To The Girl Who Didn’t Know Better, I Forgive You

It’s been almost 6 months since I lost my person. A half a year since I’ve kissed him, woken up next to him, or heard him say the words I love you babe. And it feels like just yesterday and a million years ago all at the same time. The grief time warp is weird like that, but when you lose your spouse, everything about your life seems to change. Sometimes I even feel like I lost so much of my identity when Jesse died, which is pretty dramatic, but it’s the honest truth. I spent 10 years as either Jesse’s girlfriend or Jesse’s fiancé or Jesse’s wife, and then in an instant I was handed the “widow card” and became none of those things. All of a sudden I’m left to figure out who the hell I am apart from him, as a “me” instead of an “us.” It’s weird, sad, uncomfortable and mentally exhausting.

Marriage is definitely not for the faint of heart, but I loved being Jesse’s wife. If you told me a year ago that someday I’d miss finding his stinky socks right next to the hamper (instead of actually in it) I’d have said you were NUTS. It’s true though, I miss it all, the good and the bad. I’d even let him shove the blanket over my head after he ripped ass one more time if it meant one more conversation at the supper table, one more hug goodbye, one more opportunity to lay on his chest and listen to his heartbeat while watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory…a huge mistake we make in this life is assuming there will always be one more.

It’s hard to explain the rollercoaster of emotions that you experience when you lose someone to suicide. And even though every grief journey is as unique as a fingerprint, I can confidently guess that there is one emotion that is more present than all the others for every suicide survivor….GUILT.

Jesse struggled with PTSD, depression and addiction for as long as I’d known him. The trauma from his childhood haunted him, and it was almost like he would use whatever he could to escape his reality and numb the pain..sometimes it was drugs, sometimes it was alcohol, sometimes it was even video games. I knew that things would even get so dark from time to time that thoughts of ending his life would creep in and that was scary. For many years he was resistant to getting professional help, and I was completely in over my head thinking I could be the one to help him, but I loved him and knew that he loved me, and I hoped that would eventually be enough. (In case you’re new to this, that’s not how addiction or mental illness work)

The first time my grief counselor asked me when I started walking on water I was completely taken aback..I mean YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE MY FRIEND CAROL!! Now you’re accusing me of thinking I’m Jesus!?? But she was right. I spent many years thinking I was capable of saving Jesse, desperately trying to hold on to him. To keep him here. To convince him that living was better than not living. And when I couldn’t. When he’d fall back into the depths of depression and addiction, I’d feel like it was my fault. Like somehow I wasn’t enough or I didn’t do enough or say enough of the right things. Like it was my sole job to fix him. It sounds silly when I say it out loud now, but at the time I was doing what I needed to do to survive a situation I didn’t at all understand.

On October 1st, 2017 my worst nightmare came true when Jesse took his life. And when I realized it wasn’t all just a bad dream, I wasn’t going to wake up, it wasn’t just a sick joke he was playing on me..the guilt started to flood in and completely consume me. The what if’s, why’s, should have’s and would have’s were all I could think about. I didn’t know that emotional pain could make my entire body physically hurt. And even though Jesse is the one who pulled the trigger that morning, I felt 100% responsible for his death.

This is the reality of suicide. The pain doesn’t disappear, it simply gets passed on to someone else.

I had spoken with one of our close friends a few days before Jesse died and asked her for some advice. It was a quick conversation and there was no way she could have known how badly we were struggling, because I didn’t share that with her. I simply took in her response and that was that. Some time after his death, this same friend and I were talking on the phone, and that conversation got brought up. With an intense sadness in her voice she asked me if I was mad at her for not asking more questions that day about why I needed her help. I had been so consumed by my own grief that I had no idea anyone else had been carrying the same burden of guilt for so long. My heart hurt so badly for her, and my thoughts turned to other conversations I’d had. I realized there were so many others I’d brushed off who felt the exact same way as she and I both did…

The friend who sensed something was wrong when she gave him a hug that Friday before. The buddy he had spoken with on the phone less than 24 hours before. The ones who said they wondered if they could have said more or listened more. His mom. My parents. So many people who loved and cared for him and who were also asking themselves those same questions I had spent weeks playing over and over in my head.

But the reality is we’re all holding on to guilt that doesn’t belong to any of us. Just like Jesse spent all those years carrying around shame that didn’t belong to him. We couldn’t love his problems away. Like I said earlier, that’s not how it works.

Jesse didn’t want to die. In fact, just days before his death he told me he was finally ready to start living. He backed those words with actions (something he never did) by attending an AA/NA meeting and even calling around to different therapists in our area. He said he was ready to do whatever it took to take his life back, even if that meant in patient treatment. He wanted to be there to teach our son to hunt and fish and to walk our daughter down the aisle.

This part is important. This is not how Jesse wanted his story to end, and it should be him here using it to help bring awareness and encourage others, NOT the absence of him.

I miss my husband. My kids miss their dad. And I will keep sharing our story over and over and over again if it means sparing even one family from this heartbreak. If you are the “me” in your story, please know that you are not alone, you don’t have to do this alone, and it is ok to forgive yourself. If you are the “Jesse” in your story, please choose life, accept the help, and be here tomorrow.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

SuicidePreventionLifeline.org

11 thoughts on “To The Girl Who Didn’t Know Better, I Forgive You

  1. I wish you didn’t have this opportunity to share how amazing and eloquent you are as a writer. I wish it so much. I wish I could be reading a stranger’s story. I know you do too, but that’s not the reality of it and you take hold of the reality and just deal. 💕

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  2. Amanda your words are so powerful and mean so much. Someone who hasn’t been there will never know the feeling it brings to you as a spouse or you as the person with the same issues Jesse had. I have been close, I felt no end to my past that haunts me today but I know now more than I ever did before after years of counseling in patient and out patient. I still have the things that haunt me at times but I have leaned towards God and opened my faith back up to the lord. I realized it’s time to let go and let God, it seems crazy to say that but truly I feel it’s in his hands, what? Wait? It’s in God’s hands, yes because I’m his child and in that I feel I’m safe from all evil. I know life out weighs my struggles and I’m in control of my own storm and with that being said my storm may never stop raining (tears), But during any of those storms I’m going to walk through them with knowing that they will be over when I allow them to be and to forgive myself and my wrong and to just let go of those and what and who truly hurt me. Anxiety/Depression need assistance and admitting and wanting it like Jesse I believe truly did is the best thing to admit. He did that. I just wished he knew just how much they could of helped him. When I went in for lock down it woke me up, it hit me hard, it knocked me down, but sprung me back up. When I was on the floor with people dealing with the same thing as me and were there to receive the help I wanted as well, it made oh so much sense. Some failed and left others stayed and faced their fears. Believe me I was so scared but In the end I was never so blessed and overwhelmed with love and support, I chose to continue out patient for almost 2 full years.
    Not saying today I don’t have struggles because I do but I feel I can control of them now with what I learned over the past 15+ years of my life!!!!!
    I am so glad you have your blog, that you talk openly and honest, because I truly believe your helping people every day even if you don’t realize it Amanda!!!!! Jesse’s story is helping others, ones that follow you and are listening to every word and every message and meaning behind it all. Your making a difference in their world. Your an amazing woman and your love is so strong, honest and faithful. God Bless you and your little ones. I think about you very very often.

    I Love you
    Keep writing and Sharing
    Jesse Strong-4-his love’s of his life!!!!!

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  3. I deeply admire your courage to be able to bring yourself to write about this and amidst all your trauma you had the magnanimity to help others who could possibly be going through this… This is what real strength looks like….. god bless you.

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  4. Impeccable story and purpose. Forward motion is written all over this. It takes “REAL” things to move mountains and I couldn’t be more heartfelt in saying, I believe your story is moving alot of others stories in meaningful directions. Keep fighting the good fight, grand comes from the depths of despair.

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  5. Thank you!! This is our story too, addiction and mental illness too and I wish more than anything it wasn’t for any of us! We are coming up on the two year mark the first part of April.
    It is my passion to bring awareness to mental illness, addiction and suicide prevention.
    Keep sharing! ❤️

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  6. I just came across your very powerful story. Thank you for sharing it.

    My youngest niece took her life on her 20th birthday. She left no clues as to why she did it.
    She wasn’t struggling with depression or issues at school that we knew of. She was a brilliant
    mechanical engineer and straight A student with no addiction to anything except the death,
    which she wrote about. There was no way to know.

    My hope is that the more stories like yours are shared, the more awareness can be made to
    suicide. There are options. There are always options.

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