Up until now, every chapter of Dancing With The Black Dog has been about my own personal experiences. However this weekend I read a post on Facebook by a friend of mine, Sharna, who lost her husband, Tim, the father to her two young sons to suicide three years ago.
Sharna’s words, as I told her, were without a doubt and with utmost sincerity the bravest, most heart wrenching and rawest I have ever read.
Sharna’s words, as myself and many others also told her, have the power to save lives. She did not hesitate in giving her permission for me to turn them into Dancing With The Black Dog’s first, and possibly only ever, “guest” chapter.
These are her words…
It’s been a big week in Australia and the world of Social Media for the awareness of Mental Health. R U OK? Day, World Suicide Prevention Day and the death of a much-loved Aussie.
It’s been both heart-warming and heart wrenching to read everyone’s posts this week in support of those who are suffering.
I’m going to share something I wrote at the beginning of the year, something I’ve held off on because, well, it’s not a sympathy post, at the time of writing, it was purely to help one person who was struggling, but now, I know there’s so many more. This is just a snippet of what the boys and I have been through.
It’s purely for those who are struggling and have had thoughts of giving up, so if you’re ok then I suggest you keep scrolling because it’s not a “pretty, feel good read” it’s raw and hard and true, that’s what suicide is.
But, if it makes just one of you think twice, then I’m ok with sharing.
For the ones that walk amongst us with pain, who smile when they are broken, who keep on giving when there’s nothing left to give, who are thinking about leaving this world………… please stop, please take a moment to breathe and read.
I want you to think about the person who has to find you, it might be a police officer, a paramedic, or maybe a passer-by, but most likely it will be a loved one. I want you to think about the trauma and the images and the flashbacks their mind will never erase. I want you to think about them as they lie awake, night after night, asking themselves if they could have got there sooner.
I want you to imagine your wife when she receives that phone call, silently screaming into her hand so as not to wake your sleeping sick child in the next room, as her legs go out from underneath her and she falls to the floor in your bathroom. She’s been trying to call you all day, hounding your doctor, your counsellor and your work mates when you didn’t show up to where you were supposed to be. I want you to imagine her as your mates tell her that you’ve most likely gone “for a surf, or a climb, or a drive” and her walking out to your garage to count your surf boards, none of them are missing.
I want you to visualise your 7 year old son bouncing in the door from school, your wife’s friend has had to pick him up, family and friends are already arriving at your home, but he knows nothing yet, his only thoughts right now are on the soccer game he played at lunch and that your wife forgot to cut his vegemite sandwich into “big boy” half’s instead of triangles because he doesn’t “need those” anymore. I want you to feel the gut wrenching pain rising up into her body as she takes your two young boys into their bedroom to tell them “Daddy’s not coming home today, not today, not tomorrow, not ever”. In a few seconds you have torn their entire world apart, but for now, it’s she that has done that, not you.
I want you to imagine your wife’s closest lifelong friends walking through your front door that day, your wife is standing in the hallway, they rush to her, arms open as she puts her arms up as if to block them, maybe if they don’t touch her this won’t be real, if they leave now this will all go away and she will soon wake up from this nightmare.
I want you to think about your best mates, the ones that you spoke to last night, who you surfed with the weekend before, who checked in on you, who spoke to you that very morning and the questions they will ask themselves for the rest of their lives. What did I say? What didn’t I say? Why??????
I want you to imagine their pain and anger as they drive your car home and sit in that very same seat where you took your life away.
I want you to think about how you would cope when you get a phone call merely 2 hours in from the nurse at the Coroner’s office, “I’m so sorry for your loss, but time is of the essence with organ donation, we really need a decision right away”
“I’m sorry, pardon, what???”
I want you to imagine your wife who’s shut herself in your wardrobe for hours, desperately trying to pick clothing for you to be farewelled in, torn between letting you go in your favourites, or hanging onto them for your boys, her mum and sister hovering by the door, not knowing whether to leave her or hold her, no one can do or say the right thing right now.
I want you to think about your old faithful dog, she’s been by your side for 12 years, you gave her a chance when no one else could. She’s lost, she’s afraid and she doesn’t understand, she sits by the door, waiting, hoping, ears pricking up as every other land cruiser drives down the street, tail wagging each time she hears the gate open. Finally your wife realizes she needs to see you to understand. When she arrives at the funeral home she leaps out of the car like a puppy, like the arthritis that’s plagued her for months doesn’t exist, she scratches at the double glass doors, she can smell you, she knows where you are, and finally she runs, she jumps on your open casket and kisses you until she realizes her kisses can’t bring you back. She retreats, broken and lies silently underneath you and tells your wife an hour later that she’s ready to go home.
I want you to imagine your funeral, we all knew you were loved, we knew it was going to be big, but we could never have anticipated the 1200 plus people that turned up to farewell you that day. I want you to think about that sea of hundreds, your wife as she stands to do your eulogy, all she can see are the two sets of eyes staring up at her from the front row, your sons, pleading, begging her for it to be over, wanting to be anywhere but here. As your family stand to light a candle in your honour your tiny 3 year old nephew pressing himself into your wife’s side, holding his hand up high, though he can barely reach you, to hold a candle for you.
I want you to imagine 10 weeks later, it’s Christmas time and your wife is trying to carry on some sense of normality for your boys, she takes your youngest to see Santa and quickly realizes the mistake she has made. Poor Santa has no answer when a 7 year old hugs him and says he doesn’t want any presents this year, he knows his Daddy can’t come back for good, but please Santa “can I just see him one last time, I didn’t get to say goodbye” Your amazing nephew cuddles your son and your wife takes them home.
I want you to imagine the pain and heartbreak of your 10 year old when he picks up his surf board with his uncle. The one you helped him shape and design with your best mate for his 10th Birthday a couple of weeks ago. Never in his worst nightmares would he have imagined that you wouldn’t be there for the first ride on that board. In time, he will learn to love the ocean again, but right now, all it is – is heartbreak.
I want you to think about your son’s footy team, the ones you helped coach all year, the kids who love you and look up to you as much as your own, as they run onto the ground wearing black armbands in your honor, your 10 year old son brave faced and stoic as his team mates, coach and every other Dad and his people get around him. He will play, he will listen to all the wonderful words spoken and he will push through, but he wants to be anywhere but here right now.
I want you to think about the Birthdays, Easter’s, the anniversaries, Christmases, fathers and Mothers Days. All fraught with sadness, all of us trying to keep it going, to hold it together, but later that night, we break and the aftermath goes on and on.
I want you to fast forward 3 years, your boys are 10 and 13 now, you think your wife would have moved on, your friends and family will be ok, time heals, doesn’t it? Well, time heals a little, the rawness eases, but the pain never goes away, at 35 your wife had spent half her lifetime with you. There’s not a day that passes that they don’t think of you, that they don’t wish that you were here, that they don’t wonder how different things would be right now if you were here. They’ll get it together, to the outside world they’ll appear to be “fine” and sometimes they really will be fine, but in a day or a month or two reality comes crashing down and they’re not ok, they’re just surviving.
Depression isn’t picky, it doesn’t judge, it doesn’t target the people you think it would. It can strike the ones you least expect it to, the ones with the beautiful life, the happy home, the gorgeous kids, the supportive wife, the loving family and friends. The ones with the beautiful smile, who make everyone laugh, who make everyone feel good about themselves, the ones with the most love, the most laughter, the ones who give the best hugs
Depression isn’t fooled by any of that, it is an ongoing relentless depth of pain, one that I don’t truly understand, only one that I’ve watched the one I love the most loose to.
Still think no one will miss you? Think they’ll all be better off without you?
two little words,
coming from a child, whining
from an adult, demanding,
but coming from a wife and children of suicide loss, all we want, is for you to stay x
Please call a mate, your mum, dad, brother, sister, doctor, your lifeline. You may not think you’re someone who’ll be missed, but YOU are someone’s world.
Don’t take their world away from them x