It happened to me too. They forget that. They forget that I, too, was a victim of his suicide. Yes, he’s the one who placed the rifle under his chin and pulled the trigger but his suicide happened to me too. It has affected me in a way that has changed me forever. It has changed the colour of my entire world, my definition of self.
I have always been opposed to allowing myself to become a victim. I never bought into the thought that just because something negative happened to me that I was a victim. But this was different. I was invited to ride the roller coaster that was his life and told when I boarded the ride that it was safe and that there was nothing to worry about. His words, his actions and his wedding vows were the safety mechanisms that held me into my seat, ripe with anticipation and excitement, awaiting the adventure ahead. Being the realist I was, I was ready to be twisted, spun and turned upside down at high speeds on the ride of marriage. I didn’t expect it to be easy or to not to want to get off at some point but I believed him when he said that no matter what, he would love me and we would be together in the end. What I didn’t expect was that as soon as we hit the apex of the first loop following the initial fall, he would reach over and unlock my harness, sending me crashing to the ground at full force, breaking me completely, while he rode on to the end of the ride I would never see, leaving me behind.
He was free. He didn’t have to twist and turn, get nauseous, have the time of his life, enjoy himself or feel scared or alive anymore. He had taken himself out of the equation and left me to figure out all the answers to questions that I was never going to be able to answer without him.
Why? WHY??? WHY IN THE HELL???
They forget. They forget that I walked in on what he had done to himself. They forget that I saw him like that. They forget that he decided to end his life, in such a brutal fashion, in my safe spot, inside of our house that we lived in, loved in, danced in, were raising children in. I found him dead in the same place that not twenty-four hours earlier, we had slow-danced to a song he kept playing. The same place that he held me close to him while I listened to his heart beating in his chest. The same place where he would tell me a few hours after our slow-dance that he was so grateful that he was going to be with me forever. They forget that he was my husband, that I was his wife, that we had joined together with my two children to be a family. They forget that I whole-heartedly believed that we would watch each other grow old the way he told me he wanted to. “You are going to be a beautiful old lady,” he had said to me.
I lost more than they could ever know. I lost more than they will ever be willing to see. I lost my husband, my best friend, the first person I felt saw me for who I really was and loved me for it. I lost my sense of comfort. At thirty-five years old, I find myself needing to sleep with the lights and television on. I started suffering from breath-taking, security-shaking anxiety attacks that leave me unable to function normally or even get through each second as the minutes stand still in front of me, taunting me with a confidence that for so long I lived inside of and now just seems out of reach. I lost the trust I had unleashed on him. I had never trusted anyone like I trusted him and I was so proud of myself for letting my guard down and allowing myself to feel safe for probably the first time since I was a pre-teen. And as Murphy’s law would have it, it was all for naught.
I lost the man I chose to be a guardian and role-model for my amazing children. “I want to show your children the world,” he said. “I will treat them and love then like they are my own,” he promised me. I lost the man they would be so excited to see when they got home. The man who promised them they would fly airplanes with him and learn to climb rocks with him. I can’t say for sure, but I feel like I lost a piece of faith my children had in me to do the right thing and show them the right way. As a mother, that is the worst feeling in the world.
I also lost them. The parents and sibling in-law who told me that my children and I were family. The parents who couldn’t wait to meet their new grandkids and who insisted my children call them grandma and grandpa. The parents who would fill the heads of my children with hopes of visits and time-spent baking waffles together. The parents who had no hesitation in calling me their daughter. The sister who, at his memorial, knelt in front of my children and held their hands, promising that their aunt would always be there for them and that we had times together to look forward to. The sister in-law who called me “her sister” and professed to me that no matter what happened, we would always be sisters and that she loved me. “Even though he isn’t here with us and this doesn’t look the way we thought it would, we will continue to go on as if he is still here with us. We are family,” she said, looking me in the eyes, her hand around my shoulders. I fell for her feigned confidence the way I fell for her brother’s. It runs in the family, I suppose.
But my children. These people who claimed to be family, left me to not only carry the weight of what their son had done to me and my beautiful babies, but they walked away as if the three of us were badges of shame that they could just unhook from their lapels and discard, pretending that they were absolved of any familial ties my marriage to him had meant or promises they had made.
In my life, my family is everything. I trusted them the moment I decided to trust him. Their initial support of me and our decision to wed seemed too good to be true and as it turns out, it was. They were as much a facade as his laugher and his smile. They were as empty as he felt his life was. It makes sense, I guess, when you look closer. He was raised in an environment where the outside had to glimmer as if made of polished gold. The outside was all that mattered. Everything needed to appear to be wrapped in pretty paper, tied with a perfectly constructed bow and surrounded by the whitest of picket fences. But the inside….it was a mess. The inside was pure turmoil and shattered belief dressed up in placation and suburban myth. So He was. And as he laid there, dead on our floor, it was all laid out in front of me. I’m just sorry it took me as long as it did to see the truth.
The truth, like the pulling out of cholla needles from your bare ankle, stung more every time each needle was extracted. The poison that remained from the prick of each needle left the original wound swollen and bruised. And just like the cholla needles, it is impossible to pull them all out at the same time. You must pull each one out individually, wincing with pain each time the hook that sank deeply into your being rips the skin it punctured as it is revealed, leaving a new, open wound exposing more grotesquely the original pain induced by your run-in with the cholla. So beautiful on the exterior but dangerous and painful when you get too close. Time doesn’t heal the wound of the cholla. The wound scars, leaving bumps on your skin long after the fact, reminding you of the time something so seemingly captivating caused such an immense pain. From now on, I know to stand far enough away and to protect the ones I love the most from the inevitable affliction.