Christmas hardest time of year

On Dec. 21, 1982, my husband attempted suicide in the basement of our home.

To the editor:

On Dec. 21, 1982, my husband attempted suicide in the basement of our home. The shock was tremendous and, whatever the signs, there were certainly none to justify this particular act.

I had two young teenagers at the time, and that helped in this overwhelmingly painful ordeal. My daughter phoned a neighbour and the RCMP for assistance.

Yes, we saved my husband. He spent three weeks in a hospital psychiatric ward, under heavy medication and therapy for manic depression. My husband decided that was enough and returned to work in Fort McMurray, Alta., where he was a general foreman.

His doctor said they had done all they could do. It was up to my husband to decide what further treatment he would take. Doctor’s orders were at least three months of medication, counselling and day therapy. My husband agreed, but three weeks later he said he no longer needed any more of this.

We were dealing with professional people. Psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, therapists and counsellors. When I asked what would happen to my husband without further treatment, I was told, “He’ll do it again within a year,” depending on how strong he was mentally and how far he would push himself.

I watched my husband slowly and painfully self-destruct, and no one could help him. No one.

If there were words to be said, they were said. If it was love, we loved him. We, as a family and as individuals, did everything in our power to be there when he wanted us and even when he didn’t. And yes, we prayed

On Dec. 12, 1983, my husband breathed in the fumes from the furnace in our garage and died. He was 34 years old. He had no financial problems, no enemies, he was loved by everyone who knew him, and he was at the top of his career field.

Suicide is not talked about in our schools, in our communities, in our churches, in our homes. If it is, it is surface talk. It is shunned and ignored and pushed in the background because people can’t deal with it.

I attended a workshop given by Dr. Dyk, an Alberta mental services suicidologist, on suicide prevention several years ago. It was very informative. Dr. Dyk also has a friend who committed suicide.

I also read an article entitled Suicide Can Be Prevented. I had followed all the suggestions given in the article, and yet I couldn’t prevent my husband’s death.

I believe that it is every person’s moral obligation to speak out and insist on knowing about suicide. There is not enough literature anywhere. Believe me, it makes you aware. A suicidal person needs to be told that, ‘Yes, you are…’ admitting it lets an awareness be developed.

Over a year after my husband’s death, I learned about suicide bereavement services from Crescent Heights high school in Calgary. They had three suicides at the school and were having a speaker come talk to the students. I was referred for assistance in Edmonton, where I was living at the time. It was an excellent eight-week course for anyone who has gone through what I have, with follow-up meetings once a month.

Suicide destroys families with guilt and blame that doesn’t rightfully belong to them. It’s the most destructive act I have ever known. Survivors like myself and my children suffer pain, confusion and heartache that has no ending for a very long time.

Christmas is the worst time of the year, when people are most likely to commit suicide. Other holidays and anniversaries are also bad.

I am now living in Kelowna and in partnership with Dwayne Bauer, who lost a son to suicide, have started a suicide survivors’ support group. We plan to meet at 7 p.m. every second and fourth Thursday of the month at the Church of the Nazarene, 1305 W. Highway 33, starting in January.

For further information call me at 250-712-9779 or Dwayne at 250-863-6103.

 

Erna Hood, Kelowna

 

 

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