In the past year and a half I have experienced both sides of the issue of suicide. In July of 2010, Richard, my husband of 22 years, committed suicide after an 18 year battle with bi-polar illness. Coping with his suicide has triggered profound questions that have forced me to seek answers that are beyond human knowledge
About a year ago I fell into a deep pit of depression and suddenly was dealing with my own suicidal desires which continue to this day. Ironically, I now live with the other side of suicide but the questions of meaning are the same.
What sources of help did I try?
When I learned of Richard’s death I called friends, one was from a church I had previously attended. About a year prior to my husband’s death, we had stopped attending this church where we had received much support. We both were overwhelmed by the degeneration in Richard’s condition and hadn’t the energy or desire to continue our church connection. An amazing thing happened when my friend told the church of Richard’s death. The members descended on me and helped me every step of the way. The kind support they gave to me as a church member who had dropped out without explanation was a revelation of the meaning of Christian community. They have continued their kindness to this day.
Meanwhile help of a different kind came from the therapeutic community. Professionals of all kinds explained the progression of illness, coping mechanisms and prescribed medications to mitigate the intolerable pain caused by the loss of the very meaning of life. How could I live with this terrible pain which sapped from me the very desire to live?
A few months previous to my husband death I had seen a psychologist for insomnia. It was a simple matter to reopen that relationship for help with Richard’s death. I had a willing counselor with superb therapeutic skills. My therapist gave me his unconditional support, especially in the beginning; he sat with me to read the suicide note, he offered to go with me to visit the site where Richard had killed himself and he sat with me for many hours while I wept for my loss and questioned my own complicity. But what he could never help me with was the why. Could life ever have meaning in light of this one deed? He could only see my need for “real meaning” as a failure of courage. For him meaning was contingent and almost momentary. For me this led to madness.