It’s burned into my memory, etched into my brain, I’m mentally branded like livestock waiting for slaughter.
It was just like any other day, but there is no other day that I can recall with such clarity.
The incredible range of emotion you are forcibly sky rocketed through in the shortest space of time. Against your will, at the mercy of your own brain. The shock, the heart break, the overwhelming anger, the fear, the confusion, that strange hysterical sound you hear but can’t quite figure out. Then you realise it’s you, is it laughter or are you crying? I still don’t know but it was utterly uncontrollable. The eerie calm that settles around you like a smog, blurring out everything else so that you are able to cope. The practical part of your mind that kicks in to save you before you plummet into sheer mania. The guilt. That pure, never ending, all consuming, soul wracking guilt that settles inside, reaching out its vile tendrils throughout you and eating away like a cancer.
My phone was on charge in another room on that particular afternoon, so I didn’t know I had at least four messages and ten missed calls from concerned friends. When I went to grab it I knew something was wrong, I’d only left it 20 minutes previously, I’m not normally that popular! I picked a call at random and rung back. There was no ‘Hello’, there was no small talk or ‘How you doing girl?’ The call opened with ‘Have you seen Facebook? You need to see his status. I’m really worried. I’m sending you the screenshots now.’
I didn’t even get a word in, I went to my messages and read the screenshots.
My husband had posted a status telling the world it would be his last. He said he was battling with depression. He said he missed his daughter. He said he was sorry. He said he couldn’t cope anymore.
I sat on the edge of the bed, phone in hand, reeling. My mind was racing. Then I heard a voice calling my name. I realise I’m still on the phone and with a quick ‘I’ll call you back’ I hang up and call my husband. At least 30 times. As well as both of his parents. Every call goes unanswered and I begin to panic. I’m pacing around like a lion in a cage. I’m angry. Why has he decided now to do this? Why does he feel the need to plaster his life on social media and seek attention like a child? I’m scared, he’s living nearly 400 miles away so I can’t jump in the car to try looking for him. I’m trying to figure out my next move. I’m 26 years old, I have a three year old that I need to pick up from nursery in four hours, my parents are in India for christ sakes!!! What do I do now?!?
Then I sit down and tell myself he’s just being silly. Of course he isn’t going to go through with it. For starters he hasn’t got the bollocks. He wouldn’t do this to our daughter either. It’ll be fine.
At this point, me and my husband have been separated for eight months. We’re both in new relationships. We’re both on sick leave from the police due to the stress surrounding our seperation. He has moved back to his parents, at the opposite end of the country to where we lived together. I have my own place where I live with our daughter. I know he is struggling, I know he misses our daughter terribly, I know he is in trouble financially and I know he is having issues in his new relationship. Little do I know he is willing to step out of this life for good, that he sees no other way out of his misery than death.
I am about to call my supervisor at work when he pips me to the post and calls me. It’s not a good talk. Everyone knows. Everyone has seen the status. My life, and my husbands life, were already the hot topic around the nick and this was certainly adding fuel to the fire. Isn’t it disgusting how so many humans thrive on drama.
I’m being asked if I know where my husband is, what he plans on doing, when did I last have contact? I don’t know the answers to anything I’m being asked except we had spoken about child maintenance that very morning, via text, short and formal. I’m told I’ll be kept in the loop and I’m left to myself again.
Almost two hours pass, I don’t remember much about that part. I think I felt ok, I think I felt normal, I’m certain I just phased it out and carried on with my day. Everything was going to be fine.
I get restless and decide a trip to the police station can’t do any harm. I might be able to get an update, read the incident report, feel like I’m doing something. I’m almost there and my phone rings, my friend is asking if everything is ok? Where did they find him, is he hurt?
She tells me a family member has posted a comment on ‘the status’ saying the situation is under control and thank you to everyone for searching for him.... I’m pleased, sheer relief cloaks me in an instant, like diving into a warm sea.
Thank fuck. That’s all I keep thinking and saying.
I hang up and call my supervisor. I’m ready for the update so then I can move on to the man of the hour, the wally at the centre of the days drama. I’m keen to get my two pence in, to let my fingers fly across my keyboard typing out merry hell for the anguish he’s caused me today.
The boss answers...I ask for the update. He doesn’t say what I anticipate....
“Where are you, can I come to you? I need to speak to you, not over the phone.”
In that millisecond I knew. I didn’t quite believe. But I did know.
I begged and pleaded for him to tell me, to confirm it, I was on my way anyway, but I needed to know now. He was putting up a fight, he wouldn’t tell me. I was past human communication, I was possessed by a need to know. I’d be lying if I told you word for word what I said to make him tell me but something worked.
Those words, those three little words... “Yes, he’s dead.”
Life spun out. The world didn’t tilt, it fell off its axis. I felt myself plunge into a place I’d never been. I couldn’t breathe, I was dragging in air, in an awkward rhythm that felt alien. I could hear the crying, I could hear the words I was uttering over and over, “no, no, please no, oh my god, no.”
I made it to the police station, falling to pieces inside, sanity ebbing away as I put each foot in front of the other. My supervisor sat me down and told me my husbands car had been found abandoned, it was unlocked with a note inside and the empty sleeve of a rifle. The rifle and my husbands body had been found a short walk away, in woodland. He was dead when they arrived.
I went home numb. I collected my daughter and put her to bed. I tried to contact my in-laws again and was warned if I ever contacted them again they would pursue charges for harassment. Clearly I was to blame. It’s easier to point the finger at anyone else but yourself. I took it on, of course it was my fault. I had broken his heart, taken his child away, whipped his home out from under him. It was me. I pulled the trigger.
The next few days were strange. The shock kept me numb, thankfully. I am still awed at the human capability for shutting down your entire emotional range when it all becomes too much. That overload limit when your internal switch flicks, “that’s enough thank you very much, we’ll have no more of that nonsense.” Amazing and scary all at once.
I ate, slept, showered. I informed people in monotone about the situation. I didn’t know what to tell my daughter so I didn’t tell her anything at all.
Of course the day came where I did have to tell her. I was shaking, I felt sick, I didn’t even know where to begin. I explained that her Daddy had died, he had gone to live in the stars with the angels, we wouldn’t be able to see him again or speak to him on the phone. She said “Ok Mummy” and carried on playing with her Barbie. I struggled with that. How could she be so unmoved? It took me an awfully long time not to be envious of children’s handling of grief. The way they dip in an out of the little puddles so quickly whereas I was being tossed all around and tugged under, in a violent, never ending, forever flowing river.
The funeral came. My family and I made the long journey down, only to be ignored asides from the very frequent disapproving stares and head shakes in our direction. We made it into the church but were denied access to the crematorium, after a humiliating furore outside. Even our flowers were not allowed to be placed with the rest. It was heart breaking. I can say without question it was the worst day of my entire life.
We left and made the 7 hour journey home, deflated and devastated.
I’d love to say that now, three years on, things are different with his family, but we are still in exactly the same position. They have never tried to contact me or gain access to my daughter. It astounds me because she is the only remaining part of their son, brother, nephew. It saddens me because I can only give her the bits that I know of her Daddy, they know so much more about him, memories that I can never give her. I keep him alive for her as much as I can and we talk of him often, watch videos and look at pictures. We release balloons for his birthday and Fathers Day and Christmas. I even took her back to his home town for what would have been his 30th birthday, it’s just such a shame we were less than a mile from his family and she couldn’t see them.
They’ve never sent a card or letter. They’ve missed her starting school, many birthdays and Christmases, her losing baby teeth and gaining adult ones with her goofy, happy smile, her learning to swim and ride a bike. They’ve also missed the nights I’ve held her crying uncontrollably for her Daddy, the questions no mother should ever have to answer, the self harming and the sleep walking, her anxiety over me dying next, her depression which springs up without warning and can last for an hour or a week.
I don’t feel sorry for myself, or for my little girl. We are incredibly lucky to have amazing support around us in my family and friends. Her school is fabulous as well and have always been on board with helping in any way they can.
We’ve also been fortunate enough to have involvement with a charity called Holding On Letting Go, who have been fantastic. They specialise in child bereavement and even help the adults too! My daughter has been taught how to handle her emotions and she’s made life long friends that she can share her feelings with, because they understand completely. They’ve made me realise I’m not crazy, it’s quite normal to have panic attacks about dying and leaving my daughter as an orphan. They’ve made me believe my anger is justified, and that I can manage it, that I can turn it into something productive. They’ve given me faith that the guilt and the pain will continue to gradually seep out of me, no matter how deep rooted it may still currently be.
There’s no timeline on grief, not in any situation, especially that surrounding traumatic death. There is no expectation from you and anyone who stamps you with one isn’t worthy of your time so you should detach yourself immediately. The same goes for you, you mustn’t put pressure on yourself. You can only go with what that day presents. Some days for me are great, I’m happy and go about my business like I always did. Some days are not so great and it’s with me from the second I wake, like an imaginary friend poking at me continuously, til I fall back into bed that night, wrung out like a dirty old rag. I don’t like those days but I do what I need to do and I look forward to the next. I eat the cake, I hug my daughter, I laugh with friends, I natter with my family and I remember there are many things to be thankful for, no matter how shitty the hand I’ve been dealt is.
I’ve learnt that people have short memories and as upsetting as that may be I have to accept it. My husbands suicide isn’t their life, it’s mine. You can’t be resentful of others who haven’t had to experience the heartache that you have and I can assure you that if you were to delve deeper into people’s perfect looking lives they are having their own struggles too.
I still question why every single day. Why was it so bad he felt death was preferable? How could he leave our daughter? Someone gave me an explanation that made it a little easier to understand; imagine you are stuck in a room with no windows and only one door. The room is full of sadness and fear and confusion and anger, all your life problems. That door is your death, but it’s the only way out of the room. What would you pick? To stay in torment or walk out and end it all? That is how suicidal people feel. There is no other option for them. I can’t pretend it makes me any less angry at him, or any less sad for him, but it did make me comprehend a teeny tiny bit the decision that he came to.
My most important piece of advice to anyone dealing with any type of grief is to find other people dealing with it too. You’re not alone, even if your situation isn’t identical. It’s ok not to be ok. The rest of us are not ok either. Hearing other people’s story, telling your own, feeling part of something after stumbling along lost and alone....it’s the most therapeutic thing believe me.
It’s still shocking to me, I still catch myself at the most random of moments and think “he’s really dead, he actually killed himself” and I don’t think that will ever go or be any easier. But I do know that I can face it, I can deal with it. I will survive and so will my little girl. I’m sure I’ve got some testing times ahead with her but with the right tools no job is impossible.
Thank you for reading.
Love Always xoxo
Some useful people if you need help:
Cruse Bereavement Care -
08088081677 - www.cruse.org.uk