On July 9, 2016, while waiting to disembark from my plane, I turned off the “airplane mode” setting on my phone, and a text came through, “I won’t be able to pick you up today.” It was from my husband. I wasn’t alarmed; sometimes the world could be too much. Sometimes he couldn’t handle the cars darting about, the crowds of people; it could make him extremely anxious. It could be paralyzing. To me that text only meant I would have to take a taxi home. It’s just what it was. Then I walked onto the concourse, and my world started turning upside down. A voice over a loudspeaker summoned me to a white courtesy phone. From there I was met by a police officer who told me another officer, from the city where we lived, was en route to talk to me. That officer arrived, and I was informed that Jay had passed away. Impossible. He had just sent me a text. I was taken home to find my house surrounded in crime tape, and people from victim’s services waiting for me on my driveway. My husband, the person I had been with for 17 years, was now gone, and my home was a crime scene.
Not only had I lost my husband, my best-friend, my co-conspirator, and my favorite person; I had lost my identity. I was no longer a wife, a best-friend, the other half of the best part of us. I had lost purpose. The house had fallen silent.
It’s still silent…
There is a stigma associated with mental illness. A belief that if a person just tried harder, manned-up, not been a baby, they’d have been fine. A belief that a person is actively choosing to be miserable.
So, let me set the record straight. Jay didn’t die because he was weak. He didn’t die because he couldn’t “fake it till he made it;” a regimen of “more smiling” wasn’t the cure for his depression. Jay died because he felt hopeless. Jay died because he felt that seeing one more doctor to adjust his medication was pointless, and that it ultimately wouldn’t change how worthless he felt inside. He felt another appointment with an ENT still wouldn’t fix his untreated sleep apnea. He felt like a disappointment. And the depression combined with extreme fatigue made him feel like he was going insane. I cannot begin to imagine how his last day ultimately unfolded, but I do imagine he felt that he’d finally get some relief. I imagine he felt like he’d no longer disappoint everyone in his life. He would no longer disappoint me.
Let me say here what I had told him on many occasions: he was never a disappointment. He was beautiful.
There is a stigma associated with suicide. After a week of being gone, I returned to work braced to read the condolence cards that were doubtlessly waiting for me on my desk. There weren’t any. My desk was exactly the same as it had been before I’d left. No cards, no flowers, no acknowledgment. In fact, some people who knew Jay had died avoided me. We thrive in our communities, and to be denied this thing that is almost a given was traumatizing. No one did it to hurt me; for the most part they love me. It was that no one was quite sure what to do given the circumstances. Those who didn’t know would innocently drop by to cheerfully ask how my vacation went, and I got the unenviable task of explaining, “Jay died.” I finally had to ask people to spread that news, because I couldn’t cope with telling one more person and watching their faces fall.
If Jay had died of anything else, there would have been a card. I would have been embraced by my community. People would know what to say. They would know what to do.
And because of that same stigma, I wouldn’t tell people either, because I knew I’d be judged. I hadn’t kept my house in order. I hadn’t stopped him. What was so broken in our lives that my husband would choose suicide? What had Beth done to drive someone to make that choice? I kept silent to avoid whispers.
That stops now.
Next Saturday, on November 10th, I will walk in the Out of Darkness walk – a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I will walk for my husband. I walk for my best friend. I walk for my favorite person. I will walk for me.
On November 10th, my team will walk for a lost brother, son, uncle, and friend. A few will walk for me – to hold my hand, to peer into my face and see if I’m ok, and they will keep me strong as they continue on this endless vigil – my protective vanguard.
Together we will walk to support the other survivors out there, the people who need strength, who need a reminder that despite the tragedy, they’re still here, and they’re still ok. We walk in the hopes that the funds we raise, the awareness this walk brings may prevent another family from joining us. We walk to help remove the stigma that surrounds depression and suicide.
So I ask you one final time: Won’t you please join us? Whether it’s by spending a couple of hours walking beside us on November 10th to walk around the state’s capitol, or through a gift to this organization? I strongly believe that what this organization is doing for survivors, and for those who struggle is important, and it is vital.
If you’re unable to give at this time, that’s ok. Share a kind word, a show of support, a story, something about your love for Jay, for me, for this amazingly strong and resilient family; it means the world to us.
I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we love and appreciate each of you.
To make a donation, please click the link below:
Support the Out of Darkness Walk – For Jay
I am totally stunned at the non reaction of co-workers. Shocked at the lack of understanding and compassion.
You remained behind – don’t they realize how hard that is?
The general public/”community” gives such lip service to their kindness.
You know lack of sleep, the hopelessness, the darkness just got to much – and that it was impossible to derail by that point.
I love that Jay texted you. He left support as best he could. And you have that text and his thought of/ his concern for you. He was beautiful and yours. This world too much / not worthy of some beauty. So many step away quietly, yet they are remembered for more than their leaving.
Glad you have your cohort guards.
Thanks for walking. Thanks for the reminder. All I can do is on Nov 10 go out with the dog at daybreak and send thoughts maybe someone will catch them and hold on one more day…that would be enough perhaps.
HUGS and admiration of your strength and determination
Your words are so touching and absolutely beautiful, thank you! I shared a piece of what you said on FB – the part about what you can do on Nov 10 with Molly. I would love it if you walked out at daybreak to send thoughts for someone to catch and hold onto. ❤ ❤ (if those didn't resolve into heart emjois, know they're there )
I think my co-worker's, the ones who knew, were shocked to the point of in-action; they genuinely didn't know how to approach a death like his, and didn't realize that doing nothing hurt me greatly. Telling people day after day that "no, I wasn't on vacation, Jay died," was absolutely horrific. Now, I say all of that to make a point about the stigma around suicide, but I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my phalanx of protective, and super supportive friends who help me through everything, too. The ones who dropped everything and came running, and let me talk about Jay.
Without going into a lot of detail, I can tell you that the Victim's Services team who greeted me that day did say that Jay had really done a lot to protect me, and that while this was hard, they felt he really did care about me, and didn't want me to be more traumatized than I needed to be – they offered it up as a way to comfort me, and it did. That said though, there had better be a Heaven, because we're going to have a few words before I hug him – or maybe after I hug me – could be while I'm hugging him – I'll have to see where I am on the whole "words vs. hugging' thing – both will happen, the order is yet to be determined.
Also, I'm completely behind on my computer time (always something holding me back). My graphics card died about 2 weeks ago, and I have been twitching, biding my time until I could re-explore again.
I hope you, the rest of the staff, and the realm are doing great. Stay warm this weekend!
And know this Austin girl, appreciates you so much!
PS I haven't proofread anything that I just typed. It's doubtlessly riddled with typos (I'm notorious for them) – please forgive and know the words were right in my head, but my typing fingers refused to cooperate again. I may fire them at some point, but they keep mentioning the thumb thing is pretty great.
being dyslexic, and one who doesn’t read letter by letter/word by word but groups of shapes and context with patterns, I would never notice any errors – and even if there, I’ve always felt the point is communicating information/ideas – that’s all that’s important.
Guess I’ve always been the barge in and do something even if blundering rather than stand back worry it isn’t proper. At least it’s an honest human response. People need to go back to trying to be human.
We’ve been touch by several suicides – one a kid that was in my daughter’s class and I watched grow up who graduated, working successfully in a stellar career – but fragile and stepped off a ledge in London. And a couple of others. You thrash and struggle and try to save them, but it’s like trying to walk in the deep ocean and they drift away as you desperately try to reach them. Fault is not part of this. It is what it is.
When you said Jay texted you, I knew he was doing what he could. (And the order of words and hugs…mostly hugs probably as words slide away as unnecessary)
Thanks for your reply. We walk at day break. Before the world get noisy. It’s when you can send energy, wishes, hope, and encouragement to hang on just a little longer somehow it feels like it received – that it helps somewhere. People may have evolutionary senses that lay dormant or too weak to contest daily life’s noise.
Take care and keep rolling. Smiles sent your way…often
(OH, the Tudor portrait exhibit at Museum of Fine arts here is fabulous – not only the art, but the history and stories of the people – this is the only place these will be in the US…it was much more interesting than I had expected…hint hint. Road trip HAHA)
So many thoughts, so here comes some genuine stream of conscious writing… I just looked up the Tudor exhibit in Houston. You get me! Oh, how you get me!! I then copied the link, grabbed the pertinent info, and sent it off to my museum going buddy, April and basically said, “Please, please, please, please??? We go, ok!!!” Granted, different phrasing, but she can read between the lines. I once went to one of the museums in Houston just to see Princess Diana’s dresses – a way to wave at 7th grader me who was so caught up in the wedding. Maybe the same person who watched her son get married while eating scones that Jay made, and donning my tiara. (You have to dress up for these affairs!)
I found this beautiful article yesterday that I wish everyone would read (and I took a lot away from it, too): https://medium.com/@AudreyEwell/ten-practical-ways-to-help-your-friend-through-the-death-of-a-loved-one-6af609eefceb I love her diagram of her progress through the stages of grief, and really the whole article resonated with me. One of the suggestions had to do with being prepared to listen when you ask someone who is grieving to talk. I remember having a couple of people calling and asking about Jay’s death, and when I started talking they immediately freaked out and I was told, “well so-and-so didn’t know you were going to share and got upset; he just wanted to say hello and see how you were.” That made me stop talking about Jay to certain people, because I didn’t know if they would freak out – of course, not true of my closest and dearest friends, though. Death is just tough. I need to bookmark this article or pull it down to my hard drive as a reference.
About a 6 months before Jay died, our friends lost their 16 year old daughter. She had actually been involved in suicide outreach. Nothing was more powerfully sad than attending a funeral where most of her high school showed up, and each teen walked up, one by one, to express their profound sadness. It broke my heart. And then after the funeral, the family of one of the parents immediately started vocally blaming the parents It was horrific. They were already riddled with guilt as they tried to figure out what they could have done differently.
I was asked by the event organizer to take part in their organizations ceremony – to stand up and represent spouses who have lost their significant others as they read a tiny blurb about Jay. There will be several people participating representing: parents, siblings, friends, those who struggle, etc. – we’ll each wear beads, and the colors of those beads will show people how we are related to this cause. The event organizer has invited me to meet her in the future, and see what I can do to help promote their cause and become more involved. So, there may be more posts of this nature, but hopefully still some funny/goofy ones. I’d really like to return to that. 🙂
I’ll be thinking of you and Molly tomorrow morning – sending my thoughts up with yours!
Much love, my friend! Beth
On Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 9:00 PM The Big Blue Mess wrote:
You’ll love the massive exhibit – allow plenty of time to soak it in
Working on a post touching on Sat. event. Will include that link. –
we’ll see if it wanders well enough to be published.
I don’t know if you read Hook’s blog – he lost a really good friend to Niagara Falls not long ago – its knocked him pretty hard.
The stigma baffles me. There’s not fault or guilt for either side. It just is. Somehow I think such events make people afraid as they can see the shadows and depth themselves so they angrily strike out in absurd directions – defensive to cowardly, not sure.
After the teen daughter of our behind us neighbor was killed in a car accident, a bunch of us got together and planted a tree in their yard with a little ceremony. Her friends did have a very hard time absorbing her death – as did all parents. They moved, but we know that tree flourished there and now shelters her house and those who live there.
Life is fragile – so much time foolishly spent in discord. I like the beads – and how you are walking strong. Smiles sent and waves to you tomorrow.
I have not read Ham’s blog. When you have a moment, and if you think of it, would you send me the link?
I do think you’re onto something. I think death, especially in these cases, remind us of our own fragility, our own mortality, the times we even lightly think, “I could” and then decide, “no, I couldn’t” and we wonder what changed those thoughts to, “I will” then worry those demons lurk inside, watching, waiting, and maybe the “I couldn’t” could change. I think it’s also a lack of understanding about mental illness and depression, especially by those who either don’t suffer or who have never been around it, because while they get having a bad day or bad days, they can’t comprehend this brain imbalance where a “good” day is a thing of rarity. It broke my heart when Jay’s meds first kicked in and he looked at me and said, “this is the first time I’ve felt happy.” To not know happiness… I can’t even imagine. For me, I get sad, which is obvious, but my default is sort of being this goofy, silly creature. I’m similar in disposition to two aunts from different sides of my family – my Aunt Jen, and my Aunt Dorothy – put their DNA together, and you get a me. And more than sad, I get mad – where I want to shove those hurting behind me to weather the storms, but Jay’s death punched me in the gut, and those friends – the friends that struggle themselves – the ones who understand depression personally, but also have those Champion personalities – picked up the shield, marched forward, placed themselves in front of me, and stood vigil – waiting until I can tap dance again, and they’ve heard the rattles of my cheetah printed tap shoes getting stronger and stronger. (Also, I really do have cheetah print custom made tap shoes, because… of course everyone should!)
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Thank you again for the post; it was beautiful, and I thought of you and Molly early Saturday morning, when the noise of the world was hushed, and I sent my good thoughts up with yours.