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 toolbar. 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 world, my family’s word, and my world changed forever. My husband’s married son, the father of three boys himself, 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. After a few moments of trying to hold myself together, I put fingers to the keyboard to write my story of that horrific day years ago when I became the bearer of heartbreaking news to my darling husband.
One late afternoon, almost nine 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 in the market. What is wrong? What’s wrong?” I replied.
“Where is Papa?” Lizzie asked.
“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,” she exclaimed.
“This can’t be true! This can’t be true!” I said in a bewildered voice.
“Mom, it’s true. He shot himself,” said Lizzie.
“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,” said Lizzie.
“Love you, Lizzie,” I said.
“And I love you, Mom,” was her reply.
We said our goodbyes.
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.
Breaking The News
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 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?!” I exclaimed.
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?
My Message to You
We survived because I was driven to engage my husband in the personal lives of our daughter-in-law and Steven’s three sons. I felt if he took on the role model of ‘father’ that 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. Men cannot be ‘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 their grandfather. They need you!” These are the reminders I would share with Shelly.
“When did you speak to Olivia (our darling daughter-in-law)?”
I was always prodding.
“A week ago,” would be the reply.
“I will dial Olivia’s number and hand you the phone!”
Involving us in our bereaved families lives, 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 role model. Olivia needs your advice. You are that person, and you can lead them into manhood and be involved in all their important choices. Take over the reins from Steven. They are lucky to have you. And you are lucky to have them.”
How My Husband (And I) 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 whiz across my keyboard I am struck by the words suicide and survival. Survival is continuing to want to survive in spite of life’s sometimes devastating blows. Suicide is the course of action to end one’s life.
I am sorry Steven chose not to live. However, I am happy that my family chooses to survive.
This is why, my friends, I write each week about survival. To thrive, we must SURVIVE. As the popular saying goes, “The only way out is through.” Make survival one of your favorite words.
Help is Never More Than a Call Away
Here is the hotline number to call if you suspect or know someone in need of help. 1.800.273.8255
Have you survived great loss in your own family? How did you do it? What did you learn? Please share your thoughts with me via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or in the comments section below.
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