepens that sadness. I can clearly remember the strange looks and reactions of people when they were told the cause of Steve’s death was suicide. Some told me they thought it was wrong for me to share that information. It is my firm belief that people were uncomfortable with the conversation and did not know what to say about such a “taboo” subject. There was a time when no one talked about cancer or HIV/AIDS due to the associated stigmas. Now that they are more freely spoken about for the diseases they are, more treatment options and support are available for those that have these diseases. As a society, our attitudes towards mental health and physical health should be no different. Fame Put to Good Use: This Is Now Since Steve took his own life in 2015, many are now using the power of their celebrity to raise awareness by sharing their own mental health struggles or the struggles of their loved ones. The British royalty (Prince William and Prince Harry), Chris Cornell, Demi Lovato and Glenn Close and her sister are some examples. Families of celebrities who died by suicide have not suppressed the cause of their loved one’s death. Such was the case in the deaths of Kate Spade, Chester Bennington and Margot Kidder. In 2017, Logic, a popular young singer, released a powerful suicide prevention anthem. The title of the song is the toll-free suicide prevention hotline: “1-800-273-8255” and the lyrics are written from the perspective of one who has called the hotline because they wanted to end their own life. The hotline has received record call volumes since the song’s release. Steve was an excellent swimmer and he admired and respected Michael Phelps, who has been very open about his struggles with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts since 2018. If Steve was still alive when Michael shared his feelings, would he have felt differently knowing he was not alone in dealing with depression? Maybe, maybe not. At the 2019 Grammy Awards, Lady Gaga won the Best Duo/Group Performance for her Bradley Cooper collaboration “Shallow,” taken from the soundtrack to their film “A Star Is Born.” In her acceptance speech, she dedicated her award to mental health awareness, highlighting it as one of film’s prevalent themes. “I’m so proud to be part of a movie that addresses mental health issues — they’re so important. A lot of artists deal with that, and we’ve got to take care of each other. So, if you see somebody who’s hurting, don’t look away.” – Lady Gaga Social Media Is Helping to Spread the Word: This Is Now In 2000, Kevin Hines attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He survived and is telling his story. Finally, 19 years later, it seemspeople are listening. A recent video about Kevin’s journey to a suicide attempt was posted on Facebook. The post had over 7.4 million views, 1500+ comments, 21,000+ reactions and almost 94,000 shares. In 2015, I created a Facebook page to honor Steve’s legacy and since then, I have posted weekly photos and anecdotal stories of our lives together which were all well received. Occasionally I would share links about mental health or suicide in an effort to educate. In the early beginnings of that page, there were virtually no interactions, comments or shares to the mental health or suicide related posts. As time has gone on, people seem to be no longer afraid to comment on or share these types of postings. The Activism of Young Adults Is Our Greatest Hope The future of reducing the stigma is in the hands of the young and here are some examples of them being up to the task. P.S. I Love You Day was founded by Brooke DiPalma in 2010 seven months after her father died by suicide. Her intent is to boost awareness for mental health. This year was the ninth annual event and was marked by several assemblies and activities in 95 Long Island, NY schools. The February 7, 2019 and February 8, 2019 editions of the Long Island newspaper, Newsday, gave press coverage to this mental health campaign. Youth Aware of Mental Health, or YAM, was developed by researchers atKarolinska Institute in Stockholm and Columbia University in New York. OnFebruary 9, 2019, the Associated Press reported on school kids learning aboutmental health through the YAM program in Dallas. In 2018, New York and Virginia became the first two states to enact laws requiring mental health education in schools. Progress? Although we still have a long way to go, progress is indeed being made in reducing mental health and suicide stigma. It may not happen in my lifetime; however, I feel confident that someday, in the not too distant future, people will be able to speak freely about these topics without shame or embarrassment. Mental health will be treated as importantly as physical health is now. Although my voice may be small, my journey to eliminate the stigmas associated with suicide and mental health that began just under four years ago will continue. “ My voice is never much louder than a ripple, but even small voices sound loud when you talk about things that matter.” ― Natalie Lloyd

Jean Mellano

Losing My Boyfriend to Suicide: 11 Lessons on Grief

March 15, 2015 was the day I lost my life partner and soulmate to suicide. To quote Michelle Steinke, “All other bad days before and after have been defined by that moment.” “Beware the Ides of March” was the soothsayer’s message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death. According to Wikipedia, some have said the death of Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history, as one of the events that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. The death of Steve has surely marked a transition point in my life, from over 33 years of having a loving and fun-filled relationship to a life of loneliness. As I reflect on this sad one-year anniversary of Steve’s death, I have observed the following and have come to some conclusions: 1.  People I thought were friends were not there for me during the lowest time in my life. This could be because they were really never a friend in the first place or they were so caught up in their own grief, they cannot bear to talk to me, as I am a reminder that Steve is no longer here. The silence of these “friends” is deafening. 2.  People that I least expected to reached out to me and supported me in my time of grief. These were people I hadn’t spoken to or seen in quite some time or people who had known Steve but didn’t know me, yet they reached out to me with such compassion. I was always touched and amazed by the kindness of complete strangers when I would have a meltdown in a public place. 3.  It is OK to cry in public. Crying is part of the human condition, and to this day, I still will break down in tears over a simple reminder of Steve. There is no rhyme or reason as to what that might be. It could be seeing a car like his or hearing a favorite song of ours. Hearing a special song one day may tear me apart, yet on another day, hearing that same song will make me smile at the memory. 4. Intellectually, I understand one needs to remain positive and have gratitude for things to change for the better, however, putting that into practice is so difficult, harder than anything I have had to do in my life. I try to do all the “right” things: exercise, yoga, therapy, group therapy, socialize, volunteer work etc., and I will continue to forge ahead in my new life without Steve.  But, when one is so depressed it is easier said than done. I remember thinking how could Steve find it so difficult to exercise for only 20  minutes when he had been such an incredible athlete, once so committed to his training. Although he suffered from clinical depression and I am suffering from situational depression, I now understand how hard it was for him to help himself. Exercise has always been a focal point in my life, whether it was dance, tennis, lifting weights, cycling or race-walking.  Yet, now it is exhausting for me to do the simplest exercise and I must force myself to do it. 5. Bringing food to people who are grieving is so important. I never understood why this custom was so essential until I was the recipient. If it wasn’t for my friends bringing me cooked food, I probably would have wasted away to nothing.  I didn’t and still have no desire to cook, and I eat to live when I used to live to eat. 6. Most people are clueless on how to deal with someone who has suffered an incredible loss, let alone a loss to suicide. Showing compassion and even just saying “I’m sorry” or “How are you doing today” or just giving a hug with no words is appropriate. 7. No two grieving processes are alike. I lost both my parents years ago and yes, I grieved and cried. However, my grief over the loss of my mom and dad pales in comparison to what I am experiencing with the loss of Steve. 8. One can never “move on” after such a devastating loss. I can only move through it. “Move on” is something I have learned to never say to someone who has lost a loved one. 9. I notice when some people ask me how I am doing and I tell them the truth. I usually never hear from them again. But I will not lie and say I am doing great, just so they can feel good about asking me. 10. I believe that not being Steve’s wife has made a huge difference in how some people have treated me. Society deems marriage to carry certain tangible and intangible benefits. 11.  What I do know for a fact, and no one can ever dispute this, is that Steve and I were like two peas in a pod. We knew each other so well and could finish each other’s sentences.  Our love was so strong, and no one can ever take that away from me. Yes, there were trials and tribulations for us in the last two years of his life that were exacerbated by his mental illness, but we never stopped loving each other. Unless someone has walked a mile in my shoes, they have no right to judge my actions or dispute the never-ending love Steve and I had for each other. Mental health professionals and bereavement counselors have all told me my feelings and experiences are not unique to me. As it is with mental illness and suicide, no one likes to talk about death and grieving, and most people choose to remain silent.  My hope is that someone who reads this blog can take away something to help a person in their life who may have suffered the loss of a loved one. To this day, I am still grieving and trying my best to move through life without my beloved Steve. Sadness over what has transpired since Steve took his own life continually haunts me. There are some bright spots in my life, and since I don’t want this blog to be a total pity party, I will end it on a positive note by expressing my eternal gratitude to my closest friends who have been by my side every step of the way and to those people who have shown me such compassion and kindness  in my journey of grief.  I am so blessed to have them in my life. Although I may always be lonely, I will never be alone. Jean and her husband, 1985 Follow this journey on Slipped Away. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.