Finding hope after losing loved ones to suicide

by Joyce

finding hope
Finding hope after a suicide loss

In 2015, I lost my brother, Doug to suicide. 

It was a very complicated relationship.  He was verbally and physically abusive to me when we were growing up.  He needed help so badly but he didn’t ask for it and “handled things on his own.” I felt so much anger, maybe even rage at times.  I don’t know where all this anger came from.

Then, on June 23, 2018, I lost my husband to suicide as well.  I felt totally numb and in shock.  I know that there’s a lot of anger and sadness but I rarely feel it.  I know my brain is trying to protect me.

I awoke to a bed that was empty on Rob’s side.  I thought maybe he’d just gone out back for a smoke or for a walk.  I waited for a few minutes and he never showed up.  I thought that maybe he’d left a note.  He never usually went for a walk at that time of day but I thought, “Anything’s possible.”

I looked all around for a note and finally found something sticking out of his laptop

  It was a note all right.  A suicide note.  It said to turn on the computer.  There was more on the laptop.  Panicking, I called 911 and asked for the police.  By this time, my kids were up and wondering what was going on.  I told them that their dad was missing but that I’d called the cops and was sure everything would be all right.  My son was 18 and my daughter was 21 and pregnant.  She was due to have her baby very soon.

The police asked for a picture of Rob so I printed off one of the most recent ones that I had of him.  He didn’t like his picture taken lately so it was a few years old, but his looks had hardly changed.  One of the officers stayed with me and the kids while the other one went out to look for Rob.  The officer who stayed with us asked me a bunch of questions which I answered the best I could.  I called my mother-in-law and she picked up my son so they could go look for Rob.

A bit later, the officer came back and said that they hadn’t found Rob yet but that they’d keep looking.

A short time later, he came back again with some news.  He said that they’d found Rob.  “And?…” I said.

“And he’s taken his own life.” The officer said.  “NO!” my daughter screamed and started crying.  I thought, “I have to make sure my son is okay.”  He was very close to his dad.  The officer said that I needed to stay with him and my daughter for a bit and that my son would be okay, that the other officer was with him.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, he said I could go check on my son

I ran out to the driveway.  My mother-in-law was crying.  “Oh, Joyce!” she said.  My son was having a panic attack and had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance.  He has severe social anxiety.

I came back inside and the officer called someone from Victims Services to come over and help me out with anything I needed, contacting people for support, etc.  She asked if there was anyone I wanted her to contact for me.  I thought about it and said “my sister.”  I didn’t want to burden her, but I thought maybe I should.  Rob had severe social anxiety.  That’s probably where our son got it from, and me too.  She picked up my sister and brought her over.  She gave me a big hug.

Meanwhile, one of the officers said that maybe my daughter’s boyfriend could come over and be a support to her.  “Sure,” I said, wishing that they’d asked me first.  I do not like her boyfriend to put it mildly.  He needs help with his mental health and anger issues and he’s never gotten it.  I’m pretty sure he thinks that there’s nothing wrong with him, that it’s everybody else that has the problem, not him.  He threatened my husband’s life more than once – including just weeks before he took his life.  He’s been verbally abusive to me and everyone I know, especially my daughter.

Speaking of my daughter, she gave birth to my granddaughter a week-and-a-half later – a month premature.  I didn’t even have time to grieve.  CAS (Children’s Aid Society) was involved and she had custody of her daughter as long as she was living in the home with me to supervise and offer advice.

In March of last year, several things happened that led to her having to leave the home.  I got temporary custody of my granddaughter which became permanent in December.  Did I mention that my daughter has three other kids by this “man” and that two were adopted out already?  And that she’d had another one after my granddaughter?  CAS is involved again.  Right now, the child is in foster care. 

I was asked if I could look after the child temporarily

I thought long and hard about it and decided that I just couldn’t do it.  It’s hard enough to look after my granddaughter alone at my age.  I couldn’t look after a newborn baby as well.  I feel guilty about it but I know that it’s the right thing to do.  CAS had meetings to make sure that I had support in different areas from family, friends, and workers – counselors, disability workers, etc.

When I lost my brother, I was hoping to raise awareness and fight stigma so that nobody else had to go through what I went through.  But my family felt so much stigma around suicide.  “Let’s tell people that he had ‘health issues’ they said.  I felt rage boiling inside me.

When Rob died, I thought, “Now, here’s my chance to fight stigma, finally!  Wrong!”  Rob’s family also wanted to say that he had “health issues.”  I felt even angrier than before!  It was below the surface but I knew it was there.  I believe that if people feel like they can’t talk about their suicidal thoughts, then they feel like they have no other choice but to act on them.  However, if they can talk about them, maybe they can lessen and they won’t feel them as much. 

I feel so helpless when it comes to this topic.  I can’t even use my full name because of stigma.  It doesn’t bother me at all, it’s my family, both on mine and Rob’s side.

When I first started counselling, I was 21.  I am now 51 years old.  Back then, I was so shy and traumatized, I couldn’t even speak to the counsellor or even look at her.  I handed her a note then looked down at the floor.  She asked me some questions and I mumbled and whispered in response.  She kept saying, “Pardon…pardon?”

It took years of hard work and lots of therapy but I’m a lot better today

Not perfect but definitely better.  I am in recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder and can feel things very intensely at times.  Other times, I just feel numb.  I didn’t receive my diagnosis until I was 35 years old, after about 20 years of incorrect diagnoses.  I took a year of DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) and am doing much better today (considering).

In August of 2012, we had a house fire and lost nearly everything we owned.  My daughter had been smoking in her room and thought she put her cigarette out.  She hadn’t.

Last December, just weeks before Christmas, my dad had a stroke.  He has since been diagnosed with dementia and is not expected to recover and has never been the same since.  He had his driver’s license taken away.  He’s always been independent and now he’s dependent on everyone else.  My sister and her husband go over whenever they can to help out my parents with anything they need, especially with this pandemic. 

They drop off groceries and other things to them.  I used to go and visit with my granddaughter whenever I could, maybe once a month.  I hardly make it over there anymore.  I’ve only been over there a few times this year.  It hurts so bad but I don’t know what to do.  I do everything I can think of to cope in healthy ways so I started Bullet Journalling in November of 2018.  It’s still a work in progress.  I try to surround myself with uplifting quotes and keep beautiful pictures as my desktop background on my computer and my phone.  I have pictures of my husband on there, of course. 

My son has hardly been able to look at photos of his dad without bursting into tears for two years now.  He’s starting to see the family doctor and has just gotten a prescription for some medication, which I hope will help take the edge off his anxiety a bit.  He’s supposed to do some online CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.)

I didn’t know I had so much in me to write about all of this.  I just started writing and it all came out.

Some things to know about Rob:

  • He was a drummer.  He never thought he was good enough to be in a band or anything.  He thought that he was annoying the neighbours playing the same things over and over.  I told him that it’s called “practicing” and it’s how you get better, and that he was a great drummer.  (Not that I’m a musician or anything.)
  • He was pretty much agoraphobic for the last several years.  Things got so much worse after the fire when we moved into the house I’m living in now.

I know I’m gonna have to move someday.  Right now my son and my mother-in-law are living with me and helping me rent this place.  But they’re not gonna be here forever and I can’t afford this place on my own.  So my granddaughter and I will probably have to get an apartment somewhere.  Hopefully not for a while.  I really don’t want to have to move right now!  It’s not the packing or anything.  It’s the fact that I moved into this house with Rob and I’m gonna move out without him. 

I can’t think about it too much right now because I feel like, if I do, I’m gonna have a nervous breakdown and I can’t do that.  Everyone is depending on me – my son, my granddaughter.  Once my son gets some help and gets on his own two feet, I won’t have to worry about him so much.

I feel like I’ve written a memoir and there’s so much more to write about.  I hope you’ve gotten the gist of it.

If you know someone who is suicidal, PLEASE get them help ASAP!

8 thoughts on “Finding hope after losing loved ones to suicide”

  1. So sorry for your loss! Thank you for sharing your story and the memories of your brother and husband. Sending you love and hugs!

  2. Thank you Joyce for being so raw.
    Having lost my son to suicide this year, I relate to so much of your ups and downs. The pain and heart ache. You are not alone.
    We all will keep speaking our truth, in hopes of changing the stigma, adding to the conversation. And helping one family at a time.
    Sending you so much love and light.

  3. Joyce, I cannot imagine the suffering you have gone through. I pray for peace , strength, and healing for you and your family. Thank you for sharing your story.

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