Remembering my husbands wake.
I stood there for well over 3 hours as lines and lines of people came to pay their respects. Most of them complete strangers to me.
I was hot.
I was sick to my stomach.
I was dizzy.
I was in shock.
I felt that at any, any moment I would fall down and pass out. It was the most surreal and most awful experience of my entire life.
Standing there while strangers came to hug me and say they were just so sorry that my husband died. Like all humans would do they stood in line whispering and wondering about "Why did he die by suicide?" They would come up to me and whisper in real close, "Was he depressed?" The way they said it. Like it was shameful, wrong, and made him a bad person if he were depressed. That's the stigma.
That's one of the reasons why people don't speak up and say they are suffering. It's those whispers.
Those whispers that say if this man were depressed.......this man who was only 34 years old and had a loving wife, beautiful children who adored him, a good job, a home, friends, family, and neighbors that all thought he was kind, funny, welcoming, and had a great heart........as if that would all be erased if I noded my head and said, "Yes. Yes he was depressed."
What did I say? It's a blur. I would say ..I didn't know...or maybe...or I don't think so. But the reality? He was depressed. He suffered from psychosis (I know this in hindsight from talking with the medical examiner about his behavior over the months before he died).
So that day at that wake I added to the stigma by not knowing what to do because it was only 3 days after he died. I didn't know yet if I thought he was depressed anymore than I knew if my heart was just going to stop beating from the pain and shock of losing him. So that day at that wake his parents and his sister added to the stigma when I heard people whisper that same thing to them and they responded, "Of course not. He loved life."
As if you can't be depressed and love at the same time. But we are never taught this. No one talks about this. My husband was depressed the summer before he died but he still kissed me goodbye every morning before leaving for work. He still said, "Gosh, Nik. I just love you and the kids so much."
It's not our fault that day we said those things. We did what people do. They try to act like everything is fine when it's not. They try to hide things that they know most of society thinks are shameful. They are feeling horrible guilt and are afraid of people blaming them for this death. They cover up things they are thinking like..."oh my gosh....we knew he had anxiety and was on and off having a hard time sleeping, hard time concentrating, would say odd things...........and. we. said. nothing."
I forgive us for that day.
I'm not ashamed anymore. My children know how their Papa died and they are not ashamed. They still love him. They forgive him.
My best friend was a beautiful person but you know what? Depression doesn't give a shit who you are. Mental illness doesn't care if you're a person living on the street, a human nobody likes, a family man, or a woman with 3 children.
Depression doesn't care.
YOU are not your depression. YOU are not your suffering.
Your loved one is not any less the beautiful person that they were in their life because they died by suicide.
Educate yourself about mental health.
Educate your children.
I'm not going to tell you a list of things to not say to people in this situation. Why? Because we are all human and we mess up, we say the wrong thing in totally uncomfortable situations, we question what happened because we have a human desire to know truth.
When we attend a wake of someone who died by suicide we are all wondering what happened. All of us are wondering that. It's human. And chances are we will find out a little bit of what happened in the days, weeks, and months to follow.
Just don't whisper. Whispering feels shameful. Whispering feels like we are hiding a secret.
And I don't know about you but I'm hopeful to stop the stigma. At least a little bit. At least with a few people. We can't save the entire world. We can't change everyone's minds and that's ok, that's reality. What can we do? We can put our voice out there and hope it plants a seed.
My husband was depressed and he was the best, kindest, most loyal, funniest, and most loving friend I ever have had in my entire life. Nothing changes that. Not the dark cloud of depression and not even death.
After he died I became depressed. The depression crept into my soul. It entered my lungs with it's dark and cloud grey thick smoke. It made it hard to breathe. It made it hard to get out of bed in the morning. I felt dead on the inside. I felt unlovable, unworthy, and of no value to anyone on this earth but my children. I longed for someone to notice that I was not really alive......only going through the motions. I wished they could see that my half smile was not only because my best friend was dead but because I was in the dark. I still had a love of life somehow. I still took care of my children. It made it hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel of my "new" life. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. I found the light within myself and faught hard for that cloud to clear my soul. I was depressed but I was still a very good Mother. The day the cloud left I could feel my lungs clear, my mind ease, and my soul fill with relief. I was not that depression. It entered my life unannounced and uninvited. It slipped in the back door to my home the day the police left to tell me my husband had shot himself. I thought it was who I was, who I was becoming. I was wrong. It's not who I was and my husband was not his depression either. Is all depression the same? Maybe not. Maybe some depression is a chemical imbalance and maybe some depression is a spiritual one. Your soul crying out that it can't handle the pain, turmoil, and hardships of this human existence.
You are not your depression.
You are not broken.
You are whole. You are worthy. You are loved.
Depression is sneaky.
Depression can happen to absolutely anyone.
And it's not shameful. And it's not your fault. And the cloud can pass.
Depression doesn't care who you are but I'm going to tell you that others do care. They care and they love you.