Abel Keogh, author of Room for Two, was recently interviewed with Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley about the Loss of his wife and child to suicide and premature birth.
Below is the interview:
G: Hello, I’m Dr. Gloria Horsley with my co-host
H: Dr. Heidi Horsley.
G: Each week Heidi and I welcome you to Healing the Grieving Heart, a show of hope and conversation with those who’ve suffered the loss of a loved one and for healthcare professionals who work in this most difficult field. As always the message is others have been there before you and made it, so can you. You do not need to walk alone. If you’re listening to our show today, it is a pre-record so you won’t be able to call in but we’d very much like you to visit us at our blog, www.opentohope.com. These shows are archived, they’re on the grief blog and there are also transcripts of the shows and you can download them on iTunes. Heidi, I was looking at the blog today and we had David send us an email and said that he loves the radio shows, he thinks they’re great and he really values them.
H: Very good.
G: I thought that was really nice to hear that because when you’re doing Internet radio you’re just kind of out here, aren’t you?
H: Absolutely, and we don’t know who we’re reaching and who our listeners are and we’re hoping that we’ll be impactful for them and help them to heal and that our guests will as well.
G: Yeah, we’re pretty excited because the University of Utah School of Social Work has decided they’re going to do a research study on the show, who’s listening, what you folks get out of it, that kind of thing. So we’ll be giving you more information about that later on to see if you might want to be in the study. We’re pretty excited about it, aren’t we, Heidi?
H: Yes, because I think the one thing that we really want to know is what about the show helps people? What exactly is it? I mean that would be a very important thing for us to know because when we find that out we’ll do more of that. Is it just listening or is it what people say? I mean what is it exactly?
G: Yeah. So we’ll tune in later for that information on that. Well, today, Heidi, we’ve got a really interesting show with Abel Keogh. We’re going to be talking a little bit, well, talking about the whole show about the suicide of his wife while she was pregnant and about his baby that was born and only lived for a short time. But before we get into the show I wanted to talk a little bit with our audience about depression during pregnancy because we were very interested in the story because I never thought about antepartum depression. Had you, Heidi?
H: No, when I think of depression in women and pregnancy, I think about postpartum depression once your baby’s born, lack of sleep, how exhausting it is. I didn’t really think about being pregnant and getting depressed and it is between 10 and 20% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy.
G: Yeah, I thought that was interesting. We were looking at some data from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and the March of Dimes and that’s interesting. 10-20% of women will struggle during pregnancy.
H: Well, and Mom, we were talking earlier about it and for those of you listening that are thinking of being pregnant or are pregnant, you’ve lost a child most likely or sibling so I think especially for those who have lost a child, being pregnant again for those women brings up all sorts of loss. The loss of, the last time you were pregnant now the child has died so I think it could bring up a lot of emotions for you.
G: Absolutely so if your person is listening on the show and you’ve lost a child and now you’re deciding to get pregnant again, we want you to be very careful with yourself and get support, a lot of support. One of the things that they recommend which I thought was interesting was support groups, private psychotherapy, medication might be needed, but also light therapy.
H: Yeah, I know, I saw that. Do they mean – I couldn’t figure out what they meant. Do they mean like turning on the light, like the lights?
G: Well, yeah, sunlight, but there are also very special lights that you can buy.
H: Yes, I’ve heard of those.
G: that you can buy that are therapeutic lights that give you that vitamin D that the sunshine.
H: I know in Washington State people use them because they don’t get as much light.
H: They’re supposed to be very helpful. I was also thinking, Mom, I wanted to say one more thing. Given that I’ve had a couple of miscarriages, being pregnant after you’ve had infertility or a hard time getting pregnant is also very anxiety provoking and can be a depressing time because you’re so worried that you’re going to lose that pregnancy.
G: Absolutely, so be careful and take care of yourself because they tell us from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that 1 out of 4 women at one point during their lives will suffer from some depression. Well, Heidi, on that note could you introduce our guest today?
H: Sure, I’d love to. Our guest today is Abel Keogh and our topic is “Loss of a Wife and Child to Suicide and Premature Birth.” Abel Keogh is the author of the memoir Room for Two. Room for Two is based on Abel’s marriage to his first wife Krista. In November of 2001, Krista took her own life. At the time Krista shot herself she was seven months pregnant with the couple’s first child. Abel’s daughter Hope was born two months premature the day Krista died. Baby Hope lived for nine days. In February of 2003 Abel married Julianna and is currently the father of two boys and a girl. Abel is a writer, editor and political columnist. His previous fiction and poetry have been published in Rough Draft and Metaphor and Strong Verse. Welcome to the show, Abel.
A: Dr. Gloria, Dr. Heidi, thanks for having me on the show today.
G: It’s great to have you on the show. I just found your book very compelling. By the way, it was also very lovely. I really liked the picture you had on the front and the title, Room for Two. How did you come up with that title?
A: That was actually the hardest part of the book was coming up with a title for it, and there’s actually a phrase in the book or there’s a point in the book where I’m dating Julianna and I realize that in order to move on, I have to make room for two people in my heart. And so that’s the phrase that stuck out one day when I was rereading the book trying to think of a title. I thought it was appropriate because the book’s really about me moving on from the death of my wife and daughter to trying to move on and form a new relationship with someone else.
G: Yeah, it’s very interesting and we’ll get on to that. Could you tell our audience a little bit about what happened with Krista?
A: Yeah, what happened is back in November of 2001, I came home to our apartment and called out for her, basically. I was just wondering what was up, what was going on with her, and I heard a gunshot in our bedroom and ran back there and found out she had shot herself in the head.
G: And you called as you came in the door and said hello, right? So she knew you were there.
A: Right. Yeah, I opened the door and came in and called out for her and it was really kind of weird because the whole apartment was dark and quiet like no one had been there all day. I was going up to the apartment. Something just didn’t seem right and so I called out for her and twice actually and it was after the second time I heard the gunshot.
G: And ran into the bedroom and there she was.
A: Yep, there she was.
G: On the floor?
H: And at that point did you know that she was dead?
A: I didn’t know if she was – I mean there was so much stuff going through my mind at the time, I didn’t know exactly what had happened. I knew I’d heard a gunshot, but I didn’t know what had happened. When I looked at her I didn’t think she was dead and I didn’t even know if she had really even shot herself at first. It was just kind of a weird thing and it took me 15 or 20 seconds before I really realized what had happened.
G: And then you kind of froze, right?
G: And then you called 911 and —
A: Yeah. Well, you know, you think that as soon as you realize what would have happened, you’d be there doing CPR and doing all these heroic things and I just kind of froze. I grabbed the phone and called 911 and then after that I didn’t really know what to do. I was so shocked I guess that —
H: That’s understandable not to know and how terrifying to realize that she’s also pregnant with your daughter.
A: Yeah, and so I have all these things going through my mind. It’s not just is my wife going to be okay? Is my unborn daughter going to be okay?
G: And then they came and took her away and I was thinking of how shocking for you to realize at one point that you were under suspicion.
A: I guess it’s kind of shocking but it’s probably kind of routine. The detective was very honest with me. He said we have a dead body here. My standard procedure is to treat this as a murder unless it’s shown otherwise. And so I guess I was too shocked with all the other stuff that had gone on for that to really sink in but it was just another thing. And in my mind I remember sitting there looking at the detective and just thinking this isn’t real. This isn’t really happening. This is where I wake up.
H: And also you just don’t think of a woman, and it does happen, but you don’t think of a woman being seven months pregnant and killing herself.
H: You know, you kind of think of her protecting her baby even though now I know because you’ve educated me that these things do happen.
A: Yeah, and I think it’s pretty rare and I’ve done a lot of research.
G: I think it’s very rare. We did a little research on it and I think it’s very rare that a pregnant woman would kill herself. It’s a very low number of people that do that. In fact she may be one of the very handful.
A: And I’ve never found another case and maybe you guys have, but in my research I’ve never found another example of this happening.
G: Well, it’s time for us to go break now and when we come back from break I want to talk about Krista being at the hospital and about little Hope being born and how your life has gone on with that. I’m your host Dr. Gloria Horsley and you’re listening to Healing the Grieving Heart with my co-host Dr. Heidi Horsley. You can visit us on www.thegriefblog.com and please stay tuned to hear more from Abel Keogh on “Loss of a Wife and Child to Suicide and Premature Birth.”
G: Well, Abel, when we went to break we were talking, for those people who’ve just joined us, about the fact that you came home and kind of said I’m home and all of a sudden you heard a shotgun, or handgun, I guess it was a handgun.
A: Yeah, it was a 9 mm.
G: A handgun fire and you ran into the room and Krista was lying on the floor I guess in a pool of blood? Or starting?
A: Yeah, she was just lying there. It took a few seconds for the blood to start coming, but it soon was a pool of blood.
G: And you called 911 and 911 came. And we’re going to go to the hospital with you, but first I want to stop a moment and say, the audience is saying, especially people who don’t fire guns, where did that gun come from and why was that in the house?
A: It was my gun. I’d owned it for I don’t know, a year-and-a-half or so, and I guess what was really shocking to me about it was not only hearing it, but I kept the gun in a gun case so it was always under lock and key. The only time it was out was if I was taking it shooting or doing something like that. It wasn’t just a gun that was lying in a drawer somewhere in the open.
H: Right. It was for shooting and hunting and those kinds of things, right? Or going to a shooting range.
A: Yeah, yeah. We’d go to a shooting range a couple times a year and shoot the gun so she was familiar on how to use the gun.
G: So Krista had actually gone with you for recreation to use the gun.
H: And I’ve got to say, I live in Manhattan, but a lot of people have guns in their house and they’re under lock and key and they have them for shooting like the shooting range or hunting. It’s pretty common.
G: Or protection.
H: Or protection, but most of them hopefully don’t have to use it for that.
G: Oh, hopefully they don’t. So let’s go on a little bit. We’re at the hospital now and they’ve taken her. Did you ride in the ambulance?
A: No, no. They kept me back. I don’t even know – I mean even thinking about it I couldn’t remember how much time it was between the time that they took her body to rescue the baby in the ambulance and the time that I got there. It was probably maybe a half hour or an hour so I had no clue what was going on when I got to the hospital.
G: You must have been in a huge amount of shock. Amazing, so you got to the hospital and then what happened?
A: And they put me in –
G: And you didn’t know that she was dead then, did you? Or did you?
A: Well, no. I knew that Krista was dead. They had told me that she was dead but then as soon as they realized that there might be a chance that they could save the baby, they went into full get-the-body-out-of-here mode. And they pushed me off into a corner of the apartment and took the body to the hospital and so when I got to the hospital. I actually thought my daughter was going to be dead. I was not expecting the doctor to come in and say well, she’s alive, she’s on a respirator and all kinds of life support. I was just expecting him to come in and say well, your daughter didn’t get here in time. So once I was put in this room, just sitting there waiting, the doctor came in, explained to me that he had performed this emergency surgery and that my baby was alive. He couldn’t give me a long-term prognosis, but he just said that they were cleaning her up and getting her ready and I could go see her soon.
H: And is that when you named her Hope?
H: I love that.
A: When I first saw her, when they took me–again I don’t know the time on this, 15, 20 minutes later. They took me back to the ICU and she was there and I was talking to a nurse and the nurse just asked if I had a name and the name Hope was what Krista had wanted to name her. And I think I had some other name in my mind and so I’m there, I could name the kid and the only name that was coming into my mind was Hope.
H: Which was so appropriate for the situation.
G: You know, I just want to say something while we’re talking about this. In reading the book, you loved Krista so much, that comes through so much in the book, your relationship. You dated her for years. You were married to her for how long?
A: Almost three years. A month shy of three years, yeah.
G: Yeah. I just want our audience to know that you really had a very loving relationship with her.
A: Yeah, and it was a good marriage right until the surprise ending there. For the most part it had really been a good marriage.
G: Well, certainly everyone has their moments and I also was thinking about–Heidi and I looked at this material on loss and I was interested in the fact that she shot herself in November, and one of the things they’re talking about is light therapy.
G: Krista. I was thinking that she was lacking in light at that time.
H: Oh, I see what you’re saying.
G: Sunlight, natural light.
H: And how important it is. They say you should have 20 minutes of sunlight a day in your life, either natural or like you said, by a lamp.
G: Yeah, and I was thinking did you feel like it was depression that drove her to take her life?
A: It’s been, gosh, what has it been? Six years now, I guess since this has happened and I still don’t have a definitive answer. I would probably lean that way, but I really don’t have an answer as to what was going through her mind or what affliction she was suffering from. All the symptoms add up to depression.
H: So Abel, did you see signs as her pregnancy increased, did you see her change and did you see signs of depression or anything?
H: And what did that look like?
A: Well, her whole personality changed as the pregnancy got on. At first, the first couple months I didn’t see really a big change but then as the pregnancy got on she stopped caring about herself. She always wanted to make herself look nice and pretty. She was always big into making sure when she went out she was wearing nice clothes or something. She’d never go to the store in sweats for example. She’d always make sure she was wearing something nice and she just stopped caring for herself. For the most part she was a really responsible person the entire time I knew her and then out of the blue one day she just quit her job. With no notice to the employer, no notice to me. I just found out. She just told me one day. She goes yeah, I’ve quit my job. I’m not going back to work. So it was just this slow progression of things. And I was kind of worried about her but I would talk to people at work, for example, and say man, my wife is doing all this weird stuff and I talked to the other guys at work and they’d say oh, well, when my wife was pregnant she was like a different person. They’d give me stories like that so it kind of threw me off. I wasn’t really thinking that there was something really wrong with her. I just thought oh, this is what happens when she gets pregnant.
G: Right, of course, and as Heidi and I have said and you have said also, the chances of somebody killing themselves when they’re pregnant are very minimal.
G: And so who would be right away saying wow, I ought to watch this.
H: Right, you wouldn’t think that would be it. And it’s interesting because it just shows how much her body chemistry was changing and that there was a chemical imbalance that obviously no one could have known about.
G: Yeah, so tell us. We’ve got Hope there and the doctor comes in and says we’ve got this baby, do you want to see her? And it’s very poignant. I would suggest that our audience get your book to read about it. I mean we couldn’t even begin to talk on the show about how seeing her and your dad’s a photographer, went and took some pictures and actually seeing your little baby for the first time. Can you remember that feeling? Did you get that dad feeling and —
A: Yeah, yeah. It was weird. I mean even though I guess I always pictured seeing my daughter for the first time there was still just that unbelievable love and just wanting her to be okay and just wanting her to know that I was there.
G: I know you talk about putting her little fingers around your finger. How she didn’t respond like most babies would.
G: But that she wasn’t responsive at all, right?
A: Yeah, yeah. I mean it was probably a combination of just all the trauma she had gone through and the drugs they had her on, but yeah. The whole time she was alive she wasn’t responsive. I never saw her open her eyes. Never saw her yawn. Never saw her move voluntarily. She was just lying there the entire time.
H: And she looked like a perfect little baby, right?
A: Oh, yeah. She was small, I think she was 2 pounds 6 ounces or something like that, which is right for the age that she was. But physically except for her being small, she was fine. Ten fingers, ten toes, pink skin, big mop of hair on her head. She looked fine.
G: And you held her, too.
A: Yeah, yeah. I got several chances during her life to hold her. Usually she was hooked up to monitors so it was kind of awkward but I got to hold her for extended periods of time.
G: And so the doctor did a brain scan and told you there were dark spots which meant that there was brain damage, bleeding in the brain. And then I remember you said in the book that then you got another one even though people wondered why, another brain scan because you wanted to make sure.
A: Yeah, when I finally made the decision to remove her from life support, I told my family that’s what I was going to go to the hospital and do so they all came with me and I just still couldn’t bring myself to do it. I still wanted to say well, I just want to make sure and so I had the doctors do another scan. I could tell that the doctor was really thinking it was a waste of time, but he did it anyway and it actually showed that the spots, that the blood on her brain was actually getting worse. It wasn’t getting better. And even though it was a hard decision to want to take her off life support, it almost made the decision just a tiny bit easier knowing that she wasn’t getting better and there wasn’t going to be a chance for her to get better.
G: So in between you buried a wife and then you had a funeral for Krista?
A: Yeah, I had a funeral for Krista and then two or three days later I took Hope off life support.
G: Oh, my goodness. Yeah. And now after – And you had a little funeral for Hope and she was buried with Krista, right?
G: Yeah. So tell us, all this trauma happened to you. Do you remember going home, how was that? Let’s talk a little bit about was there a stigma because it was suicide?
A: Yeah, it was like an unspoken stigma, just like people didn’t know what to say to me, and I think it’s hard to comfort someone anyway that’s lost someone that they love. But at least if the person’s older, for example, you can say well, they had a good life, things like that. You can say hey, look at all this time you got to spend with them or maybe if they were suffering from some horrible disease you can say well, maybe they aren’t in pain anymore or something like that. And I just felt like nobody – and not that I blamed people for acting this way because I probably would have acted the same way, but it’s just like nobody knew what to say to me at all.
H: And did they acknowledge that you had lost a daughter? Because I’ve heard people on the show say because our daughter wasn’t full term, people really didn’t acknowledge that loss.
A: Yeah, I think everybody did. I can’t think of an example where they didn’t.
H: That’s good to know.
A: But still this kind of silent what do I say to Abel kind of deal and looking back and yeah, I wouldn’t have known what to say either.
G: Well, we’re coming up on break and when we come back, Abel, I’d like to talk about how you felt about Krista. You did lose your baby, and I know you also talk about the idea of being 25 and being a widower and so let’s talk about that when we come back from break. I’m your host Dr. Gloria Horsley with my co-host Dr. Heidi Horsley and we’re talking to Abel Keogh today about the “Loss of a Wife and Child to Suicide and Premature Birth.” You can reach us through our blog, www.thegriefblog.com. All of our shows are archived on the blog. Please stay tuned for more.
Well, Abel, when we went to break I was saying I wanted to talk to you about a couple of things, one of them being what about Krista shooting herself when she was pregnant?
H: Basically killing your daughter is what she did to a certain extent.
A: Yeah. No, I think that’s a fair assessment.
G: And do you identify with that, Heidi saying that basically –
H: She killed your daughter.
A: Yeah. I mean if it wasn’t for her doing that I think Hope would have been born the normal way and been fine. So it’s not the easiest thing to say but I would agree that yeah, her actions basically killed my daughter.
G: And what about your anger? Were you feeling angry?
A: Yeah, finally after Hope’s funeral and things just kind of calmed down a tiny bit where I just didn’t feel like – I mean I guess the one thing about having Hope alive, it just kept me distracted from feeling anything toward Krista because I was so wrapped up in Hope and is she going to be okay, what’s going on with her. And so after Hope’s funeral then that’s when the real feelings of anger and just being furious at Krista really set in.
G: And how did you deal with that for our audience? Because I will tell you we have some very angry people out there for multiple reasons.
A: How did I deal with it? It was really probably a lot of swearing under my breath and just being mad at her and just releasing that anger in a private setting where I could just yell or scream at the walls. Just feel angry. It was just something I did in private. In the book I think the first time it really explodes, I get back in my car and I just have this thing where I just yell and tell her how much I hate her and just how upset that I am. And even though that didn’t really get rid of the anger altogether, it really made me feel better for about ten minutes.
H: I was going to ask you Abel, so do you feel like you were able to work through the anger towards Krista or are you still angry at Krista today?
A: Oh, I’m not angry at her anymore.
H: So you were able to work through that.
A: Yes, yes. I was able to work through it and it wasn’t anything that happened overnight. If you read the book it kind of chronicled a little bit of my journey about that, just how I kind of reached a point where I could forgive her for what she had done.
G: Absolutely, that’s a good thing. People want to get the book and read about how Abel worked through his anger. I know of one of the things that you did which I think is very interesting because when we talk to men we often find that men are doers and they want to do something and that’s what helps them. And you moved into an old house that Krista had liked and you two had talked about fixing up and spent a lot of time working on it, right?
A: Yeah, that took about two months of my life after their death just fixing up this house and making it livable. It was good in a lot of ways because I think it just gave me something to do. It kind of distracted me from what was going on. I’d go to work during the day and come home at night and work for another 5 or 6 hours on the house and just go to bed exhausted.
H: Well, it was kind of a metaphor for your life, Abel, because I’m thinking of this broken down house which was kind of what you were going through at that point and then you created something beautiful and put it back together again.
A: Yeah. It’s a great metaphor for my life. And getting over the anger associated with what she had done. It didn’t happen in months. I think by the time I reached the end of the book, which was a year after she died, I think I reached a point where I could finally say I had forgiven her and was at peace with what happened.
G: When did you start writing?
A: The book?
A: I started it probably this would have been about 2003 so about two years after everything happened is when I started writing it.
G: So do you think that writing the book was helpful?
A: I think it was in a lot of ways. I think just getting that first draft out and putting the whole story down which was a lot longer than the book version, but just putting all my feelings down was kind of like a therapy, I guess. I never went and saw anybody about what had happened.
G: I thought it was interesting in the book when your mom wanted you to go into therapy and you said no, I want to talk to somebody who’s had this happen to them. But there isn’t anyone and I was thinking what a great thing for you to come on the show, Abel, because if there’s anybody who’s had any of these things happen to them, they’re going to be able to hear you talk about it.
A: Yeah, I mean it’s just helpful to know that somebody’s gone through something similar. I know with my book I’ve got a bunch of emails from people who have lost their spouse and most of them haven’t lost them to a suicide but they can still read the book and they can still say I felt the same way, I still have these same feelings, I still didn’t know what to do here and what to do there. And so even though they may not have had the exact same thing happen, they can still relate in a lot of ways to what I was going through.
G: Right, and talk about being a widower. I thought that was so interesting because Heidi was saying that the 911 widows don’t even want to be called that.
H: Right, because I work with the 911 widows and most of them are in their 20s and 30s and they’re like we don’t like the word widow because a widow is someone that’s 80 years old.
A: Yeah, and that was the problem I was facing is that I was a 26-year-old widower. I mean I had friends that weren’t even married yet and I’m sitting here thinking this isn’t something that happens to people in their 20s. This is something that happens to people in their 50s, 60s and on and a lot of the grief what do you call it?
H: The literature out there.
A: Yeah, I mean they’re all directed towards older people.
H: It is, you’re right.
A: And there was a point for a while there I felt completely isolated because I felt like I was the only young widower on the planet.
H: And the only one that had been through what you’ve been through and you were one of the only ones.
A: Yeah. And it was like there was no one to reach out to. I’d go to the bookstores and try to find books and stuff and there was just nothing out there. I’d do Google searches late at night and there was absolutely nothing and I just felt like gosh, I’m the only person who’s ever experienced this, there’s nobody out there that can help me or understand what I’m going through.
G: So then you started dating after six months and you got a little flack about that, right?
A: Yeah. So dating was actually a really good – I think it was a really big step to start putting my life back together. At least emotionally it was. But then I didn’t tell my family because I was thinking well, my family’s going to be upset that I’m dating after six months. I would have been upset if I was them and here I am dating six months later so I kind of kept it under wraps because I was just worried that my family and friends were just going to say you’re doing this too soon, why are you doing this?
G: Well, also if you were in the therapy world, they’d be saying oh, no, no, no. But remember when we had the woman whose husband was murdered, Heidi? I cannot think of her name right now, she got married after seven months and she said I’ve been married for years, I’m so happy and people told me oh, no.
H: Well, and it happens in grief in every area. It’s the whole passing judgment on people. People want everyone to grieve the same way and who’s to say that after six months dating isn’t exactly where you should have been? Like you said, it was healing for you, it was therapeutic for you.
A: Yeah. And when I started dating at first, it wasn’t necessarily to look for a spouse or look for another long-term relationship. It was really just trying to make my life normal again.
H: That makes sense.
A: And so that was really the big reason I did it. Now I got lucky and happened to start dating someone that I really liked and ended up marrying and have a wonderful family with. But really my initial forays into dating was just trying to make my life normal and trying to have —
G: Yeah, you’re a 26-year-old guy.
H: Right. Now you got married again, I know, and you have three children. I just wanted to know when your second wife became pregnant, did you have anxiety and worry that she was going to become depressed? Or not really?
A: I wasn’t necessarily worried about her becoming depressed but I was more worried I guess about something going wrong with the pregnancy, some kind of complication or a miscarriage.
H: Losing another baby.
A: Yeah. I knew her well enough but I was always on edge. If you talk to her she’ll say yeah, he was always asking me how I was doing. If I just happened to have one little bad day it was like do we need to go see someone? I made life a little bit unbearable for her probably in a way, but she was understanding about that. But yeah, I was more worried about losing another baby, not so much about my wife killing herself again or becoming depressed. It was really just don’t lose the baby, don’t lose the baby.
G: Now that’s interesting because you’re really dealing with the fact, I know that you said, talked about going to church and having a Father’s Day and how you felt so badly before you got married. So you really had to deal with losing a child.
G: And now you’re having another child and do you remember what was your thought when that baby was born and you held your new baby? And what was the baby? Was it a boy or a girl?
A: It was a boy. We had two boys and then we just had the girl.
G: So did you think of Hope when you were holding your new baby?
A: Yeah, in a way I did, but in a way I was just so grateful that he was here and he was healthy and that mom was doing good. And so yes, I did briefly think about her, but I was just so happy to finally have a child that was so healthy and was normal and the doctors were saying oh, this is a big healthy baby. That just felt so good.
H: That must be a relief.
G: Well, we’re coming up on break and this is going to be our last break and when we come back from this break we’re going to talk with Abel Keogh about some of the things he’s doing right now and also I wanted to talk to him about exercise because he’s a runner and that’s one of the things that we’ve left out which I think was maybe helpful for him in his healing. So you’re listening to Abel Keogh and we’re talking about “Loss of a Wife and Child to Suicide and Premature Birth.” You can reach us through our blog, www.thegriefblog.com. All of our shows are archived on the blog. Please stay tuned for more.
I wanted to say that this is a beautiful book, and I assume you can get it through Amazon. You can also go to Abel’s website. Do you want to give your website, Abel?
A: Yeah. It’s www.abelkeogh.com and there’s links to places that you can buy the book there and you can also read the first chapter of the book on my website as well.
G: Oh, that’s great. So you can read Room for Two, the first chapter, and that should inspire you to want to buy it. It’s a wonderful book. It’s a beautiful book, and it’s a very interesting story and very compelling. Well, Abel, I wanted to talk about a couple of things because you’re pretty remarkable to have come through this the way you have, to not have a lot of rage and anger, which can really hold people back, but could you talk about exercise? I know you started running, right?
A: Right. I’ve been running for about seven years now. And I actually started running a year before Krista died. It was mostly just to lose weight. I came home one day and looked in the mirror and said, oh, this is awful. Just overweight. So I started running and it actually turned out to be a really good thing because then after she died, running really was a way for me to – I’d get up at 5:00 o’clock in the morning and go outside and run four miles or so and it was just a way for me to focus my thoughts on her or any sadness I was feeling and I could have it all out and done by the time I was done running. And so then as I went to work and went about the other things I had to do that day, I was really able to get a lot of feelings or anger or sadness out on that run and then be able to float and make it through another day without too many problems.
G: So exercise, yeah.
H: I think exercise. Getting those endorphins going is so important.
G: And maybe for our folks out there it’s just walking around the block the first time. You were into running before she died.
A: Yeah, for exercise, it’s whatever people enjoy doing. If you enjoy riding your bike, then go do that. Exercise shouldn’t be a chore. It should be fun so find something that you enjoy doing but I think it’s a great way to release some of the feelings.
G: And also we’ve talked to our guests about compartmentalizing, so you were able to have that as a time when you could be angry or whatever.
A: Yeah. If I was sad or angry – whatever I was going through that day. I had thirty minutes to get it out and if I was really angry, I’d maybe run faster. So by the time I was done, I was too tired to be angry any more and I could make it through the rest of the day okay.
G: Now, what about religion? I know you mention that in your book. Was that helpful to you?
A: It was helpful in the context that I know that I can see Krista again, that I can be with Hope again, and that we can be together as a family again, and just knowing that, just maybe passed over the things that I couldn’t do for myself emotionally was having this knowledge that we could be together forever was really something that I did find helpful.
G: And was that helpful later or was that helpful right away?
A: Both. It was helpful right away and it’s been helpful even to this day.
G: And how about your religious community? Were they helpful? The people?
A: Yeah. I found them very supportive. Again, I ran into the what-do-I-say-to-this-guy kind of thing which I think you’d find anywhere, but, yeah, I felt like the church I was attending and the people there – even if they didn’t know what to say to me, if I ever called someone up and said hey, I’m trying to fix this on my house. I’m not sure how to do it. People would come over and they’d be more than happy to help me, and they’d always be there just in case for whatever I needed.
G: I love that house thing because it’s something a guy can ask other people to come and they could actually do something and just be with you without even saying anything.
A: Yeah, and I’m not the most – I guess I’m a lot better now at fixing things than I was, but even back then, there are some basic things that maybe I didn’t quite know how to do but there’s people in my church that would know how to do them. I would call them up and say hey, can you help me with this. They were right there.
H: And it also made it so you weren’t isolated. You brought people into your life and they helped you work and you weren’t isolated. Is there anything that anyone said to you that was helpful?
A: No, not anything that they said, but going back to the house thing or other things, just by being there. I never felt like there wasn’t anybody I really couldn’t approach if I wanted to and say, hey, I need help. Even if it wasn’t listen to me what I’m going through but just through friends and I had friends who would just invite me over to dinner at their place and they did it for months. Every Tuesday night, come over to our place for dinner.
G: I thought that was interesting and you said how much you enjoyed that and that’s something for people to think about. Inviting someone over.
A: Yeah, and again, it’s just putting some normalcy back in my life. Going to dinner once a week with mine and Krista’s best friend from college was a routine thing that probably went on for four or five months but it was so helpful just to know that, wow, I don’t have to sit alone at home tonight. There’s somebody that’s going to feed me dinner tonight and talk to me for a couple of hours.
H: Reaching out. So for people out there who are grieving, people need to reach out and invite them over and just, like you said, put normalcy back into their life again.
G: But the other thing is for our folks out there who are grieving, take a risk and go out. When people do invite you, take a risk and go.
A: Yeah. It’s sometimes awkward and sometimes hard, but I think in the end, it’s worth it. I think I show a couple of experiences there in my book whether through dating or going out. It just added a little sense of normalcy that was like a life raft that helped me float through one more day.
G: So what would be your advice to someone out there who is 25 years old and has had a spouse die?
A: Don’t feel like you’re alone, first of all, even though you may not know of other people. I’ve had several young widows and widowers contact me through my website since the book and since the site’s been out there, but just know that you’re young. You still have an entire life to live and just because you happen to tragically lose the one that you love or a child or a spouse or someone else, there’s still so much living that you can do and however you choose to do that, don’t let the grief overcome your life to the point where you’ve died too. To where you aren’t doing the things that you want to do. You can still put your life back together and you can still have a wonderful life and still be happy.
G: Well, I think we’ll end the show on that, Abel, because that is an amazing thing. You have been through a tremendous amount with loss of a wife and a child and to suicide and all the implications out there. You’re a real inspiration with your book and the things that you’re doing and I hope people will go to your website and read that chapter of your book, and we have Abel’s book on our blog, www.thegriefblog.com. So thank you so much for being on the show.
A: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
G: Our topic today has been dealing with the loss of a child and a wife and next week we are going to talk to Janice Winchester Nadeau. She’s a Ph.D. and her topic is “Helping Families Deal with Loss.” Janice Nadeau is a marriage and family therapist, psychologist and master’s prepared nurse and author of Families Making Sense of Death and the CD series “Where do I go from here?” This show is archived on our blog, www.thegriefblog.com as well as www.thecompassionatefriends.org website. Please stay tuned again next Thursday at 9:00 Pacific Standard Time, 12:00 Eastern for more of Healing The Grieving Heart, a show of hope, renewal and support. Remember, others have been there before you and made it, you can, too. You need not walk alone. Thanks for listening. I’m Dr. Gloria Horsley with
H: Dr. Heidi Horsley.