Life

How My Husband’s Depression Changed Our Lives Forever

This Saturday is my husband’s 50th birthday. My kids and I will celebrate his birthday the way we have for the last four years. We will hike in the woods to where we buried his ashes, share stories about their dad, laugh and cry a lot. Then we will tie each of their birthday notes to a helium balloon and let it go. On the way back, we will stop at his favorite coffee shop for a hot chocolate and will end the day at the family restaurant we used to go to when they were younger. This is our story and how my husband’s depression changed our lives forever.

My husband and I met when we were both 21. It was my second year living in Canada and I was still learning to speak English. He had just moved back from BC and was working in construction . We met at a week-end seminar about “Starting our own business”. We had very similar personalities, both strong-willed, extremely independent and no desire to work for others.  As teenagers, we both had gone thru very tough times, we had so much in common; two lost souls perfect for each other.

Our life

We had a very good life, with ups and downs like everybody else. After many years together, we had three beautiful and healthy kids, our dream home , great jobs we enjoyed, good friends and most importantly each other.  We loved the holidays and celebrated them the way we wished our parents did with us. He particularly loved Halloween and Christmas time.

Separation

Then 9 years ago, my husband’s behaviour started changing. He was not very patient with the kids and I anymore and became very irritable. He started doing a lot  of sports on his own; biking, skate skiing or rock climbing and started avoiding family activities. Within a year and a half it got pretty bad and we agreed to take a break for the sake of our family. The environment was no longer healthy for our kids . It was 2010, we had been together for almost 22 years.

It was a really tough time. I never thought I would have to take leave from work but I had to when I hit rock bottom and went into a severe depression.  How could this happen to me? I am a very strong person and isn’t depression just for the weak? (I am so sorry I ever thought that way). One of my friend saw how bad I was getting and suggested I talk to a professional. After fighting it for a while, I agreed I needed help. I am so glad I did. This was the best advise I received and I started seeing improvements after just a few weeks. As far as my husband, I assumed he was going thru a midlife crisis and hoped he would get over it quickly and things would get back to normal. We had such a good life.

His Depression

But it didn’t get better and our lives over the following 3 years were like a roller coaster ride. I had our kids full-time because he was no longer very stable, sometimes he would show up sometimes he wouldn’t. Sometimes he wanted full custody, other times he didn’t even want to see the kids.

By 2011, I knew  something was very wrong with my husband. He wasn’t the same man anymore. He finally told me he was being treated for depression. By that time he had alienated most of his friends and didn’t have his parents around anymore so I helped as much as I could. It was hard to keep up with him. He would hate me one minute and then tell me how great of a person and mother I was. Meanwhile I was still trying to keep some sort of a “normal” life for my kids.

In 2013, he entered into a two weeks program to get help for his depression and other mental health issues he was having. At the same time, his financial problems got worse since he wasn’t able to run his business on a day-to-day basis. I thought the program would help him but unless you have someone you can reach out to afterwards , there is little support once you are done.

He did get better for a while but then got much worse. Our daughters’ didn’t  want to go to his house anymore but our son still wanted to. When it got really bad, I was still taking him to spend the night at his dad’s, brought food or pizza if he needed me to. Sometimes I think back and realize I may have put my son in danger in trying to be supportive.

The day it all changed

Then on Christmas Day 2013, he was planning to see our son but called to say his truck wasn’t working and he would see him the next day. I offered to drive our son there but he said it was fine and had other plans later. He talked to our son for a while who started crying because he wanted to see his dad so badly.  At that point, all I could think about was how selfish and insensitive he was. I was so mad at him.

And then later that day, the worst thing I could have ever imagined happened;  the cops were at my door. They asked me to send my kids upstairs, confirmed who I was and if my husband and I were still married.  Deep down I think I already  knew what they were about to tell me. At that point, I can’t describe how I felt, just writing about it is making me feel sick to my stomach. My husband took his own life on Christmas Day 2013.

It was the most traumatic experience of my life and I had to tell my kids. They were 17, 15 and 12 at the time. As a parent, this is the toughest thing I have ever had to do. I asked them to come downstairs, they knew something was very wrong. The rest of the night was a nightmare. We didn’t have any family in town so some of our friends came over and we just cried all night. Losing a loved one is hard but when they take their own life it makes it even harder to deal with.

People will tell you it gets easier with time. It doesn’t! you learn to live with it. You know you have to do everything possible  to move on for your kids sake and your own and that is what you do.

Since  losing him, it has been a real emotional roller coaster:

  • Anger – I go thru phases were I am so mad at him, for leaving our kids without a dad and for leaving me to be the only parent. It doesn’t make sense but I can’t help it.
  • Guilt – You can’t help but feel guilt.  People will tell you “it’s not your fault, there is nothing you could have done, he was sick”. It doesn’t  help!  You keep replaying all those years in your head and trying to remember when you should have noticed it wasn’t a middle crisis? How could you have been that oblivious? Did you make things worse? Could you have done things differently and avoid it all?
  • Shame – When you lose someone to suicide, people don’t know how to talk to you anymore. I have lost both my parents to cancer and received lots of calls and notes of condolences. When you lose someone to suicide, there is a stigma attached to it. People are not as comfortable to approach you. What they don’t realize is that it makes it harder for you to deal with it. If you know anybody who has lost a loved one to suicide, talk to them. On person every 40 seconds die due to suicide in the world. (Source: WHO)
  • Fear – Sometimes I worry if I don’t hear back from my kids for a while, I always think of the worst.
  • “Why”? – You always keep going over the “why” question in your head. I guess it will never go away.
  • Extreme sadness – I don’t think this is necessarily specific to the loss of a loved one to depression/suicide. It just hits you once in a while and you get so sad that it becomes almost unbearable.

Life must go on

But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you feel, life has to go on and you get up everyday and do what you have to do. What has kept me going?

  • My kids. I want my kids to go on with their life and be happy regardless of what has happened to us . They didn’t do anything wrong. Being strong and supportive is the best I can do for them.
  • My friends. I lost some and gained some, interesting to find out who your real friends are when tragedy hits you. My “real” friends helped me along the way, from the funeral to cooking, cleaning and just being there for me.
  • My work. Being able to take time off as needed without having to worry about the financial impact and going to work to keep my mind busy and sane really helped me.
  • My mom. She couldn’t travel at the time because she was very sick (she passed away 18 months later) but she was one phone call away anytime I needed to talk.
  • Professional help. You need to know when to get professional help. They are trained to help with those type of situations and can make a big difference in your mental well-being. Make sure you get a referral.

I am so thankful I met my husband and got to spent 22 years of my life with him. Not everybody gets that chance. He was a very loving and caring father and would have done anything for his kids. He was generous, ambitious and a lot of fun. Not someone you would ever think would get into a severe depression and end his own life. Depression can happen to anyone.

In loving memory of my husband who took his own life at the age of 46.

Happy Birthday R.  We miss you.

If you think you may be depressed or have suicidal thoughts, talk to someone and get help, here are some of the many resources:

29 thoughts on “How My Husband’s Depression Changed Our Lives Forever

  1. I’m sorry to hear about what happened to you and your family. It’s so hard to see someone we love changed and pushed us away from them. It’s even harder to know that they no longer exist. I believe that things will get better for you and your family. Wishing you the best of luck!

  2. I’m so sorry you lost your husband, and the father of your children, this way. It’s never easy to lose a loved one but this way is often so much harder on the survivors.

    Depression is so poorly understood. I thought I knew what it was until I went through it myself and then my eyes were really opened to how it can take over your mind and emotions so that you’re no better than a passenger in your own body some days. I made it through but it’s so important that we help people who are struggling with it. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope your kids are able to heal as much as is possible as time goes on.

    1. Yes that is how it feels sometimes “a passenger in your own body”. I won’t claim I understand depression but, just like you, having experienced it made me realize how it can just take over who you are. Thanks for sharing your own experience, too many people don’t speak up. Thanks for the kind words

  3. I’m so sorry Caroline 🙁 this makes me so sad. Happy birthday to your husband, may he rest in peace. You are a very very strong woman to raise three children on your own.

    Mental health is so tough. I agree there’s a stigma to it. My brother likely has schizophrenia but it’s not formally diagnosed. He drove away on Christmas Day one time in highschool and didn’t come back until many hours later- he said he was thinking about taking his own life but changed his mind. I remember that day very well…

    Hugs!

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your brother. Is he seeing a professional to help him? You must always be worried about him. I know how that feels:( Having lost my husband makes me very sad but I did get to spend many happy years with him and that is what I am trying to focus on. Thanks for the wishes.

  4. Wow, thanks for sharing this. I can’t imagine having this conversation with kids – especially at these ages. The idea that people don’t know how to talk to you after a situation like this hits close to home. Even as someone who has lost loved ones, I could see myself falling into a confused mindset when talking with someone in your shoes without thinking it. Thanks for reminding me not to.

    1. Yes it was really hard at first not understanding why people weren’t talking to me. Once I put myself in their shoes, I understood I may have done the same before. Sometimes you just need to go thru things to understand better:( I hope my post will help more people understand.

  5. Thanks for sharing. I don’t know if you have tried a support group but they were what kept me sane after my brother died of suicide Thanksgiving of 2012. I write about his death on my blog.

    1. So sorry for your loss Jenny. No my kids didn’t want to go to a support group but we all went to get professional counselling for quite a while. We still do as needed.

  6. I’m very sorry to hear your loss and thank you for spreading awareness about depression and mental illness. Is there a trigger point that we need to be aware of? I feel one family member may suffer from depression, but I’m not sure how to help except to be supportive and send picture and writing updates.

    Sam

    1. Hi Sam, I believe a variety of things can be triggers. In my husband’s case, his financial situation probably was the major trigger towards the end that pushed him to end it all. I will never know for sure. An open discussion is good if you have a close relationship with that person. This is what my friend did with me when I got really depressed. My entire behaviour had changed. She slowly got me to open up when she noticed something was wrong. Reminded me I needed to be well so I could take care of my kids. I wish I understood what my husband was going thru earlier, it would have made such a big difference. I also wish there wasn’t such a stigma attached to it all, it does happen to the best of us.

  7. I wanted to say something very similar to others naturally because it is so beyond difficult and unimaginably sad. What can one even say that you haven’t already heard and know. I read it when you just published it but I spent the weekend processing through what to say that you haven’t already heard.

    I came home on Friday half angry over a guests who threw a party and damaged our home but I wasn’t even that angry. I was thinking about things beyond this ‘season in hell’ that’s temporary. I was thinking about the core things that made my life always better (mostly made up of my husband) and of course the next thought was what happened if he just withdrew one day too, and went away. We’ve only been together for a meager 3 honeymoon years, compare to a robust 22 years of history.

    Can you imagine the courage I would have to muster together after loss? I would have to be the strongest woman ever to go through hell and back – and to write about it! I don’t think you should feel any shame or guilt. Suicide’s a disgusting gruesome battle scar that would have destroyed others – but woah, not you. This isn’t just a story about your husband’s death, it’s about how you pulled through. He would be proud. I can’t, I fall into pieces – and oh heck I get a right to breakdown – it majorly sucks. But some people are strong (I.e. YOU). They rebuild their lives to forgive, start over, and celebrate the ones that left as if they were here. You’re the most incredible person behind this, I’m absolutely overjoyed to have had exchanges with you.

    1. Thank you Lily. Writing about it and the emotions I go thru was very therapeutic. This year was much harder than the previous years, maybe because we had talked so much about life after 50. I was also a lot more upset at him than usual:( How could he do this to us?
      As far as being strong, my kids get all the credits. I don’t think I would have found the courage to go on without them. It’s crazy how resilient you can be when bad things happen.
      Don’t take anything for granted, enjoy everything to the fullest, one day at a time.

  8. I’m so sorry for your loss, Caroline. I admire your courage and bravery in writing on this, and I believe this post will help people who are either going through depression or know someone who is. It seems like depression is becoming more and more prevalent, so this post couldn’t be more timely. Thanks for your honesty in sharing this.

    1. Thank you. I don’t usually talk about it because it is not something people are very comfortable with (both depression and suicide). I do hope it helps others realize it can happen to anyone.

  9. Hi Caroline. The story started out so brightly and then it turned so dark. I’m very sorry for your loss. After living through 9/11 in NYC, I can tell you that every traumatic event afterward, reverberates that big hurt. I agree with your point, that you never get over it, but life must go on. Working on my own genealogy helped me realize this very clearly. If people didn’t press on in the face of tragedy, we would not be here. It doesn’t make the hurt any less. It just gives us hope. Thank you for sharing.

  10. I’m so sorry for your loss, Caroline! I can only imagine how difficult this situation has been for you and your family. I really admire your perseverance and your bravery for sharing this story.

    Depression can happen to anyone. Not to compare my situation, but I also went through depression that caused me to take a leave of absence. It was due to a combination of issues, but a relationship breakdown was the main instigator. You may have noticed that I discuss a year off on the blog from time to time. Well, the year off happened because I couldn’t handle going to work or being around people for a while. My interests faded away and it caused me to spend a lot of the money I spent years saving. I felt similar to you in how I questioned myself. I’m glad to hear that you got the help you needed as your friend advised. I also hope that writing this post helped you. I have found that blogging has been extremely therapeutic for me.

    Thanks for maintaining your positive attitude. I really think this post can help people that are going through depression. As my grandmother used to say “keep on keepin’ on.”

    1. Hi Graham, it was very difficult and still is sometimes but life has to go on or like your grandmother used to say “keep on keepin’ on”. We all have set backs at some point in life, what matters is to keep a positive attitude and get over it as soon as possible. Glad you also got over it:)

  11. Caroline, thank you for sharing your very moving and personal story, it brought tears to my eyes. I’m so sorry that you and your family had to go through this. I hope that you and your children will find some peace. Your post helps to increase awareness about depression and suicide.

  12. Caroline,

    You are brave and inspiring; thanks for sharing this with all of us.

    Depression is real and there needs to be more awareness. It can happen to anyone and things can take a quick turn in a blink. I am an advocate for professional therapy, I recommend it to everyone and firmly believe everyone can benefit from it. The mere feeling of verbalizing your thoughts is revealing and liberating… It’s like having a friend that will give you unbiased advice all the time and is not in a hurry to listen to you just to wait to you his/her story 🙂

    I think not one thing that happens to us in life is wasted. Reading how it changed you and your family is proof that you’re all very strong and can do anything you set your mind to.

    Lily

    1. Hi Lily, I am also an advocate for professional therapy, unfortunately there is still too much stigma around it. People still view it as a sign of weakness! I hope this post and maybe future ones may help at least one person to realize it’s ok to get help:) It is amazing how resilient kids can be! Thanks for the kind words Lily.

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