Suicide: A Different Kind of Grief

On October 30, 1989, Rosie discovered that her husband of 18 years had taken his own life and changed his family’s lives forever. The months and years that followed for Rosie were tangled with fear and challenges that separated her from the life she’d always known but also created the opportunity for her to become a strong, independent woman and an example to everyone around her.

After his death, questions flooded her heart and mind: What were the precursors? How did he get to the point where he felt there was no other way? What could I have done differently to help him? And why would he take the easier way out and leave me to pick up the pieces all alone?

In the months that followed, the responsibilities of life mixed with the dramatic changes of her family’s circumstances began to sting. She moved from shock and sadness to anger and finally to action. She was, instantly Mom and Dad to their two small children, sole bread winner, family chef, handy-man, disciplinarian. The list goes on.. At the same time, relationships with couples began to change. Being single in a “couples world” is not easy. Some felt awkward now, and things didn’t fit anymore. These friendships did not last. However, many close, treasured friends and family members helped Rosie make it through the rough times.

Rosie also found out the life insurance policy her husband had did not cover suicide; therefore, she did not receive help from that source. A small salary and Social Security benefits made finances a challenge for her and her children. Understandably, she was left wondering, “Why would the system punish me and other widows like me? We didn’t do anything wrong!”

Guilt racked her children and friends, as well. Suicide raises the common thought, “If only I had…I could have saved him from this desperate act. What should I have done differently?”

But the truth is he made the choice.

As time went on, Rosie learned how to live again and discovered things that brought her comfort and renewal:

  • Journaling
  • Her faith in God
  • Humor
  • Exercise
  • Music
  • Creative activities
  • A support network of friends and family
  • Professional Counseling
  • Community resources she could turn to – resources for financial questions, the suicide hotline, a handyman, etc.
  • An accountant (who still does her taxes to this day!). Finances were one of the biggest strains she was faced with. Her accountant helped her see one of the most important things in her life – beyond where she was financially that day.
  • She realized the importance for her and her children to have something to look forward to at all times. This kept them grounded and focused on a goal.
  • She learned not to exclude her children from family decisions. Rosie found it was important to give them a voice, a chance to actively take a positive role in the survival of their new family unit. It also brought them all closer.
  • Because of the stress and pressure one is under after a death, one is more likely to get sick. So she learned be kind to herself, to get enough rest, exercise and self care.
  • She learned the importance of pampering herself, cherishing herself as a lively, independent woman.
  • Most importantly, she finally learned to lean on others and ask for help.

Once she started putting this into practice, a new world of possibilities opened up. She could truly begin to rebuild her life and discover her new identity, her new dreams. Though the memory and pain of her husband’s tragic death have never left her, she did finally get to an emotional point where she could believe that all that had happened to her was meant to be used for good. She moved from the “victim” mode to actively using her experience to help others heal from their personal tragedies.

Rosie decided to go back to graduate school and received a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling in 1998. Today, she is the Wish Program Director here at New Hope for Kids where she grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses and also helps support the families who attend our Center for Grieving Children. Rosie’s courageous journey serves as an example to us all, and her heart for touching other’s lives through her work has made her an invaluable part of the New Hope for Kids family.

Her journey is not in vain, as she touches the lives of those less fortunate on a daily basis. This is the choice Rosie made.