If you follow my blog, you know that three months ago today Gary, a member of my church and a dear, kind, deeply depressed man, committed suicide. (Has it really only been three months?)
Gary suffered from what they call, clinically, “treatment resistant depression,” so his death wasn’t entirely a surprise. But it was still completely devastating to many of us: first among us, his husband Marlin.
Marlin has taught us a lot in the last three months about what it means to survive the suicide of a loved one: for example, the term “completing suicide” rather than “committing suicide.” Committing suicide makes it sound like a crime—when what it is, in fact, is a desperate person finding a way out of their pain when nothing else seems to work, when they can’t hold on even one more day.
Marlin wrote this list in his Facebook feed today, and I thought it might be helpful to others to post it here. Marlin is a preacher’s kid, and comes by his very durable, reasonable and meaningful faith honestly—he’s lived it his whole life, not just as a preacher’s kid but as an addict in recovery, and now a suicide survivor.
Three months ago today, everything changed. Things I’ve learned in the past three months since Gary completed suicide:
1) The saying that “God never gives us more than we can handle” is false (at least for me); what is true is that God has put people and communities in my life that have helped me handle what I never could have handled on my own.
2) No matter how young you are or whatever your circumstances, please have a valid will in place; Probate Court is not something a surviving family member should ever have to go through.
3) Life can change in an instant; one minute everything is normal and the next minute the world as you know it can change forever.
4) Love every person you love like it might be the last time you ever see them alive again.
5) Spouses - kiss your spouse goodbye and say “I Love You” every time you leave them. I’m so glad that on Monday May 5th, Gary and I kissed each other and we both said “I Love You” before I left for the office.
6) Grief comes on at times like a flood and then recedes just as quickly…..without warning or provocation it’s there and you just have to ride the wave until it subsides.
7) Longtime habits die very hard; I still find myself nearly every morning reaching to make a cup of English Breakfast Tea for Gary in his favorite mug.
8) Find professional help with your grief if you can – I’ve been seeing a therapist and it’s been so helpful.
9) The anticipation of experiencing certain things (birthdays, weekends alone, cleaning out a closet, etc.,) is often times harder than the actual experience.
10) My two dogs can make almost any unbearable moment a little bit bearable; and they don’t mind at all when you cry yourself to sleep in bed with them.