Reflections Of Other Survivors

A Widow's Perspective: Striving to Beat the Odds

Being a widow at age 31 is difficult enough with all the added responsibilities, pressures and choices that are thrown onto a person as a result of the spouse's death, but being a widow to suicide, makes the term surviving spouse literal in meaning. I compare my own situation to a mountain climber. The climber has physical, mental and emotional challenges to strive to survive and make it to the top. A suicide survivor faces mental, physical and emotional challenges in their daily struggles with life, which can cause physical and/or mental illness and, in some cases, even death, if they are not prepared to handle the climb to surviving.

I lost my husband four years ago (1994) and I feel that I am still at the base of the mountain. However, I am still striving to reach the top and I hope that I will never give up - for my young daughter's sake. I miss my husband. We had our problems like every marriage does, but there is not a day that goes by that I would gladly deal with those problems and have a husband, than not deal with the problems and have no husband.

Some people condition themselves to handle life's problems like an athlete trains to run a marathon. Other people are just natural born athletes or survivors. However, a few us us struggle to get up to change the channel on the television set, let alone be able to deal with the tragedy of a spouse's suicide. I know with the help of God, my family and friends that I will be able to start my climb to the top one day. Until then, I will try to maintain the progress that I have made and try to encourage others to do the same.

October, 1998

Left Behind

As with any trauma, physical or emotional, in order to live through it and go forward it is my personal belief that a healing process must take place. This may indeed be called a grief period. Sadly, many survivors of a suicide never have the tools, knowledge, or ability to work through this period. Sadly, I count myself as one.

My mother committed suicide a long time ago. As her only child I was left with her legacy - baggage of emotional pain, guilt, shame, and fear of ending up the same. Sorting through this and separating myself from this has taken God's grace, a lot of help, and my willingness to move on. This has not come easily. I have found myself a quick study but a slow learner - especially in terms of applying what I have learned.

My mom was a Zigfield Follies girl and, needless to say, talented and attractive. Married to a successful self-made man she started attempting suicide when I was a teenager. After each attempt she was institutionalized for 3-4 months and treated with electric shock, insulin shock, thorazine, dilantin - on and on. Returning home after each episode and hospitalization she became more of a shell and less of a person. She eventually succeeded in a 2 car garage with both cars running - dying of carbon monoxide poisoning and alcohol and drug overdose.

What have I learned? It seems the more I learned the less I knew. At the point of beginning to deal with this I had to keep it real simple. The feelings incurred with that experience have been dealing with me for years - affecting every area of my life. I unconsciously recreated my situational relationship with my mother over and over again - each time hoping to save some poor soul from self-destruction or anything else I deemed they needed saving from.

In simple terms, I played God in peoples lives. After numerous failed marriages (7), treatment for depression, two suicide attempts, alienation from life, treatment for alcoholism and prescription drug addiction, and continually setting myself up in a relationship destined to be painful and fail, I believe I can be accurately portrayed as an advocate for getting help in working through the "stuff" associated with being left behind.

I thank God that I have been helped and, even more so, that I am willing to seek the help I've needed for so long. I don't believe I will ever get over what happened to me. However, I know that I can learn to live with this and move on. Today I have choices - not reactions. Today I am able to be a friend and be accountable.

Today I can care about someone without care taking them. That's the difference. My prayer for you reading this - and I believe if you are reading this you may have indeed been deeply hurt and affected - is that you will know that there is hope and there is help - take advantage of this!

November, 1998

A Daughter's Healing Poetry

Even though you are gone
Your loving memory will live on
With you gone so far away
It is hard for us to live from day to day
You gave us strength and you gave us love
Can you still give us that from above?
You taught us how things in this world worked
And fixed things when they were broke
You gave us the guidance that we needed
In this world–you are needed
All we have now are memories, both good and bad
When thinking about you, how can we not be sad?
We will work through this
We will move on
Because deep in your hearts you will never be gone
We are thankful for everything we had with you, no matter how short a time
You leaving us so suddenly was your only crime
But you are forgiven because you had your reasons
And the Lord above said that it was your time
We will see you again someday
Although it may not be tomorrow
When we see you again,
Only then will there be no more sorrow

Monica Hansen ~ 3/5/98

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