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.