So many of you have lost a spouse or family member – I am so ashamed to tell my story.
I met him just before he left for his second tour in Iraq. We emailed and kept in touch. We got really close when he came home on leave for 10 days. Between email, chatting, and phone calls, we spoke almost every day for the next 9 months he spent over there. When he went on 3-day missions, I was miserable. I worried non-stop. After he left the Army, I thought I would never have to worry about losing him again. I was wrong.
When he got back from Iraq in 2008 we just couldn’t make things work. It was complicated. He had terrible mood swings, struggled with alcoholism and kept getting into trouble. I was married – and though, not happily, I was ultimately unwilling to leave my family to be with him. He was having a hard time making the adjustment to civilian life. He was going to counseling at the veteran’s center. Over the next 4 years I would break it off and then take him back and let him down – it was a rollercoaster. I encouraged him to meet other girls – available ones. I told him he was gorgeous and lots of girls would love to have him in their lives. But he kept calling and telling me that he needed me and I kept giving in. I was able to get him to enroll in college. He got a good part-time job. Some things were going well, but he was never happy – I could never spend enough time with him. Being lovers was never going to be enough for him.
Then 9 months ago the phone calls became less frequent. He would only call when he needed something – usually money. After a few months, I knew that he had met someone else. I was happy for him. But he still wanted to see me. I told him I knew he had someone new, but he denied it. That made me angry. I felt that he was using me for financial support. I told him that he didn’t have the courage to let me go. And after calling him several choice names, I called it off with him in September.
Then just before the holidays he started calling me again. He was upset. His other relationship was over. It had ended very badly. He said he needed me again. He said I was all he had in the world. I told him he didn’t have me anymore. I really didn’t want to start back up again. Although I went back to my husband after 6 months of not being able to make it work with him, I had never restarted our marital relationship. We slept in separate rooms. I was only there to preserve the family unit for the kids. Since September I had made strides to fix things at home. My family was healing. I didn’t want to be that dishonest, cheating person anymore. But I wasn’t strong enough and the relationship started again – reluctantly. I felt horribly guilty. I had promised myself in September that it was finally over. Every time we saw each other he was on the verge of tears. Sometimes he just cried. I asked him what was wrong. He said he didn’t know. He said that the doctors said it was still depression from Iraq. He told me that he was on medication for depression and to help him sleep. I asked him if he thought that Iraq was the real reason. He said he guessed so. He confided that the other relationship had been going on for almost a year before I realized it in September. I was angry again. Not because he was seeing someone else – but because he wouldn’t let me go when he found her. I didn’t know what to do with my anger. I didn’t know what to do with my guilt. When things settled down in his life a little in mid-February, I told him that I couldn’t be with him anymore. He told me that he was really depressed and couldn’t handle any more rejection. He said he didn’t want to live anymore. I said we could have a strictly platonic relationship.
Over the next three weeks he wanted to see me almost every day. We met for coffee, we met for lunch, and we went jogging together. Then I had to go on a 2-week overseas business trip. I told him that I wasn’t going to bring my personal cell phone; it would be too expensive. He asked if I would call him. I was non-committal; the time zone difference would make it difficult.
I had lunch with him on Thursday. I left for my business trip on Friday evening. I landed in the wee morning hours Sunday. On Wednesday I tried to call him. It went straight to voicemail. So I left a message and then sent an email. No reply. Then I noticed that he had left me a voicemail on Saturday when I was on the plane. The message was already 4 days old. He was angry. His message told me that it was best if I didn’t call him when I got back since I obviously didn’t care about him anymore. I should have a good life and not worry about him; he’d be fine. Thursday I called and emailed. No reply. I was worried. I told him so on voicemail and email. Friday I called and emailed. Same result. Saturday – same. Worried, I did a name search on the newspapers in his area. No results. When I couldn’t reach him Sunday, I did a Google search on his name and town. I found his obituary. He had died the Monday after I left. His memorial service was set for that Sunday – in his parents’ state. His funeral would be the next day. I was out of the country and had no way to get back in time. I was stunned. The guilt, the sadness, the emptiness; it was indescribable. I had to attend business meetings and be “normal”. I had one more week to go. Every night I came back to my hotel room and bawled – alone. On his own, he had found a way to end his depression and let me go. He did it when I was away so I didn’t have to find him. I had a week by myself to deal with it – before I had to face my family – the family I had chosen over him.
So I never went to his funeral. I read through the on-line guest book entries. Obviously his family is devastated. Some people seemed to know that he was struggling. Lots of people were shocked. I signed the guest book and left my email in case someone in his family wanted to contact me. I don’t know if any of them knew that we were seeing each other. Although it is obvious to me that he took his own life, I still have no idea how he did it. I don’t know if he left a note. I can only grieve privately – which of course is my own fault. It has been 3 weeks since he died.
In some ways I wish I could contact his family. They are out of state, 2000 miles away. He had been living so far away from them for so many years. I know that I have answers to many questions they may have. I know details from Iraq, about his friendships here, about his work colleagues, his classmates, his relationship that ended before the holidays. I wonder if it would help his family to get some answers. But I honestly don’t know what I would say. I knew his sister a few years ago. I met his parents once a few years back. They never knew the whole story. If I tell them, they will hate me. I hate me. Maybe having someone to hate and knowing that my heart aches would help them.
God, he was beautiful. I wish I could have been what he needed. I wish things had been different. I wish I had been a better person. I wish he was still here. I do miss him so much. And I feel so guilty. You see, I am a strong person – clearly not a good one, but a strong one. I know how to be a strong advocate. I should have advocated for him. I should have contacted his family when I knew he needed more support. I should have contacted his doctors when I could see the medication was not working well enough. I knew more about him than anyone – I should have gotten involved with his treatment. I gave him advice on what to do to pick himself up, what to tell his doctors to get more help. But I knew he wasn’t strong enough to take care of it himself. If I hadn’t concentrated so much on sneaking around and trying not to get caught I could have done more for him. I knew he needed help. Reluctant as I was, I did take what I needed from the relationship. I didn’t give what he needed. I will always regret that.
Now he is gone. All the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s in the world will not bring him back. So this is my question to you all – the true friends and families of suicide. What should I do? Would you want to know more? Right now his family knows him as a hero who served his country, who suffered with alcoholism, who could never make the transition back to civilian life. Would sharing more information be helpful or is it just my selfish need for closure? After all, I did get his last message to me – which was clearly to leave it alone. Maybe I should honor his last request and leave it alone. Maybe he didn’t tell them about me and he never wanted them to know. I don’t want to break their hearts any more.