Suicide: How I Have Survived My Husband's Suicide

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By Krista Berge

May 5, 2022

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How I Survived My Husband’s Suicide

How did I survive Brian’s suicide?

The unedited version is…I didn’t. I desperately want to put a beautiful bow on how I successfully made it through to the other side of this immeasurable grief, but I can’t. I deeply wish I could tell you I leaned on my faith in those early times of confusion and pain, but that would be a flat-out lie. The me I was before suicide inflicted a death blow; died with Brian. I just couldn’t accept I had lost him and myself. It felt like defeat at every turn.

Admittedly, I walked around like a zombie regretting my choice not to climb into the car with him for well over a year. I relived every second and knew I would have had more than enough time to stop breathing before any kind of help would have shown up. In those moments of self-disdain and being so utterly lost, I can also tell you the only reason why I didn’t that day was because our kids were right there. The kicker is they had to watch Brian die, and in so doing, they were the only reason I was breathing (ok, that was REALLY difficult to write). I remember saying, over the beeping of machines keeping him alive for those few days, “I just want to be with him,” and I didn’t mean in that room. He was already gone, and so was I. 

I didn’t survive

I didn’t survive, but I sure was trying to make it look like I did. I continued to run at 100 mph. There was SO much pressure. Pressure to grieve “correctly,” handle legal matters, run a household, hold space for all of the kids’ pain, etc. The list goes on, and I feel sad for the girl I was trying to be. It was like I was standing over my own dead body, trying desperately to revive her. If I could just grasp what I lost…I would be ok. I could make this pain go away if I tried a little harder. I mean, Brian would still be here if I tried a little harder, right? If I just could be good enough and do enough. If I could fill all my seconds with busyness, then the darkness wouldn’t come. All the lies that I swallowed to fill the void are something I was doing out of despair and desperation. 

This new and chaotically beautiful life

I kept trying to be who I was before Brian’s suicide, and it took years to see that just wasn’t possible. I had to learn (and am still learning) some hard lessons in order to not only survive this incredible loss but to thrive in this new and chaotically beautiful life.

1. I had to learn to rest. 

I never really understood this concept before. I didn’t know how to rest, and I didn’t want to. If I could just keep up the charade that I had my life under control…then I would eventually feel better. If people believed I was ok, then maybe I would feel it, right? The rug was pulled out from under me, but I was not willing to accept Brian wasn’t coming back or why. I couldn’t be who I used to be, and it was slowly killing me. I kept trying to fill the void, and nothing worked. Much like depression, it finally sunk in that I took a major blow to my body. A trauma had occurred, and I was finally willing to understand that this was my story. The only way I can explain it is, “imagine if someone had half of their body amputated…you wouldn’t tell them, “Quit crying and let’s go!” It would take YEARS of therapy to relearn how to use the half that was left. Yet I placed this pressure on myself to keep moving as if I was intact. Grief and pain finally caught up with me, and the only thing to do was to stop running and rest. To let my body heal. This was and is still imperative to my healing even close to 4 years later. 

2. I had to learn to show myself grace. 

I lost Brian and so much more. I watched as my children lost their father. I lost ANY sort of security in my and their future. I lost my dreams. I lost my financial security. I lost my protector. I mean, now, who was going to get up in the middle of the night when I hear a strange noise? I lost my reason to believe God is good. I lost my world. But here I was pretending like everything was normal. Why is it that if my best friend was going through what I was going through, I would heap so much grace upon her? Why was it so difficult to extend this to myself? Once I realized I could actually be kind to myself and extend grace, THAT became my oxygen. I didn’t need to carry this weight anymore. I found friends that bestowed immeasurable grace on me and still do when I am incapable of extending it to myself.

3. I had to learn to be ok with losing people. 

Suicide will ripple FAR past what you could ever imagine. Grief not only changed me, but it changed everyone around me. Some were willing to accept Brian’s death, while others kept wanting to talk through the timeline of it; why didn’t I tell them? They would ask me what specific medications he was on, was I aware of the side effects, what was our last conversation, etc. HINT: Don’t do this, please…you are only placing more pain onto someone that feels solely responsible (it needs to be said again that suicide is a symptom of a disease that ravishes the body). In finally realizing my answers weren’t good enough and also they wouldn’t bring him back…I just stopped even trying to explain the unexplainable. When I began to get my life back together or started working, or the forbidden “dating” as a widow…I lost even more people. Sometimes, and this is a hard truth, others like you are so broken so they can repair you how they want to, not necessarily what is best for you. The second I began to come alive again little by little….I gained myself back but lost others. It seems counterintuitive, right? I lost more people on this road of healing, for sure. I just wasn’t willing to lose myself anymore to keep them. 

4. I had to learn to NOT people please.

I was living in a fishbowl. I was either too sad OR didn’t seem sad enough. Was it even ok to laugh and smile? Was I joking around too much? I was either moving forward too quickly or not quick enough. Why was I still so sad after the first year when everyone said that was the most difficult? I mean, I either looked too disheveled, or who was I dressing up for? The people-pleaser I was couldn’t keep up anymore. No one was happy with me now. Brian’s suicide clouded so many people’s eyes, and I felt it was my responsibility to try and make them all feel better. But grieving is work, and it takes time to go through the process. But I couldn’t make anyone do it either. Once I let go of others’ expectations of me, I started to breathe again. 

5. I had to learn to not only form a new identity but take responsibility for it. 

Suddenly I was a “widow” and a “suicide survivor .”Shoot, I didn’t want to be either, and I still don’t. But I am. When the opportunities (and yes, they are called “opportunities”) come up to talk about losing Brian, I better….lives depend on it. When I hear of someone else deeply grieving….eventually, I need to speak up and tell them what I have learned OR better, yet I can just sit there and be quiet (take note this is all you need to do in someone’s deep pain). I need to tell them that who they were before suicide wreaked havoc isn’t coming back and to stop trying so hard. That just being alive when all you want to do is die is more than enough. I so wish someone had told me sooner that just breathing from one painful chest stab to the next was all I had to do. I wish someone would have grabbed my hand and told me to put on my favorite sweatshirt and cry in bed all day. Now it is my responsibility, to be honest about suicide and what it actually takes. Suicide always takes more than just one life, and this may not be who I wanted to be, but it is who I am now.

 I had to learn how to come alive again in an impossible situation. I had to let go of Brian and accept a horrible disease had taken his life. I had to let go of the girl who had tried saving him for years. I had to let go of the guilt and the shame that I did all I could, and it still didn’t work. I didn’t survive losing Brian, and I was never going to. Accepting Brian’s death by suicide did not overshadow the beautiful soul he was and still is. I was terrified death meant defeat. It was only by accepting Brian’s death, my own, and learning these hard lessons that I could truly begin to live again.

We can all help prevent suicide.

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone in this fight!

If you would like to read more articles from Krista, click here. If you are looking for more articles on mental health, click here.

And remember, If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts…please reach out to someone, anyone. And make sure you STAY. YOU, my dear, matter.

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