Surviving Suicide – Part 23
December 2000 – After Rob’s Death
I got up on Dec. 29th and looked in the bathroom mirror. I noticed that my eye colour had changed, the iris was dead and dull, not the normal bright blue. I was 43 when Rob died, he was only 47, but the woman looking back at me in the mirror looked far older than my chronological age.
I looked so old, so tired and haggard and I wondered if this would be permanent and how I’d just look from here on in. I wondered what everyone else was doing during the Christmas holidays, had visions of people enjoying their time off, spending it with loved ones and looking forward to New Year’s Eve.
My girlfriend J had spent the night. Something I forgot to mention about J was that she too had lost her brother to suicide many years before. It was something we’d not spoken about a lot, but I knew it had touched her deeply and profoundly.
I think Rob’s suicide brought up many old feelings around her own loss, but I willl tell you this – she was invaluable to me because she knew exactly what I was going through. J was very emotional, much more so than I, but she was a rock when it came to knowing what had to be done and directing me through it.
I remember so many people telling me that at some point I’d just break down and have a huge cry. I didn’t think I would and I really didn’t. Maybe that cry might have released some of the pent up emotions inside me, but I’d cried so many rivers of tears prior to Rob’s death that I just didn’t have any left in me. I wondered if something was wrong with me that I wasn’t reacting by being super emotional and crying and then I just stopped wondering and figured this was just the way I was dealing with it – everyone is different.
I don’t recall the day’s events, but have noted that Dec. 29th is the day that my sis- and mother-in-law broke the news to my father-in-law and that he literally howled in anguish. I don’t know what they told him exactly, they were so concerned how he’d take it and whether he was physically able to take it after already being in such a weakened state after his stroke. I can’t imagine the stress my in-laws must have been under knowing about Rob and knowing that they still had to tell his Dad.
My girlfriend J stayed part of the day, but my other girlfriend B came part way through the day to spell her off. Throughout all of this there was a lot of contact from my family too, many phone calls from friends who were finding out and tons of conversations with whoever was staying with me. It was a flurry of activity, but all a blur now. B stayed overnight, we had a good chat that night and I think somewhere along the line, decided that I should take a break from everything and have a quiet night with friends and family for New Year’s Eve.
B stayed over on the 30th and on New Year’s Eve went with me to her sister’s place which was just around the corner from me. I’d gone to highschool with her sister, but had become very good friends with B after that. I really wasn’t in the mood to be socializing, but everyone seemed to feel it was important to get out of my four walls, so I agreed. My brother and his partner were there, my girlfriend B, her sister and hubbie, and B’s brother was also there.
It was a very nice, low key evening, some munchies, think I had one drink but really didn’t want to because the RIDE program was out in full force, plus I somehow knew throughout the entire separation from Rob not to drink as it’s a depressant and I didn’t need any help in that department. Everyone thought I shouldn’t be alone, but by this time I really and truly wanted to be on my own so they reluctantly agreed. My son was staying with friends and their daughter overnight.
I came home to an empty house and was so thankful to be on my own. It didn’t feel lonely, just somehow felt like I could really let down and just be myself and not talk if I didn’t want to. I remember thinking that 2000, the millenium, was a year I’d never forget. That 2001 just had to be a better year!
I couldn’t believe all that had transpired within a 10 month timeframe. Never in a million years could I have predicted that my life would go completely upside down like it had. I was amazed I’d survived it, but knew I’d have many more battles ahead of me once the new year started. I noted “1st night alone! and OK”.
I can’t remember exactly when, but I did get a call from the funeral home saying there was nothing they could do to make Rob look presentable and told me I would not want to remember him that way. I asked how bad it was and he told me Rob was very badly decomposed and that in his professional opinion, I should not see him.
I accepted what he told me, sort of knew that was what I’d be hearing, but I was very sad that I would not have that closure of actually seeing a body. Seems many of us need that for closure. Rob was cremated and I would have up to one year to collect his ashes.
Rob’s Mom had a very difficult time never seeing her son again, so did his Dad. Common sense told me that of course it was Rob’s body in the bodybag they brought off the boat, who else would it be – but … a small part of my mind still really somehow needed to actually lay eyes on him.
Only my girlfriend who actually found Rob had seen him. She had told me it had taken days for her to get the smell out of her head and I felt so bad she’d experienced that, but at the same time, wished I’d just had the balls to go myself and then it would have been me who found him and I’d have known it was him.
Rumours were abounding at the yacht club. Some of the men had been kind enough to go onto my boat and remove the queen mattress from our bedroom where Rob had passed away. Apparently it was an absolute mess! They knew it had to be removed so the smell would dissipate, but it must have been a grizzly experience. They didn’t want me to have to deal with that and for that I was appreciative.
Comments would come back to me that there was blood all over the place, that there were many knives around, that there were pills on the bed, etc. Rob collected knives too and kept them on the boat, not all, but some of his favourites. My mind was very logical and I did ask what about the bedding? The bedspread and sheets we had for our bed.
They told me they too were so badly soiled that they’d thrown them out as well. That sinking feeling of not being in control and having decisions made for me had begun. I had a very brief moment of anger thinking why in hell did Rob have to do this on the boat! Why did he have to destroy everything! Then I caught myself and realized, it was the very last thing that would have been on Rob’s mind was what would happen afterwards.
I knew that I would have to now sell the boat. It was the dead of winter, not an ideal time in Ontario to be selling a boat. I knew I’d have to get something in place in the bedroom before I could even possibly have pictures taken of the interior to put online for the listing with a boat broker. They told me they’d left the small port windows open to air the bedroom out, but that I should check in case something froze. I did not want to ever enter that boat again, but knew I had to.
With all this type of news coming back to me second hand, I wondered so much about what Rob had done to end his life. I wondered if he’d suffered, whether it was painful, what must have his last thoughts been? I remember being so frustrated that I shouted out “Rob what did you do???” and that was one of the few times I did cry.
The yacht club was also very upset that all this had happened, they wanted our boat out of its normal slip and moved away so it wouldn’t be a reminder. I was told by someone that they were going to be moving my boat. I was furious and called the General Manager. He told me that if I’d move the boat over near the haulout that they wouldn’t charge me for keeping it there and thereby saving me a considerable amount on dock fees. He tried to make it sound like it was beneficial for me, but I knew why he wanted it moved.
I was appalled that they’d be doing this right after I had lost Rob, but I had a lot of fight in me and told them no, the boat stayed where it was. We had one of the safest dock slips in the club, where they wanted to put me was against a corrugated steel wall at the back of the docks and very unsafe for the boat.
My neighbour on the boat beside ours lived aboard and he was able to keep an eye on my boat for me, he wouldn’t be able to so easily if it was moved. He could see whether the power was on easily, that couldn’t be done if it was moved either. So I told the General Manager that I really didn’t give a damn whether members were uncomfortable or not walking past our “death” boat, they could just deal with it. He was not happy with me.
During all of this, I was also constantly very much aware of our business that had been closed. I was worried how I was going to meet the end of the month bills, the rent that was due at the beginning of January, whether I’d continue on with the business, how I’d get employees, etc. I did some very basic banking, had put up a sign at the entrance door that we were closed until January 2nd and had done the absolute minimum that had to be done. It was highly stressful.
A few days after Rob passed, when there was just a constant influx of people in our house, my son asked me “when will the people be gone?”. I remember looking down at him and telling him “honey I just don’t know, I’ve never done this before”. His life was forever changed too and he just wanted some sense of normalcy back.
Many were concerned my son wasn’t displaying much emotion over the loss of his Dad, that it wasn’t “normal”. I told them that my son and Rob had never been all that close, that we’d been separated almost 10 months and some natural distancing had taken place because of that.
I also told them my son was mad that his Dad had let him down by not showing up for Christmas as he said he would too, so I felt that my son was, just like me, a bit angry too. Many said I just had to get my son in for counselling, I told them I would in good time but not right now.
Just the comments being mentioned about this with my son got to me. It made me start to wonder if there was a problem, but then I would logic it out as I had always done. I was very careful to never mention any of this to my son, who was I to tell him the right or wrong way to grieve? I wasn’t having a very good time of it myself and was struggling just to function.
Many were asking whether I’d be having a service for Rob. I knew I didn’t want a service at the funeral home, and in fact, I was still so mad at Rob for what he’d done that I really didn’t want to do anything! I knew of course that his family, my son and friends all needed closure so I decided to do a memorial at our yacht club. It was not at all what I wanted to do, but I did it because I knew others needed it.
All in all I was very glad to see the end of 2000.