Featured Post

After the Storm

On February 17, 2017, my life and the life of those she loved changed forever.  My wife had been battling clinical depression and lost that ...

Monday, April 17, 2017

Two Months

Today is two months exactly from when I came home from work during that stormy night and found my wife.  Two months have passed, and quite a lot has happened since then. 

I have had to deal with insurance companies, leasing offices, credit card companies, FAFSA, Verizon, to name a few.  Still taking steps to be able to sell off Elaine's car and get it out of my parent's driveway.  My home was upended-I am no longer the head of household, but living in the same living situation when I was a teenager and in my early 20s.  I have gone through all of the difficulty and emotion of selecting a plot, ordering a grave marker, and all of the decisions that come along with that.  I have had my community come around me and support me financially and with their time and gifts. I have been through intensive group therapy, learned much about cognitive behavioral therapy (I encourage you to look this up as I feel EVERYONE can benefit from this), and a bit about dealing with stress at work.  I have met with a lot of people, some new relationships, and some old relationships.  I've developed some new healthy habits and on a lot of the days, struggled to make sure I am making the best use of my time.  Every day is a bit different and I still feel like I am navigating through uncharted waters.  I had mentioned Chris before who I met at the support group, the other widower.  He is my similar age who lost his wife six months ago.  Tonight, he and I met for drinks and appetizers.

It was a very refreshing experience to meet with someone who is going through the same exact feelings as I am-well about as close as you can get to the same exact feelings.  We met at the suicide survivor support group a few weeks ago and we were talking about how even with the people there, it is somewhat difficult to relate.  I think tonight was a breath of fresh air for both of us.  We talked a lot about guilt and the what-ifs and we both realize that hindsight is 20/20.  My therapist told me to tell myself every day these words - "I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time."  And I try to tell myself that constantly, especially when feelings of guilt come up.  

Chris and I talked about moving forward, and how we both feel an empty void that our wives used to fill How a lot of my insecurities were overcome in large part to my wife.  How each of us feel bleh in terms of questioning all of our big decisions we have made.  

We also talked about dating.  We talked about how does that look for us.  Will we compare our late wives to the current person we are pursuing? What is our timeline for getting married again?  How will women view us as widowers?  Will they judge us for the fact that our wives died by suicide? Will we be less desirable?  I had a conversation with my dad a few weeks back.  Chris and I are both in our mid 30s and my dad talked about the three situations a "single" guy might be in at this age.  If they are divorced, it begs the question "why?"  If they are single and never married it begs a similar question, "why not yet?" But for the widower, its more of "he had no choice in his singleness."  I think for me at least, this brings me some relief and even more so, Chris added that women could potentially view this as a benefit since they know we can be in a successful long-term committed relationship, and we both were, up until "death do us part." We both agree that it will take time and a very special person to come our way that can not necessarily empathize with us, but be understanding and embrace what each of us have gone through.

We also talked about how difficult of a time we are having in our faith right now.  We both struggle when we go to church and try to listen to a sermon.  Personally, I am looking for some connection to what happened to Elaine, but there never seems to be one.  It is a feeling of doubt that is difficult to explain.  I feel that both Chris and I are in similar places, trying to understand the overall "why?" in both of our wives' passing.

We also shared about how setback in our life stages we feel.  One day, we were the men of the household with our own family, and in a moment, everything changed. 

We talked about the difficulties of our current and future relationships and how we don't really know how we will react when things are brought up intentionally or unintentionally.  We both agree that it will take time to figure all of these things out for ourselves, but I am glad to meet someone who is on a similar journey as me.  I look forward to this new friendship, and I appreciate Chris' willingness to let me include him in my sharing on this post.

I do want to talk about something important, addressing the stigma of depression:

"I am so sorry your wife passed of cancer.  Why did she have cancer?  What do you think caused the cancer? Were there any signs while she had cancer that could have prevented her death?"

Not that anyone has said these words, but this is oftentimes how these types of questions are perceived by someone who has lost someone to depression.  I know no one is malicious in asking these questions, but what we need to realize is that depression is a mental illness that affects the brain, much like cancer, heart, or lung disease is an illness that affects our physical being.  Cancer's terminal moment happens when someone's body just cannot function due to the irreparable damage to the cells that is caused.  Heart disease's terminal moment is when the heart gives out and no longer can pump blood to the vital organs.  Lung disease's terminal moment is when the person can no longer utilize what the lungs in our body were designed for-to breath oxygen in.  Depression's terminal moment is when as a result of their brain chemistry, someone makes an irrational decision to take their own life.

The stigma of depression not as severe as any one of these other horrible destructive illnesses needs to be addressed somehow.  And to assume that it is caused by any current situation or stress alone is just a matter of ignorance.  I don't mean that to insult anyone, but in the way that our society does not place a greater emphasis on mental health awareness, and as a result, how people don't want to get the help they need for fear of judgement.  Where does this fear come from?  Is it the way we portray success?  Is it how we bring up our children?  Is it the way movies and TV define popular culture?  I don't really know good answers to these questions but I feel like we need to do everything in our circles to make sure people are aware.  If you see a friend hesitant to seek help, even for something as seemingly minor as stress, please encourage them the best way you know how to seek help and treatment.  It would be an amazing society we would live in if we would treat mental illness the way we treat physical illness.

I wanted to leave you with a memory I have of Elaine.  Whenever Billy Joel's "My Life" (actual song starts at around 1:00) came on the radio in the car, Elaine always mentioned her favorite part of the song was when the high key on the piano played several times (at around 2:00 and 3:30 in the video).  In addition to being a great song, we always had fun pantomiming we were playing the note on the piano.  Chris has been six months in and he shared with me that he is starting to really appreciate these types of memories as positive things and things he can look back on fondly.  I know I will start to as well.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Today was Elaine's Birthday.  When I woke up, the thought that she wouldn't be able to celebrate it today with me was overwhelming and brought me to tears.  She would have been 34.  I had just recently started to be more adventurous with sushi (Elaine had always loved it), so tonight I was looking forward to taking her to Sugarfish-a nice sushi restaurant in L.A. she wanted to go to--It never got to happen.

But what did happen was that some of her closest friends were able to join me in visiting her grave today and then we also went to a sushi restaurant nearby.  It wasn't Sugarfish, but it was still pretty good.  It was nice to see everyone come together to celebrate but very difficult at the same time.  It was difficult for me to be with them since most of them had a significant other in their lives.  I felt a loneliness that I have been feeling a lot of recently.  No one to ride back with me to talk about a funny joke that was said at the table, or to share our thoughts on topics that were brought up.  In the special ways that only you and your partner share.  No hand to hold as we are walking to our car, no one to open the car door for (she always appreciated this).  It's these little things that are small reminders of what I don't have with Elaine anymore.  This loneliness can be overwhelming at times, and I don't know what to do except share about it with people I'm close to. I'm hoping people can relate, whether its a relationship that broke up, or a relationship that ended abruptly by a sudden loss like I have had.  I am hoping people can relate to the emptiness you feel when half of you is completely physically removed from this world, and how you cope with it all and to be able to relate to all the emotion that goes with it.

I appreciate everyone's sympathy of course, so please don't get me wrong.  But I have been longing to meet people that are going through this specific grieving as a result of suicide. The suicide survivor group has been helpful for developing relationships with people in similar situations, but even within that group there hadn't been another guy in his 30s, who recently lost his wife to suicide.  That was until last night.  I met a guy who lost his wife 6 months ago, around my same age. Just talking with him, I can sense we have had similar emotions and thoughts about what we have been going through.  We exchanged phone numbers, so I hope to develop a friendship sharing a common bond in what we have and have yet to experience.  I hope we can help each other navigate through this very difficult type of grieving.

 I am not trying to minimize other types of death and the pain it brings to those left behind, but death by suicide leaves a crater that is unlike most other deaths.  Most other deaths don't leave behind the raging thoughts of guilt and bitterness like suicide does.  Most other deaths allow people to be completely at peace because they know there was nothing that anyone could have done.  Most other deaths don't leave the longing question of "why?" which will be with me the rest of my life.  I also carry with me the moment when I felt for Elaine's pulse and it wasn't there.  This is a memory that will most likely never go away, but I will learn to manage it over time.  

One of the leaders at the suicide support group talked about his loss using the example of a hand grenade.  The person they lost was doing everything in their power to keep the pin in.  They did not want to see their family and friends shattered by them dying.  They did not want their loved ones to go through what they had to go through as a result of their death.  But at a certain point, it just became too painful to hold that pin in.  Elaine didn't want all this destruction to occur, but the only way out of her pain, according to her broken brain, was to let go of that pin.

I want to thank those of you who sent me private messages on Facebook shortly after Elaine passed.  Even though I didn't respond to everyone, I did read those messages.  Today before everyone else got to the cemetery, I got there early to read some of the stories that people had shared of Elaine.  I read them to her at her graveside.  As I was reading them to her, emotion came over me several times and I was able to cry. Emotions rooted in "I wish you knew how much you were loved and appreciated" and "I wish I told you more how much I admired your love for others."  These were all good emotions to get out, and I know there will be much more like them in the future.  

I do hope those of you reading this will not hesitate one second to tell those you love, what you appreciate about them and how much they mean to you.  I challenge you to reach out to one person this week: your spouse, kid, parent, sibling, cousin or friend and share with them how much you appreciate them and what they add to your life.  We are designed to need words of affirmation.  Don't let the awkwardness or shyness get in the way of you showing your appreciation--It could mean the world to them.

I know I talk about how hard it is to be around people with families of their own, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy seeing you.  Please continue reaching out to me to hang out, it means a lot to me.  I have really enjoyed meeting with people I haven't seen in a while, even to just catch up on life in general aside from what is going on.  As I try to figure out what my "New Normal" is, it will be great to stay connected with those who love and support me.