Always by Diane

posted in: Uncategorized | 13

We were divorced, yes, but my grief has been no less than if we had still been married. I’m extremely sentimental to begin with, and I loved Dan with all my heart. Even after our divorce. Even after being able to acknowledge we were no longer right for each other. Even after going our separate ways. That kind of love for someone never dies.

So the shock that my ex-husband died by suicide remains. Sometimes it doesn’t seem real. We were high school sweethearts – a couple for nearly 21 years, married for nearly 14. We became adults together, owned our first home together, experienced life together. Until it became obvious we couldn’t do all those things together anymore. Our divorce was civil. No lawyers. Just a sadness that it had all gone wrong somewhere.

Not one of the suicide warning signs applied to Dan. I thought he was doing well based on snippets I’d hear from mutual friends. His suicide four years after our divorce truly was, even in hindsight, something none of us saw coming. Except for one thing that haunts me.

After many months of marriage counseling, at the point we both knew it was over, Dan mentioned other options he had considered – options he thought would have made it easier on me, such as just leaving never to return, or suicide. I know it’s not unusual to have fleeting suicidal thoughts during times of stress, so at the time I didn’t think it had ever been a serious consideration.

That single admission though…oh the what-if game that plays on me now. I still recall the look on Dan’s face when I told him suicide would have never been a better option. His face showed a helplessness, like he didn’t quite believe me. That look alone will haunt me forever. I can’t help but feel like I should have known, like I should have done something then, before it was too late. And I should have told him when we went our separate ways that I would have always answered his call if he needed me. Maybe, just maybe, he would have called…. Should’ve, would’ve, what if. It’s an endless loop.

I’ve never been angry at Dan or thought his suicide selfish. I’m just so very heartbroken for him and what he must have been feeling. It makes my grief over his death that much worse, knowing he was in such a hopeless dark place that suicide was the only way he could see relief.

And of course there are the memories. All the memories often overwhelm me too. Mostly because I’m the only one who knows now. And that’s perhaps the loneliest, saddest feeling of all. It almost makes 21 years of my life seem invalid in a way, because the one person who shared all those years and experiences with me isn’t here anymore. Was it even real? And even more frightening, memories can fade. What if I forget?! God, please don’t let me forget. I have never been closer to or shared as much with anyone else. Dan was my first true love. And now he’s gone. And a piece of my soul died with him.

I lost many hours that first week in a surreal daze of shock and confusion. In the months following, I didn’t want to get out of bed most days. Or I’d be sitting at my desk with tears streaming down my face, beyond my control. At this point, a year and four months later, I can tell stories about Dan and even laugh about the good times. But the pain is still so very close to the surface. And it’s just that there are so many things that still trigger tears.

I’ve also had people say things that were not well thought out. “But you were divorced.” “But you weren’t together anymore.” “But you weren’t in contact.” As if to say my grief doesn’t really count because we weren’t still married. Yet for 21 years, nearly half of my existence, Dan was the most important part of my life. So those kinds of comments, along with a sense that many people seem to think I should have moved on by now, only make the grieving process harder by making me question whether they’re right, making me wonder what’s wrong with me, and making me stay silent instead of talking about it.

I don’t want to stay silent. I want to keep talking about Dan to help keep his memory alive. And I want everyone to know there are no requirements for grief. There are no limitations. There is no timeline. I will grieve my ex-husband’s death for the rest of my life. And I will love him always.

13 Responses

  1. Dianna
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing this. People say many things in ignorance, not knowing that it makes us feel invalidated. I’m sorry that you’ve had to hear these things. And I am so sorry for your loss. 21 years is a long time to share life together. Of course you love him and will grieve accordingly.

  2. Karl
    | Reply

    awesome read. And so true

  3. Jan Bassier
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story, Diane – it’s so true that grief is one’s own story, that others can’t really know our pain. I’m glad you’re remembering, even with tears. You’re right that your life was and is so intertwined with Dan’s. One thing I’ve heard that I like is that our relationship with those who have died doesn’t end, it changes. They’re still in our lives, just in a different way.
    I’m sorry for your lost, and for your pain. I hope you find comfort as time goes by. Keep writing – you write well.
    Take care ~

  4. Julie Harris
    | Reply

    Wow, I feel like I was reading about my story. March is the anniversary of my first husbands suicide and it’s an extremely hard month for me…even 26 years later. You wrote about a piece of my soul. Beautifully expressed. Thank you

  5. Sandra
    | Reply

    Thank you Diane – your story certainly resonates. As I read the ending, I felt compelled to say to you, don’t stop talking about Dan, and remembering the good times warmly and fondly. Don’t stop talking TO Dan (if that’s something you do), and don’t let others influence how you handle your grief, only you know how you feel!

  6. Krysal
    | Reply

    Thank you.
    I married my Highschool sweetheart also. His depression and my own were very evident. I lost my father to sucide. I couldn’t do it any more and I walked away, hoping someone else could save him but knowing I couldn’t.
    3 years later he did what i was dreading. Tomorrow is one year.
    Your words are amazing.
    Thank you

  7. Heather
    | Reply

    You write beautifully. My husband died almost 3 years ago and I miss him every second of every day. Your words are so true. There are no requirements for grief. Keep Dan in your heart and in your thoughts. Talk about and to Dan.

  8. Diane
    | Reply

    Thank you all so much for your kind words. I’m sorry you’ve all had to experience this kind of loss as well, but I am glad to have found this site. You’ve warmed my heart with your support and understanding.

  9. Angie
    | Reply

    Wow, just wow. Neil and I were divorced for 3 years but we were still together. We got along better not married it seemed. He died in May 2017, in our home, in front of me. His family has been extremely cruel to me since because we were divorced. Even during the worst of things I still loved him even though I told him he needed to move out 2 weeks before he died. We have 3 sons together and my grief is complicated in so many ways.
    Thank you for your words.

  10. Alicia
    | Reply

    Our stories are eerily similar. My Dan and I started dating my senior year. After 7 years we got married. The last year we were living apart but still together. The month before he took his life I had filed for divorce. My whole life had been built with him. He was my everything. I had filed not because I didn’t love him but because I just couldn’t live angry with him the man I loved all the time. Things were a mess. A couple of weeks before he died he had gone to the hospital for Tylenol toxicity. When I questioned him about it he said he told the doctors it was an accident. I responded that it didn’t seem like an accident. To which he replied, no it doesn’t does it? I have so much guilt for not being able to help him when he needed me the most. And I also had people say, but you were getting a divorce right? As if that makes it better. If anything it made it worse.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Diane
      | Reply

      Wow, Alicia. Definitely similar stories. I met my Dan the summer before my senior year. Waited until the year after college graduation to get married, seven years later. And we were also living apart, though not legally separated, for the last year before our divorce was final. We filed jointly, but my whole life had been built around him as well and I had never lived on my own before that. I have a number of things I would do differently throughout our relationship if I could go back in time. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20. A piece of paper can’t change the connection you have/had with someone, nor does it change the history of everything you shared. The heart doesn’t know the difference. I am so sorry for your loss.

  11. Kelley A
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story, Diane. You convey so very well what many of us feel and are suffering through. My sister was the person I trusted most in life. Divorce doesn’t lessen the impact of loving someone nor take away the memories and love shared. It is frightening to think we are the sole keepers of our memories now but time will resurface them and remind us that our memories never left us.
    It is difficult to hear some of the well intended comments from people who care about us. I am reminded of a conversation with my brother when we both acknowledged even our spouses couldn’t quite understand the depth of our suffering. I remember saying we wouldn’t want them to know this suffering, so maybe that’s okay. Wishing you peace in this journey we share.

  12. Gerri
    | Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing your story and I am sorry for your loss. You capture so well the rollercoaster of feelings and I appreciate your insights. My ex opted to leave when our son was under two years of age and married a (former) friend of ours so they have a “blended” family and I am on my own within a circle of my family and friends. I have not yet been able to and don’t want to share parts of the turbulent times I went through in the early days of divorce and after but sometimes I know how the brother of the prodigal son feels! I treasure my relationship with my son and memories of happy times in our marriage. We’ll get there from here.

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