I married Dennis when I was 21. He was born and raised in Alberta and lucky for me, he came to work and live in Ottawa. He was interesting to listen to, as well as a good listener, and was loved by his family, friends, and co-workers. We raised three children, built a few houses, and loved to travel…..those were happy times for us.
Dennis was kind, gentle, and wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Next to his Mother, he was the most forgiving person I had ever met. We were married 31 years; we seemed to have it all. And yet, there was a dark side. Dennis did, on occasion, experience depression. When this occurred, he never let on; he kept it hidden; he’d have a sleep, swallow it down, and continue on. He was also a pleaser…..and when he failed at pleasing, he hurt inside…..and no one would know.
One sunny, Sunday afternoon in 1993, we were gathered with some friends and family. With no mention of leaving, Dennis returned home ahead of us……and took his own life. After I found him, and the paramedics took over, I remember staying at the top of the stairs until they brought Dennis up in a body bag and carried him out the door. Yes, it was true.
When my husband died, my life was forever changed. I kept searching for answers; did he really believe he had failed his family? Were we that terrible? Where were the signs? How could this have happened to such a wonderful human being? At night, when my mind filled with thoughts; I would sit up, write them down, and try to sleep some more. I kept a record of all that was happening, with my camera…….I didn’t want to forget any detail; this would be part of my survival.
Immediately I knew I needed help…….help that my family could not give me, because they had never experienced such a tragedy. Luckily someone told me about Bereaved Families (BFO) and for the next year, my daughter and I found a safety net, some guidance, and a realm of calmness, as we made our individual journey through our grief. Hulse and Playfair was instrumental in getting us through the holidays with their event, “How to Cope with Christmas’. For the next several years, I belonged to another support group, for Separated, Divorced, and Widowers. Through a zillion tears, I openly talked about Den’s suicide. I tried hard to keep one foot in front of the other and to participate in every event; in other words, I kept busy and active. My journey was not an easy one; ten years would pass before I felt at all ‘normal’.