This article is by Robin Chodak and was previously published on June 25th, 2018 under the title, Surviving After A Suicide Loss. We are republishing it in honor of International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, which is recognized on November 21st.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suicide in the U.S. has been on the rise since 1999 with more than 45,000 in 2016.
The recent suicides of celebrities shocked our nation. Kate Spade the 55-year old American fashion designer died June 5 and Anthony Bourdain, the American celebrity chef, and travel documentarian died June 8, 2018, at the age of 61. These suicides evoked questions and brought mental health awareness to the forefront once again in our nation. No one ever thinks that people whose lives appear to be glamorous, luxurious, adventurous and fun would kill themselves.
But the truth is, no one really knows what is going on inside someone else’s mind unless they choose to share it.
I know this from firsthand experience. My husband Steve died by suicide in 2005. I was the one to find him dead in our basement from multiple gunshot wounds to his head. I will never know the reason he ended his life. Therefore, I can only speculate. He was diagnosed with a rare deadly cancer at the age of 44. No one expected him to live beyond three years.
Yet, he beat the odds after intense chemotherapy, full body radiation, and a bone marrow transplant. He was a real-life miracle. Steve aspired to live so he could watch his young son and daughter grow up, and one day, get married. He also had plans for us to retire to Florida when he was 65. But, all those dreams, hopes, and desires changed in one tragic moment.
The day I found Steve dead I fell into a state of shock. His friends, family, and acquaintances couldn’t make sense of his suicide either. They had known Steve as a fighter, a man of faith, and lover of his family.
Why did he give up? I will never know. I can only guess that his identity was stripped away after he could no longer work, and he felt hopeless and less of a man. Although, he did, in fact, reach out for help and received psychotherapy.
I never questioned his love for his family or for me. So, why did he do it? Why did Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain do it? Why did your loved one do it?
I believe that they were in deep emotional pain and the voices in their heads drove them to their demise. They could not think beyond their pain and wanted it to end. They lost all hope.
Again, you may never know the truth. Even if a note was left, it often doesn’t represent reality.
It’s important to realize that the question, “why” can’t be answered. Therefore, as part of your recovery, it’s necessary to not angst over it, and accept that you will not know the answer.
Initially, I wanted to join Steve, but I wasn’t suicidal. Instead, my attempt to do so was out of pure grief. It was during that moment I had my own divine interception and realized that my life was not yet to end. In fact, it was the beginning of my new purpose. It started me on my journey of recovery and eventually instilled a passion to help others. I processed my grief and learned how to live and love life after loss. Thus, the reason I became a certified grief, life, and spiritual coach.
During my grief, many emotions erupted such as, I felt left alone, that no one understood me, and that most people were not empathetic. Those feelings and experiences led me to publish my first award-winning book, “Be Gentle with Me, I’m Grieving.” Of course, awareness is needed for mental health, but it’s also needed for you, a survivor of loss. Who is thinking of you and how you are doing? Many people think that as long as you get yourself back to work it’s an indicator that your life is good and you’re OK. That certainly isn’t always true.
I knew I wasn’t OK and I needed help. I am grateful that I sought it out. Don’t think it is a sign of weakness to get the help you need. Everyone needs help at different times in life.
I know it’s easy to get into a stuck state and not move forward. But, I also know you can learn to live and love life after a suicide loss.
Love and Light,
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Robin left her job after 20 years as a computer software systems analyst following the suicide of her husband in 2005. Her journey through grief led to her transformation. She is a published author. A grief, life, and spiritual coach, and also shares inspiration with others through her teachings.