I'm so sorry for the devastating loss you have experienced. I know navigating through life after losing a loved one to death by suicide can be very challenging and confusing. People will have their opinions or may not want to talk about it, but there will be some who understand, most likely because they have been through the same devastation as you. Although it has been many years since I lost my husband, I still am at a loss for words and my heart aches when I hear of anyone who has lost a loved one to something so misunderstood.
As difficult as it was, we moved forward, one day at a time. The memories we have together and those who share their own fond recollections with us are truly the best gifts ever. Rob lived a fulfilling and happy life; no one more proud of his family than he was. He lived with depression successfully for a long time. Many people were surprised to learn that he even battled depression. On the outside, he was a man that appeared to have it all. After he passed, many people asked me if I saw this coming. How could I see something coming that I knew nothing about? I witnessed a dark place in the end, never thinking it would lead to death by suicide. Only now do I truly understand, wishing I could have understood the depth of his pain and how depression can take over and win.
I look to the many lessons Rob taught me while he was by my side for almost 20 years. It is because of him I am the person I am today. I have learned to live with no regrets as it makes parting not as difficult. I have learned the difference between conditional love and unconditional love; unconditional is really the only way to love. I have learned that there are always people that have more, but a lot more that have less. Help the ones with less. I have learned not to judge others as we are all products of our environment; we all have issues and some can be resolved and some cannot. I hope you can see the lessons your loved one has left you and hopefully they inspire you each day, just as my lessons from Rob continue to inspire me.
The journey since his death has not been easy. I was devastated, confused, heartbroken and wondered – what and how did this just happen? How and why did Rob just do what he did? I couldn’t comprehend it and was in shock for quite some time. It also took me a long time before I was comfortable talking about it. I had so many questions and fears. How was I going to tell the kids; how were they going to react; how could they live without their dad? As the days go on, you can get through as rough as it may be. We still miss him dearly and think of him daily, but we are also grateful for how far we have come in accepting and dealing with this great loss. As you begin your journey after such a devastating loss, remember your loved one for how they lived - not how they died. Share your story as you could inspire someone else to open up and share theirs. Know that LOVE NEVER DIES and your loved one will never leave your mind and heart. Having them with us for as long as we did was a gift. Let go of guilt. Like with all illnesses - some people live, some people die - mental illnesses are no different. Accept your life and use your story and your loved one to make a difference in someone else's day. It is then you will understand the meaning of love heals.
by Vonnie Woodrick
About the Author
Vonnie Woodrick created i understand in 2014 in loving memory of her husband Rob who lost his battle with depression in 2003. Vonnie routinely provides speaking engagements to private organizations and community groups throughout the year in an effort to raise awareness about suicide and encourage education about mental health. Learn more about i understand's "Love Heals" Lecture Series.
This letter is the final blog entry in a six-week series titled, "Life After Loss".