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

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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

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5 Years

How to mark an occasion
I wish was not here
That feels like yesterday
and yet 100s of years

One moment you’re with me
A smile on your face
Then you made the decision
And left this sad place

For when you were smiling
It was a facade
The pain you were hiding
Cut deep and cut broad

But when you decided
To stop it that way
Did you know I would carry
That pain to this day?

It’s now 5 years later
I’ve traveled so far
Climbing out of the rubble
Though broken and scarred

The road‘s been so long
With no end in sight
Some days I’d go backwards
Trying all that I might

To press on and move forward
My feet gaining small ground
To traverse my new normal
Without you around

I look back and can see
How far I have come
Some days filled with laughter
Some days feeling numb

My tears mark the journey
Especially at first
Those first 1000 days
Were surely the worst

Not to say there aren’t times
I still cry for you now
But the waves that once drowned me
Have grown smaller somehow

Yet as I look back
To see the path I have traced
Oh how long it has been
Since I last saw your face

Every step every day
Leads me further from you
Yet you still live inside me
In all that I do

And though the burden has eased
Since our final goodbye
There are oceans of tears
I’ve yet still to cry

For a heart badly broken
Is what’s left inside
And a tattered old soul
With no place to hide

Because love is forever
In some ways you see
And as long as I’m living
You’ll be here with me

So 5 years from now
I still hope to be here
Thinking of you
Smiling through tears

Tim Guesman ~ 07/25/2020

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