I’m reposting (below) an article I wrote for Stigma Fighters about the initial 24 hours (ish) following the death of my ex-partner/father of my kids.
Today is the 5th anniversary of his death and no matter how hard I try to ignore it – I can’t. It physically seeps into my entire being.
Also, his deathiversary falls on mental health awareness week and everywhere I look there’s mention of mental illness. (For the same reasons, I can’t ignore his birthday which is the day after suicide awareness day – I like to think that somewhere someone is chuckling at the absurdity of this… probably Jason).
I hate awareness days. I think they’re ineffective, watered-down ways of making people think they’re making a difference without taking any actual action. (end rant)
But I do believe that anniversaries (good and bad) deserve acknowledgement. Sometimes this acknowledgement comes in quiet whispers as we throw rocks with messages into the lake and sometimes it comes in screams of grief. I have found that by taking control of these dates, the whispers are louder than the screams.
So happy 5th anniversary to all the survivors out there. We’ve come a long way.
I was at work when I found out Jason had died. Everything else in the world went blurry.
Jason is dead.
I looked around my little window-less office,
“I think I think I have to go home now.”
Fuzzy thoughts wondered if I needed special permission to go home early from work. He wasn’t my husband or even my boyfriend. How would they code this? Is there a policy for when the father of your children kills himself? Policy #42.2.1.
I paced my kitchen until my parents arrived and then we sat in the living room and stared at each other.
Should I go get the kids now or do I wait until the end of the day? I dreaded telling them as much as I desperately wanted to get it over with. What should I do? Where is that policy & procedure manual now?
It just felt like they should know now. Shouldn’t they be here in our staring circle?
On the other hand, why waste a perfectly oblivious school day? Once I pick them up, their lives will be forever divided into: Before Daddy Died (BDD) and After Daddy Died (ADD).
I compromised and picked them up an hour before school ended.
My feet dragged as theirs skipped through the park to our home.
“Let’s sit on the couch; I have something to tell you.”
Four sparkling blue eyes looked up expecting me to announce one of my infamous surprise adventures. Instead they got,
“Your Dad died last night.”
And for the second time that day my world increased in blurriness. I think I had to repeat myself. I know we all hugged. There were tears. Blurrrrr……
They had just seen him 2 days ago. People don’t just die without reason. They knew that.
I fought my desire to say car accident, or heart attack, or alien invasion. You know, anything easier to explain than suicide.
I am so thankful I had been able to call my friend who is a social worker and was as prepared for this question as possible.
“Some people are really sick and you can see it on the outside. Your Dad was sick on the inside where you couldn’t see it. He was sick in his heart and his mind and his soul. And he made a decision to stop his body from working.”
“He must have really been hurting.” Moxie
“Yes, he really was hurting.”
“Hey, look at that squirrel out the window. He’s so funny.” Moxie
“Can we go out for dinner?” Rain
Okay so I guess we’re done talking about this.
Well first, the kids needed dress clothes. The next day my friend brought over a selection from her own kids’ wardrobes and we chose outfits. Now we only needed to buy shoes. Funeral shoes.
We went to Walmart. The adjoining McDonald’s seemed appropriate for dinner. The kids laughed and played as they tried on shoes. Funeral shoes. I was buying shoes for my kids to wear to their Dad’s funeral. Jesus. It was all just so stereotypically surreal. The check-out girl smiled at us as she put the funeral shoes into the plastic bag. I was glad I hadn’t remembered my reusable bags from the car. Funeral shoes belong in plastic Walmart bags.
“We’re buying shoes for their Dad’s funeral”
I wanted to yell it so loud the whole store could hear me. I wanted the check out girl to announce it on the intercom. I was at Walmart, buying funeral shoes for Rain and Moxie because their Dad killed himself.
But instead I smiled back as she wished us a pleasant evening. We put the plastic bag of funeral shoes in the trunk and drove home.
Since then there have been a multitude of ups and downs – Wonderland could only be so lucky to have rights to this shit.
I continue to replay my last conversations with Jason over and over. I knew he was struggling. I didn’t know how much. I can still see his face from the rearview mirror as he buckled up the kids and kissed them good-bye. He seemed happy. Calm. The following night he killed himself. I agonize over wondering if I could have said something to stop him.
“It’s not too late. Please let us help you. Let your friends help you. Let your family help you. You are not alone.”
But instead we said good-bye and drove away.