How To Survive: Suicide in the Family

By: Honey Good

I stared at the empty boxes and pile of papers and books. Packing is a necessity that creates havoc, especially six months of papers to pack up! What should I toss? What should I save? I was packing my family to return to my beautiful Chicago after spending several months in California, our second home.

Suddenly, my eye caught the title of an article on the top page of my huge heap. It read, ‘The Top One Hundred Web Sites for Women.’ This gave me an excuse to stop packing. I sat down and skimmed the names of the several dot coms settling on a site named after a woman.

I was flooded with unexpected emotion after I typed the name of her site into the tool bar. The site popped up and I was taken aback as I stared at the title of her blog: “Dave Goldberg’s Death? I think it is suicide.”

Suicide! The last word I expected to jump out at me! I shook my head thinking back to that awful day when my husband's, my own and our families' world changed forever.  My husband’s married son and the father of three boys committed suicide.

HOW WE SURVIVED SUICIDE

Sitting in front of my computer, the memory of a suicide in our family flashed before my eyes. I shuddered as my eyes welled up with tears. My dog, Orchid began to lick my bare leg sensing my distress. After a few moments of kissing her back, I put fingers to keyboard to write my story of that horrific day eight years ago when I became the bearer of heartbreaking news to my darling husband.

One late afternoon, almost eight years ago, my cell phone rang. I heard my daughter Lizzie’s frantic voice,

“Mom, mom are you ok? Where are you?

“I’m fine. I’m at the market. What is wrong? What’s wrong?”

“Where is Papa?”

“He’s at a meeting. What’s wrong? Did something happen, Lizzie?” I said starting to lose control of myself.

“Steven committed suicide, mom,” she replied in a hysterical voice. The story is on every television news channel in Chicago! I was afraid the news would be on TV in California! I don’t want Papa to hear about Steven’s death that way.”

“This can’t be true! This can’t be true!” I said in a bewildered voice.

“Mom, it’s true. He shot himself.”

“Oh my G-d, this is too much to bear. And I remember thinking aloud, “What words can I use to tell a father his son committed suicide?”

“I don’t know what to tell you mom. I just know you will find your words.”

“I love you,” Lizzie.

“I love you, mom.”

We said our good-byes.

I drove home in a daze.  

“How will I break the news? My poor dear husband, I thought to myself. This is devastating. What am I going to say? There are no words. There are no words.”

These were the thoughts racing through my mind.

I remember hearing the door open and the familiar voice, “Hi Honey, I’m home. Where are you?”

“In here,” I answered.

He came in, bent down and gave me a kiss as he always does; smiling his usual smile, patting our dog Orchid and talking a mile a minute about his meeting.

He immediately stopped when he noticed an unfamiliar look on my face.

“Is something wrong?”

And then I told him.

His first response, he hit his chest with his fist so hard! He did not speak. He couldn’t talk! I thought he was having a heart attack!

“Shelly, are you having a heart attack!”

And then he said, “I’m not having a heart attack. My heart is breaking. My heart is broken.”

And we sobbed together while I held him in my arms.

How did we survive?  

THIS IS MY MESSAGE

We survived because I was driven to engage my husband into the personal lives of our daughter-in-law and Steven’s three sons. I felt if he took on the role model of ‘father’ he would heal. He would feel he was helping the boys grow up and that Steven, his son, would rest in peace. Fortunately, I was right.

Fathers are not mothers. Grandfathers are not grandmothers. Women are ‘mother earth.’ So I would constantly remind him…

“Did you called the boys today?”

“I did but they did not return my call,” was the reply.

“Call the boys, again! Call them five times if you have to. You are there grandfather. They need you!"

“When did you speak to Olivia (our darling daughter-in-law)?”

“A week ago” would be the reply.

“I will dial Olivia’s number and hand you the phone!”

I involved us in our bereaved families life. I would invite Olivia and the boys for dinner.  Or I would say, “Let’s invite the boys to stay with us in California. Or when I bought birthday cards I would hand him a pen and tell him, “Write a message and please sign your name!” Or I would mention to him, “Wouldn’t it be fun to take the boys to Brooks Brothers to go shopping!”

I truly did not let up. I continued:

“The boys need a roll model. Olivia needs your advice. You are that person. You can lead them into manhood and be involved in all their important choices. You can take over the reins from Steven. They are lucky to have you. And you are lucky to have them.”

And that is how my husband survived.

He threw himself into his grandson’s and Olivia’s lives. We both did. I am their secret-keeper, advisor and fun-loving Honey. They revere their grandfather. He is leading them down the right path into manhood, though they do not always like what he has to say! Olivia has become my third daughter. Shelly and I have worked at filling their void. We are their security blanket. And they give their love back to us ten-fold.

Will our carefree life ever be the same? The answer is no. Steven’s suicide is an emotional scar that will never dissolve. There are three sons without a father, a darling wife who lost a husband and a father who will never hug his son, again.

As my fingers continue to wiz across my keyboard I am struck by the words suicide and survival. Survival is continuing to want to survive in spite of. Suicide is the course of action to end one’s life.

I am sorry Steven chose not to live.  I am happy that my family choose to survive in despite of.

Here is the hotline number to call if you suspect or know someone in need of help. 1.800.273.8255

 Do something GOOD today: Make survival one of your favorite words.

To read more about my personal story, click here.

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