What will happen….

It’s just me now. 

Just me.

What the hell was he thinking when he took his life? 

I’m going to need a moment to get angry. 

What went through his head when he decided to end his time here on earth? No more daddy, no more husband, brother, nephew and son. He just walked off the stage and left all his roles with cliffhangers that would continue to be just that. . . Cliffhangers. No goodbye, no final hugs, no bow to his beloved audience to acknowledge the show was done. No warning.

No apology to his children for walking of stage to soon. He left them with me. Just me. 

What was he thinking? 

Don’t get me wrong.  My support system is big, and strong and wonderful. The family and friends I have in my life are a blessing and have lifted me many times this past year. They are there to help me and our children through this, and they are the reason I have survived this trauma.

But at the end of the day, it’s just me.   Their mom.

The worst part? I am human. I could die. Today. Tomorrow. Three years from now. I am fragile.  

What would happen then? What would happen to the kids? How would they do without me? 

I sit on the couch after school/work someways; after I’ve picked our daughter up at the bus stop, walked home, done dishes( no dish washer in the rental) swept mopped and made dinner, and just watch them. Our daughter sitting at the kitchen table watching utube videos on how to draw before she gets ready for soccer practice and our son standing at the counter listening to the Ricky Gervais show while he gets ready for his evening out with friends. 

Do they know how fragile I am? 

It makes me panick. I used to be afraid of death. So much so I would avoid living. Now, I’m not afraid of death so much as leaving them behind when they are not ready. Or them leaving me. 

It makes my heart hurt and I have difficulty catching my breath. Am I totally fucking them up? Am I enough? Am I doing a good job at this parenting alone? What will happen to them if I’m not? 

I do what I can to take care of myself so I can be there for them. I’m eating healthier(oh how I miss chocolate chips), going to the gym a minimum of four days a week, blogging, and am in counselling. I do not drink alcohol often, and I do not use drugs. I take my anti-anxiety meds every night. 

What will happen if this is not enough? I know I don’t sleep enough and I certainly smoke way too much. I’m cutting back on caffeine to help with the sleep issue. But what if these changes aren’t enough? 

I’m scared. I feel lonely. He left me alone. And I don’t know what is going to happen. 

I have no control over any of the outcomes. I choose my attitude as best I can so the children will learn resilience but is that enough? 

I’m so angry at Bipolar right now. Fuck Bipolar. What will happen to my children if Something were to happen to me? Thanks a lot asshat Bipolar. Thanks for leaving me alone.  

I know I don’t have control over my future. I know all I can do is let go and give it to god. It’s not an easy task, especially after trauma. Especially after your husband dies. By Suicide. 

I once again have to remind myself to breathe and trust no matter what, those two of my babies will be ok. We will be ok. And just keep moving forward through the fear and know that even through our past experience and though We cant predict what will happen tomorrow we will be ok. There is no other option.


The Roller Coaster Ride

Silverwood Theme Park. One of my favourite childhood vacation spots. I was lucky to have parents that would invite my childhood best friend for our US vacations, and camping trips. This vacation was the basis for several books we wrote as children and a new song I won’t put in print(it had to do with bodily functions) to avoid offending anyone(yes, we were both creative, funny and somewhat disgusting children!)  Needless to say, it was a great time and a favourite memory for both myself and my best friend. 

So much so we met there on May long weekend so our own children could experience it. We cheated however; we hotelled and only spent three days, but it was still an exciting and memorable experience for all of us. 

My daughter and I. She looks so much like him in this picture.

At the end of the last day my friend, her husband and I decided to take a chance on the adult rides. Opting out of the wooden coasters due to anxiety and a fear of hieghts, I waited with the kids while her and her husband took a turn screaming over curves and swoops.

I chose the corkscrew. It wasn’t as high, was made of sturdier material, and though it went fast, it was over quick too. We sat in our seats, chattering away about life when the safety instructions interrupted and rudely reminded me of what I was about to experience. 

The yellow, dank smelling safety harness clasped tightly over my shoulders.

I looked at my best friend in fear. “I think I made a mistake”. 

The coaster released and turned a corner bringing us to the steep climb before we plummeted down into a sharp turn and quickly headed through two loop de loops that I suddenly realized appeared  much larger and higher from on the ride then on the ground. 

I fought against the first turn. As the cart turned right and started to tip us over, I fought instinctively to stay upright. I grasped unto my my harness so hard I jammed my arm between the cart and the safety structure. My neck muscles hurt from trying to veer left when the ride was clearly going right and I had already screamed every curse word at the top of my lungs (including names of private parts?! I swear I had a mini seizure..) that my throat was burning. I was fighting something that I had no control over. I quickly learned my lesson. 

The second loop was easier; still scary but with less suffering. Yes, partially because of the speed! But also because I leaned it to it. I took a breath, let go and went with the ride. 

It was the first and last adult ride of the day….my neck and arm were wrecked and my bestie – well she hurled. 

The weekend was a much needed escape from our busy scheduled lives. We slept in, stayed up later, and ate yummy, unhealthy carnival food. We connected with our friends and with each other. I can’t say one bad thing about the weekend – Even with the massive bruise on my arm. 

The adrenaline rush lasted into the evening. After dinner, on the ride home though it hit me. It was a great, fantastic and amazing day.. and I wished he was here.  I wanted to talk to him and tell him about how much fun we had. 

He would’ve hated it, he didn’t like the large crowds, heat and rides. But he would’ve loved seeing us smile. 

The familiar sinking feeling in my stomach and chest came on strong. I wrapped my arm around our daughter as she sunk into my side while watching The Lego Movie on our way home. 

The next day our daughter had a similar experience. She talked about the weekend and how awesome it was and a sudden look of sadness washed over her face over breakfast. “I wish he could have been here mom.”

On the 6 hour drive home, I thought a lot about the last year. The waves of grief,  the fighting the pain, the trying to get through each day minute by minute sometimes. In her booksDaring Greatly and the Gifts of Imperfections, Brene Brown talks about leaning into vulnerability; grief to me is perhaps the most vulnerable a person can be. 

And just like the roller coaster ride that is grief and life, it’s easier if you lean into the turns and loop de loops to avoid suffering more. I know, I still have the bruise on my arm to prove it. 

My Promise … One Year Later

A few months after Anthony’s passing, on what would have been our 11 year wedding anniversary, I wrote a post about making him a promise to help him to undue the damage his death by Suicide caused. 

The promise was a tool discussed by Jeffery Jackson in his Survivors of Suicide (SOS) handbook. This book has been a lifeline for me this past year. You may find it beneficial too. SOS can be found here.

I’ve woken up everyday since with intention and mindfulness (most days with tears too) as how I can take small steps towards keeping that promise.

Determining what and how exactly I would do to full fill this promise has been difficult, admittedly. There are days I am so exhausted from grief and managing life that I would sooner crawl into bed and cry and binge watch Netflix.  But the promise is there and it is what carries me forward with his love. 

It’s been a year and two days since he died. May 16, 2017. On D Day, ironically enough, I spent the day curled up in bed, or head hung in a toilet praying the violent flu that had taken over would stop. I’m wondering if it was a blessing in disguise that I slept through 502pm.

That evening, I mustered enough energy to take my daughter and I to a park near our old house. She picked the park as it was one of the last days we spent together as a family. We took her there to teach her to ride her two wheel bike, and our cat, Cooper followed us to mock our efforts I’m sure! 

We climbed the top of the grassy, yellow spotted hill and released balloons with handwritten notes attached to the strings. I watched her eyes chase the balloons and I sighed with both sadness, relief and a sense of accomplishment. 

Another small step towards undoing the damage done. Allowing the children the chance to grieve and experience joy each in their own way, time and with their own creativity. My eldest decided not to come. Instead, he watched episodes of a show they used to watch together and got ready for work. 

We are all grieving differently. We are all surviving. We are all here together. 

This promise has been instrumental in my healing and in forgiving him and myself. There are days however I still get panicked and stuck at the realization I will never see him, hug him, hear him or smell him again. But I remember my promise to him, breathe and take the next step forward. 

There are many things I have yet to do in order to keep my promise; the harder messy stuff will have to wait until I’m stronger. But I have made progress. 

Though small and simple, the ways I’m working towards undoing the damage caused by Bipolar and his death by Suicide also includes this blog, sharing our story, sharing mental health resources, talking about HIM everyday with the kids so we can remember Anthony and not Bipolar. 

I have practiced mindfulness and have recently been working on forgiving myself and him for his death by Suicide. I have been focusing on self care for me and teaching the children about self care as well so we can continue to tell our story and remember the life that was forever ours. 

I hope he would be proud. 
Please remember, if you feel alone, hopeless and helpless it is ok. These are just feelings and you are not alone. If you are thinking of Suicide please ask for help. Reach out. Please. Click Here For international hotlines. 

Mother’s Day Without Him

“I hope you have a happy mothers day. You have been so strong for the kids, and I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate it and am thankful that my children have you as a mother.”

This was one of the last messages he sent me before he took his own life. Eight days later in fact. 

Happy Mother’s Day. 

This Mother’s Day was actually an amazing weekend spent with family and the kids. We played games, had a fun dinner, exchanged gifts, and spent time together.  It was great, and still, there was something missing. 

Actually, the last ten Mother’s Day’s since his mom died something has been missing. Every year I’d ask him what he wanted to do to remember her by. Only once did he request to visit her grave. He said he wanted to celebrate me with the kids and focus on what he did have to celebrate. 

The first suicide attempt I was aware of occurred the day after Mother’s Day.  This time of year was a trigger for him. 

And now, this was the first Mother’s Day without him here. In a few days, it will be the one year anniversary of his death by Suicide. 

Happy Mother’s Day… 

Before bed last night, I scrolled through our texts the last few months of his life. Those texts are one of very few of the things I have left of him, and one of the things I cannot seem to get rid of. I scroll through them on the particularly bad days; I imagine his words are a blanket that I can wrap myself in. They are proof of his previous  existence and the love we still had for each other. 

The message above met my eye. I hid in my room for a brief moment away from the kids, and family who were also getting ready to settle for the evening. The strength he was referring to was my guidance with the children in the chaos caused by Bipolar Disorder. 

What he didn’t know was how weak I felt and what a failure of a mother and wife I believed I was during that time. I was a coward. I couldn’t save the house. I couldn’t stop his psychosis. I couldn’t protect him anymore. 

I was a coward. 

I was scared to let him back in our lives without his being medicated and in regular therapy. I was worried what more the disorder would do to the children. I was scared because after all that happened I loved him anyway. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t stop the illness and our family fell apart. The children were both hurting in very different ways; and there were days I could barely function as a parent. 

The message made me feel ashamed of myself. After all he had been through he still was wishing me a happy Mother’s Day. Me who would only allow him safe visits. Me who put up such boundaries, while he opened himself wide open in ways I couldn’t even imagine. 

I mustered up a thank you, and had our daughter call him later that evening. 

Despite the shame I feel, some how, the message he sent indicated a kind of understanding. I made those decisions with love. For the kids. For myself. For him. As I re-read the message again while gathering myself enough to rejoin the family, I felt a sense of understanding and forgiveness. Whether it was from him, or within myself I don’t know; but I read the message differently than I had in the past. Instead of ringing guilt, it brought comfort and peace. 

I missed him dearly this past Mother’s Day. The kids did too. They missed his helping to plan the day, and making breakfast in bed. I’m thankful my family, including my own mother was there to celebrate and take the sting of the day away but It certainly wasn’t the same without him here; not for me or the children. 

Somewhere deep under the pain and grief, what I can say this Mother’s Day is that I’m forever grateful for that message, and the children we shared together. 

Happy Mother’s Day❤️️

Dig Deep and Sing

I was just barely 21, a single mom, and full of dreams when Anthony and I first met. I needed something to pass my time alone before we met, so in the evenings when my boy was asleep, I’d make myself a drink, write and play guitar. I’d sing my own songs, and those musings of others while I sipped on Bacardi and Coke. 

Trust me, I’m not that good at it, but I love the sound of the strings and the flow of words. I took pride in  my calloused fingers and steel tinted skin. My little hobby brought me to life in my loneliest moments. 

Anthony taking a picture while I played

I sang for Peter the first time about four months into our relationship. I never felt so vulnerable and exposed. I remember the look on his face, and the twinkle in his eyes. He used to love listening to me pluck away pointlessly; I never did improve much in playing, but he was my biggest fan. He encouraged me to continue playing and I even performed at small coffee houses on folk or open mike nights. He was there to support me. 

Then over the years as we travelled more and had our daughter, I slowly quit playing. Barcardi and music gave way to Netflix, and breast feeding. My guitar became my son’s favourite past time, and man, he had a talent for playing that I, to this day, could only dream of acquiring; so I gave the guitar to him. 

When we separated, and the love of my life left to live in his vehicle, I was desperate for something to bring me to life again. Something to break up my obsessive worry about how ill he was and how to get him help. I needed something for me, that I could do at home and that wouldn’t cost a lot of extra money. Something to break up the tears. 

I bought a guitar and a mutual friend of ours hooked me up with an instructor who, conveniently would come to the house to give me lessons for cheap. I played, and practiced and loved the sound  of the twang coming from the strings beneath my fingers. I began to sing again, and for brief moments, I wasn’t consumed by mental illness, grief, thoughts about how to get the psychiatrists to listen, over my ending marriage, his possibly dying by suicide, carelessness or murder, and the anger I was feeling about being left. I was no longer being eaten by the shame I felt when my co-workers and old acquaintances started asking about what was wrong with my husband(I was never ashamed of him, I was ashamed at the time because I felt I hadn’t done enough and was responsible for his well-being). 

For a brief time each evening I began to feel free. 

For a brief time each evening I could express my feelings and not care about being judged. This was for me. 

I continued to play through our moving, between calls to the hospital, between the police and fire department calls to me, between hurtful conversations, with family in and out and running the kids around to their programs. At night alone, the kids asleep, when the pain was the worst I’d play and sing and be free and feel hope. 

Then I got the call. May 16, 2016 at 5:02pm. 

Anthony on a bus tour we took in 2013. He had just finished Electric Shock Therapy(ECT)

The music stopped that day. 

I hadn’t even realized I quit playing again. The black leather guitar case became a shadowed decoration in my room; sitting in the corner by the door collecting dust. Nights playing and writing were replaced by tears and grief. 

Last Saturday evening, I sat alone in my room restless and wrestling with my guilt. I sat at the end of my bed head in my hands just missing him. In my blurred peripheral, I caught the black shadow in the corner, and lifted my head. 

The skin of the case was cracking and now blanketed with a layer of dust. I wiped the case down with a damp cloth, carried the case to my bed, took out the wooden instrument and held it for a while. 

I swear I could hear him “sing Ker, play for me”. I could almost see him as clear as I did that first time I played for him.

I loved his eyes and lips. He had dimples on the sides of his mouth when he smiled. His green eyes were bright and filled with life when he was happy. Damn I loved that man. 

I dug deep. I felt the pain, hurt and guilt well in my chest and I sang for the first time in 11 months. I pictured him there with me, peering up from his book, his eyes welling with happiness. And underneath the release of all that pain, hurt and guilt, there was a well of love, peace and life. 

I dug deep, and I felt a little more alive that day. Maybe he was trying to show me this. That each day if I dig deep and “sing”(metaphorically)I can peel back the layers of the grief I feel from his being gone I can see in some way he’s still with me, helping me to remember we were once happy, and in love. Our relationship in someway still exists, it’s just evolving into something different. . .

Tell me about your digging deep? What does that mean and look like for you? Together we can dig deep and ‘sing’ and move through this difficult time. 

Erasing the Words… Guilt

There are some things I want to take back. Things I wish I didn’t say or I would have said. 

I want to erase the words I said and say again differently. In our marriage, as with most marriages, we were hurtful when we argued. I would shut down, and he would run. They were our coping skills instilled by our childhood or by our own finding. When we argued we said hurtful things to each other. 

“You’re just like your mother!”

“You’re worse than your father!” 

“Why can’t you just say sorry?!”

I know we loved each other. So very much. Why did we say the things we did? I feel so much guilt still. It makes my stomach turn. 

Now there are words left unspoken. I feel so much guilt still. It makes my stomach turn. 

I want to erase those words and tell him how very much he was loved. I want to tell him again that the illness wasn’t his fault, it didn’t define him. I want to tell him the children needed him here. They loved him still. He knew that. Unmedicated Bipolar wouldn’t let him believe it. 

I wish I could have taken the hallucinations and images of death and pain away and replaced them with love and warmth. I wish I could have taken the illness and made it easier for him. 

But I couldn’t. You can’t save someone else from themselves. That has been the hardest reality for me to accept. 

I did an ass load of paperwork, I stood before a judge and was granted a mental health warrant for his admittance to a hospital. He was released because he didn’t want help. . . Or he didn’t know he was sick. 

I begged the Dr. to revoke his medical marijuana card. I begged the nurses to talk to the psychiatrist. I begged his gp to admit him. I begged the police, the  fire department basically anyone who would listen. Now I feel like I’m begging time for one chance to go back and say what I feel I didn’t get the chance to and to delete the things I did say. 

I wonder if he thought of us; how we’d feel before he took his life. Did he at any moment regret his actions before he stopped breathing? Was there a brief second of lucidity? Any tiny bit of clarity that made him want to live in that second? I hope not, because he would’ve realized it was too late. 

Guilt. It feels like something rotting in my stomach. Is there anyway to let it go??? 

I know, deep down, and logically, even if he was medicated and in counselling, he still could’ve ended his life. There is no certainty that anything said or done by anyone would have changed the outcome. He made his choices. But because I’m living with his choice,  the feeling sometimes outweighs the logic. 

I have a mantra I practice when the guilt becomes to much and I replay conversations and words I wish I could erase. ” I did the best I could. I couldn’t control it, I didn’t cause it and I couldn’t cure it. I did the best I could. ” 

I practice self love and compassion and let go of arguments from ten years ago because those words didn’t lead him to where he was in that moment. I didn’t lead him there, the illness did. 

 Spring is here..

It’s spring. 

Yay(insert sarcasm here).

Spring symbolizes time of new growth, new life, and change. My son was born in May. I started my degree in May several years ago. We moved into our house on May long weekend, the same one that foreclosed last spring. And then, well, my husband died in spring. New life. Growth. Change. Dead husband… You know, all the good stuff.

D Day is quickly approaching and I feel more uncomfortable with grief now than I did a few months ago, which I understand is normal as we near the one year anniversary of his death. Spring is here to remind me of all that my children and I have lost, what his friends and family have lost in addition to all we have overcome this last year and the small successes we have all made. 

But as much as I want to talk about all that has grown and changed, there is something more about spring that I feel should be addressed. 

Spring also marks a transition out of darkness. Restrictive winter hours have slowly come to an end and our days get longer. People become more energized as the sun sets later each day and people come out of hiding to soak in their much needed vitamin D. We’re more social and engaged, energetic and connected. Flowers blossom, trees and grass turn to green. It’s a beautiful time of year. 

Why then do Suicide rates increase during this time of year? 

In Canada, between 3,600 and 4,000 people die by suicide each year with the highest number of suicides occurring in May(Stats Canada). According to Statistics Canada data from 2000 to 2012 there were an average of 363 deaths in May. Numbers which denounce the myth that Suicide rates increase during winter or the holidays. 

Scientist, psychologists and psychiatrists alike question the correlation between spring and increased suicide rates. 

One theory is those who suffered through depression in the winter, now have the burst of energy they didn’t have in the darkness to set out plans to achieve their goal of suicide. Another is the sun shine, green grass, happier people and happier days, make those struggling feel more isolated and lonely in comparison. 

One hypotheses being tested is the idea that hay fever and allergies cause the brain to swell which causes behavioural changes and contributes to depression(Dr. Teodor Postolache, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine). 

Regardless of the causes, what’s more important is that we are aware of the increase of Suicide rates in Canada(and other countries) during the spring and summer months. As a society, we need to open up and talk about mental health and reach out to those who may be afflicted. 

Please, if this time of year poses a risk for you, and you find yourself having thoughts of taking your life, reach out for help. Call a friend or Crisis Line. Ask for help. Talk to a counsellor, go to your local hospital and know you are not alone. This too shall pass. You’ll get better. You may be low again, but always remember you won’t stay there forever. Recovery is possible.