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MARCH 11, 2012 7:44AM

Choosing Honesty, Telling the Truth About Suicide

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When my fiance shot himself I was on the other side of the bathroom door. I was on the phone with the police, and when I heard the gunshot I ran from the apartment. Only moments earlier I was trying to wrestle the gun from his hands, I would have done anything to save him. When it was obvious that he could no longer be saved my instincts for self preservation kicked in, and I left our home. 

After that I was in shock. I remember at one point his parents were asking me so many questions and I almost passed out. They said that I must be hiding something, and I looked like I was on drugs. I hadn't eaten in days, and I could not think, but it never occurred to me to lie about his death. At that stage in my life I was not actually able to make any kind of logical thoughts, let alone piece together a lie. 

The first time the idea of lying about his death arose was the day I went to find a new apartment. It was about five weeks after he died, and I needed a place to live. I found exactly what I was looking for, a tiny basement, barely big enough for me and my tiny dog. It has almost no sunlight, and it is perfect. It is the womb in which I am being reborn. My landlord asked me if I had a boyfriend. I knew that I could not tell him the truth because I didn't want him to be afraid that I would kill myself in his apartment. I told him that my fiance died in a car accident. It is a completely believable story, a story that I could easily choose to keep telling.

Suicide widows are the subjects of gossip and speculation. The rumors were that I had a drug problem, that I owed money to the wrong people, that I was killing myself and he got hurt in the process, that he killed himself because I was abusive, or because I was forcing him to marry me. The easiest thing in the world would be to lie about his death and save myself from all of this. 

The choice to be honest about his death was complex. Part of it is because I have always been a terrible liar, but it's more than that. Like I said in a previous post, I didn't believe him when he said he was killing himself. After he died people kept whispering to me that their cousin killed herself, or their father's heart attack was actually a suicide. I was so angry. Why didn't anyone tell me before? Why didn't anyone let me know that this was real?
 
The real number of suicides is still unclear because doctors help families cover up the cause of death. I know a woman who found out about the real cause of her husband's death from the medical examiner. This doctor lied about his death on the death certificate, and she herself is the daughter of a suicide. The secrecy surrounding suicide goes deeper than anyone knows, and I for one want it to stop.

It took another month or so before his family started denying that it was a suicide. It was after I returned to work, and I saw on facebook of all places something like this, "The overwhelming evidence of an accidental discharge of XXX's gun is bringing his family much solace." I wanted to throw up. His family then called many of our friends to tell them the good news. They had hired a private investigator, forensic evidence and all that stuff. They did not call me to tell me this. They have not spoken to me in over a year. I don't know how I can be blamed for their son's death if their son died by accident, but I'm sure that it's better for me not to have them in my life. Deep down I'm sure they know the truth, but nobody wants this kind of stigma. I chose not to publicly announce that they are lying. That is their choice, the truth is mine.

No matter what I decide to tell anyone else about his death, I can not lie to myself. I relive the moment he died multiple times a day. I've learned to live with it, to be as normal as possible, but I can not pretend he died in any other way. 

As part of my healing I read many, many books on suicide and grief. I recommend:
  •  No Time to Say Goodbye, Surviving the Suicide of A Loved One by Carla Fine
  •  Why Suicide?: Answers to 200 of the Most Frequently Asked Questions about Suicide by Eric Marcus
  •  Dying to Be Free: A Healing Guide for Families After A Suicide by Beverly Cobain Beverly and Jean Larch

These books confirmed something that I already understood, we need to start talking about suicide. People who do not talk about it can not properly grieve. Hiding his suicide would mean that I am ashamed. It was after I started talking that I really began to heal. 

I often get confronted with the stupidest questions. My personal favorite is, "Did you get into a fight?" Well yeah, lots of them, but I'm pretty sure suicide is deeper than that. It helps that I've developed a dark sense of humor. I am a firm believer in the laugh or die theory. You have two choices when faced with a tragedy of this magnitude, you either laugh about it or you die. It does make other people uncomfortable sometimes, but I really don't care. 

It's not all black and white. It is never an automatic response to say the words, he killed himself. Being honest about his death is a choice that I have to make again every time.
 
It was easier in the beginning, when his death was my entire life. Now it's no longer the first thing I tell people about myself. Every time I have been open about his death I have been rewarded in some small way, but it's never easy.
 
A subject is only taboo as long as it's kept a secret. 
 
He killed himself. 

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suicide, survivor, grief, honesty, truth

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I was browsing the blogosphere . . .
I came back to shut-off this gadget contraption.
I read you slowly. It's sad. You wrote beautifully.
After rereading this mature sad/sigh Post. Pause.
Many times . . . I have vowed to cease more Reads.

Please . . .
Continue to Speak.
I wholeheartedly agree.
I carry a VA card with me.
It's Not for me. I'll Live.
I'd Not dare miss Life.
I've Grieved Deeply.
To returning GIs`
`
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Topic: Suicide Prevention
`
When my 'wife' was twelve . . .
Her Father died in N.Y.C. . . .
She became a orphan at twelve
`
The Death Certificate - Heart . . .
Suicide was a no-no conversation
Her Mom died of cervical cancer
`
I'd convey what sadness - No words
It's beyond words. Both died young
Both her parents worked in N.Y.C.
They worked in International Law
Both worked for a sad Law Firm
One day a lawyer visited my Home
Mr. Fitzgerald was the estate curator
I showed Hospitality to a married couple
I remember our conversations verbatim
The Fitzgerald elders are both deceased
They had a beautiful diesel Mercedes
It reminded me of a farm tractor
We have a diesel farm tractor
I prefer manuel plow tools
Human energy is better
.
I could go on/on ref: Suicide.
Two GI's who put me on a cot:
In Vietnam - Both are dead.
They shot themselves too.
Gunshots to the skulls.
I write with Respect.
Please Take Care.
You're Courageous.
Cultivate your Gifts.
Pause . . . Speak . . .
Find Places to weep.
Then - 'Minister'`gin.
I sense Enormous gift.
I'll pray to a Unknown.
May 'Good' Undergird.
I wish You Grace. Love.
I write heartfelt to You.
You caused me to weep.
I believe in a Good cry.
May You be so Blessed.
Life is Grand Mystery.
this should be an EP. Bravo!
I read all of your posts this morning. It's hard work that you are doing, this writing, but absolutely essential. You are right that suicide doesn't get talked about openly. I'm glad you are not succumbing to the weight of others who don't know how to be helpful to you in your widowhood. Keep writing, I'll keep reading.
Laugh or Die.
Choose life.

It is better that other people are "uncomfortable sometimes-"
Much better than if they REALLY understood.
The Laugh or Die Club is big enough.

Making others uncomfortable MAY be the kindest thing you ever do for them. Nobody wants to be IN this club.
I'm glad you're able to use this forum to work through your grief and perhaps comfort others. Beautifully written. Rated.
You are a brave woman. I think you honor both yourself and your fiance by your commitment to speak the truth. There is no shame, only heartbreak.
r./
Thank you for taking us on your journey. I'm so sorry you have had to deal with this, I cannot imagine your pain. I hope that through your essays you will find much healing.
One reason why a doctor (or for that matter, coroner) might be reluctant to classify a death as suicide unless they have to is that calling it suicide means somebody doesn't get life insurance payments. Sometimes, that matters.
My heart goes out to you, and as I mentioned in your last post, I think writing is such a healer. I can sense you have a future in this field if you so desire...I've not said that before here on OS.

...and I had to smile at Seer's comment, I feel the same way. Art, your comment today is just as beautiful as 7June's post.

Keep writing, sister, you are good...I just read today some blip about how suffering often makes a good writer great...
I am sorry for your loss. Obviously, this was a very estranged act to commit in the presence of another, even if it was "behind a door"!

I had one former friend who committed suicide with a 357 Magnum in front of his wife as he told her good-bye. She immediately came down stairs to my apartment and her face had drops of blood on it. I heard the shot and thought that someone had broke down the door to my apartment and jumped out of bed to personally meet such a bold person. Instead, his wife was knocking on my door, holding her small dog, crying and yelling that "______has finally done it!
I calmed her down, called a friend to come pick her up, got up the landlord, and called the police. The rest is history.

I lost his wife as a friend. His singular act made her crazy for a long time. I hated him. I still do.

Again, only time will take care of this. Talk, laugh, cry, and find help wherever you need it. I believe that his act was cruel.
I can tell you from experience: secrets are corrosive and a hazard to one's health. People were secretive about suicide as I grew up, calling it a "coward's way out." Insurance companies refused to pay if their policyholder committed suicide. And then there was the question of "Why?" No one can really answer that, so it feels to the survivors like a kind of accusation. Be that as it may, you are doing what it takes to recover by writing about it honestly. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Lezlie
given what you say about his family, it's not hard to see why he was suicidal. it's called "the ultimate act of self-righteousness," but what is it that make self-righteousness so necessary in a person's life.? we had it in my family, and everybody denied it, then it happened again, and they still denied it. (see my post Infamy) I admire that you are using OS in the way that you are.
how long ago did this happen?
I cant find anything to disagree with in this post. however I would urge you to look into PTSD which you certainly qualify for on paper. you sound healthy & adjusted but it might be good to talk to a therapist a bit & sort out some of it. as for your not trying to expose the family, think you have a good & commendable approach there.
my twin brother committed suicide about 1.5 yr ago on his 2nd attempt in about 5yrs. I might write about it someday. I was just thinking of him today & how much he would have enjoyed this excellent/outstanding new ps3 game I found called "crazy machines" & wished I could share it with him.. he was very smart, he had a BS in EE & did better in math than I did. he also had what was finally diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder although even that seems a bit unsure. his schizophrenic symptoms were relatively mild ie no obvious/outright hallucinations. but Im roughly convinced that he did have them, verging on auditory. he said there was something like a "jackhammer" in his head. yet he seemed lucid enough to know that this was a metaphor. a very subtle kind of insanity in his case. a long story. RIP
further thoughts. there seems to often be an intense 2ndary fallout from suicides. the blame spreads out in ripples. in my case it caused my sig.other to become estranged from her mother-in-law. it appears the family is probably involved in blaming you to some degree. this also goes by the psychological name of "splitting" in which their son is a poor accidental victim and you are seen as some sort of villain or ineffectual intermediary or whatever. the truth is slippery. but as you know, the truth will set you free. alas but maybe not others =(
I'm so sorry for your past suffering, but appreciate your honesty and frankness. It needed to be heard.
You really have a nice voice. I hope it helps to write about it.
OMG these are moments that no one likes to talk about and yet you did and maybe someone will be saved by this..Good on you!
........(¯`v´¯) (¯`v´¯)
☼•*¨`*•.¸.(ˆ◡ˆ).¸.•*
............... *•.¸.•* ♥⋆★•❥ Thanx & Blessings(ツ) & ♥ L☼√Ξ ☼ ♥
⋆───★•❥ ☼ .¸¸.•*`*•.♥
Your writing of this will help so many people. But it disturbs me to hear you say that you "relive" his death daily. Please try to understand that he is no longer in that moment and you should not stay there either; surely it is not what he would want for you. That was one terrible instant in time, one in which you were left few choices. You did the best that you could under the circumstances, and you cannot properly grieve his loss if you trap yourself in the moment out of displaced guilt. It's okay to let that part of it go; it's the memories and love itself that should last forever...
Thank you for sharing your harrowing experience. Sorry you had to go through that. Wish I could hug you. Please stay strong. Rated with respect.
I'm sorry for your loss; such grief is unimaginable unless you have suffered the suicide of a loved one. I commend your efforts to bring suicide out from the shadows into the light of day. Keeping secrets is what gives them power; once told, they lose their hold on us.
I don't know about complete honesty. not everyone can take it, the truth.

families and friends of suicides have a higher incidence of suicide. there's a psychology to it, that the suicide is "giving permission". we reject this act because it is an anathema. we cannot wrap our brains around throwing away a life, especially someone we care about. it's nearly impossible to understand.

I do know something like this happened for them: being alive was too painful.

I have dealt with the remains of a suicide. it happened...oh I guess close to twenty years ago. maybe longer. I refuse to keep track of his death, his suicide, his goddamned leaving me to clean up the mess. I won't give him that. I hate that he did it and I miss him and still love him. I think I can't believe he's gone. I know he killed himself probably the weds or thursday before labor day weekend, I don't know the date, but I do. when his body decomposed, the neighbors called the police and since it was still my apartment, they called me.

suicide sucks. keep crying. don't expect anyone to deal with it the way you do. everyone is dealing with it however they can. some people will never deal with it.

in fact, cut his family some slack. they can't wrap their brains around his death. don't blame them. they can't comfort you because they can't be comforted. their son killed himself. so not only did thier son die, their son CHOSE to die. so all those years of loving him, raising him, hoping and dreaming for him and expecting that he would give them grandchildren, that he would outlive them will not come to pass.
"I do know something like this happened for them: being alive was too painful. "

I wrote my comment without thinking or editing. I want to offer you my condolences. I know this is difficult to live with, this truth, this terrible truth. it is a marker in your life. you will never forget this violence, this unspeakable and inexplicable violence.

it was his life, his act, his tortured self that did this. it had nothing to do with you. I hope you know that, it was NOT you. it was him. for whatever reason.

what I was trying to say above and what came out all garbled was this:

he simply couldn't stay alive one minute more. his life was tortured. had he gotten through that moment, he might have found his fulcrum, his center again. but perhaps not. there's no way to know.
Mental health issues are still taboo in much of American society, not to mention insurance that doesn't pay in suicide cases, penalizing the survivors who have quite enough to deal with. I've dealt with this subject at close range and I applaud you for your honesty in dealing with it. You will heal, you will be okay, because you're not lying to yourself or anyone else about it. R.
I too have lost, lived, and understand suicide all too well. My heart goes out to you.
Thank you for this. Through the skill of your craft, you managed to condense the uncondensable into a manageable, unmanageable ball. My sister died of "unexplained causes." That's what my mother (whom I have not spoken with since, more than 15 years ago) says. My father sort of went into hiding. He was already there, he just went deeper. "Was she doing drugs?" That's my favorite 'stupid question.' Ya, probably. sometimes, Was that the cause? No. Drugs were maybe part of her solution, but not what made her do whatever she did in the end, to herself and everybody else.
Thank you for telling the truth.
The truth about suicide is that not all suicides are acts of desperation... I've born witness to four over the years. None with the proximity of your experience. Two were friends with families... the worst of all. Both men had alcohol and employment issues, both used guns to commit suicide. One was a woman who lived next door. She was an undiagnosed, self medicating bi-polar who's death was more probably an accidental OD. The fourth was the exception... one of my mentors, who over the years experienced early on-set Alzheimer's. On day he bought a brand new sports car and dropped by my loft in Downtown LA. We went for a drive, had lunch out in Malibu, then drove up Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara. After we returned to LA, I thanked him for the great day and waved good bye as he drove off home. Three days later he drove his new sports car into a tree in the Santa Monica Mountains... an accident or his way of ending his life with dignity?
Jmac, you bring up a very interesting point. I'm sorry for your losses, first of all, but you're right that some suicides are not from depression. During my research on suicide I read about other cultures where suicide was considered honorable. In earlier times and tribal communities suicide was often chosen by elderly and sick persons during time of famine (to ensure that their was enough food for other people).

I've read a lot about elderly couples in America that kill themselves when they become ill or sick with dementia. It's very interesting how different societies, communities, religions etc view suicide.
Holy crap. I'm so sorry.