I Didn’t Get to Say Goodbye

Dear Dr. Gloria and Heidi,

What a difference a year makes! At this time last year I was planning a wedding, making plans to move my daughter and I 16 hours away from our friends and family to Indiana.  I was completely in love with a wonderful man. Now today I am trying to gracefully survive a tremendous loss.

In 2006, my first love of more than 20 years ago came looking for me…again. A year later we were married, he moved me to Indiana and life seemed beautiful. Three months later after checking him into rehab, I learned that he is battling depression, self medicating with a prescription, crack cocaine, and alcohol. He told me that I was that only one who could save him.

A week later, he tells me that he does not want my help and that he married me for the wrong reasons – he did not want to be married to me.  I left this state devastated and returned home — praying that he would soon follow. He did not. He did tell me that he loved me but that I was too good for him — that I saved his life — that he was sorry. He moved in with his ex-girlfriend (a pill addict and alcoholic) and filed for divorce in November. I did not respond to the petition thinking that it would delay the divorce and I would be summoned to court. Unknown to me he was granted the divorce (since he lives in a no fault state) and it was finalized the first of March. One month later to the day, he checked into a hotel and killed himself the next morning. Why didn’t he call me when he realized that he was in trouble again?

I learned that we were divorced and I was completely shut out of the funeral. I could not have my husband in life and I could not have him in death.

Here I am reliving all of the horrendous adrenaline of last year — tormented by the what-if’s. My head aches and my heart hurts — almost unbearable pain. Consumed with guilt, grief, anger, and more guilt. If I had known that he was going to just give up, I never would have left, I would have kept in constant touch.  I had not any contact with him since he asked for divorce, I loved him but my pride kept me away.  I would have made more demands, I would have done things differently.  I love him so much and now he’s gone… he didn’t even tell me goodbye.

Drs. Gloria and Heidi Respond
Dear Valerie,

We are so very sorry for your loss. Losing someone we love is always painful and your loss is compounded by several circumstances.

You really have a number of things to deal with here. One divorce, two alcoholism, and three suicide and possibly some psychiatric issues.  Many people who substance abuse are what we call “dual diagnosis.”  They drink and use drugs to cover some underlying psychiatric problems including deep seated depression.  The idea that you are the “only one that can save me” is one that professional caregivers as well as loved ones are often moved by.  Getting sucked into this temporary and disorganized thought is a natural reaction for the best of us.  You sound like a wonderful loving person and we understand your confusion and pain at being rejected and then shut out.

Your questions regarding “why didn’t he contact me?” are asked by many who have lost a family member to suicide.  We suggest that it is time for you to take care of yourself and to knock, not on the old doors, but on doors that are open to hear your pain.  Look to your local hospital or church regarding survivors of suicide.  As his ex-wife you have the right to grieve.  Continue to ask questions and seek support.  It is probably best that this support is sought from those outside his family.

We will post your letter together with our response here. We find that each letter touches and helps many others who are also grieving. You might want to check now and then for comments that are left for you from our very loving and compassionate visitors.

Good luck and best wishes.

Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley

Gloria Horsley

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Dr. Gloria Horsley is an internationally known grief expert, psychotherapist, and bereaved parent. She started "Open to Hope" to help the millions in the world with grief. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Nurse Specialist, and has worked in the field of family therapy for over 20 years. Dr. Horsley hosts the syndicated internet radio show, The Grief Blog which is one of the top ranked shows on Health Voice America. She serves the Compassionate Friends in a number of roles including as a Board of Directors, chapter leader, workshop facilitator, and frequently serves as media spokesperson. Dr. Horsley is often called on to present seminars throughout the country. She has made appearances on numerous television and radio programs including "The Today Show," "Montel Williams," and "Sallie Jessie Raphael." In addition, she has authored a number of articles and written several books including Teen Grief Relief with Dr. Heidi Horlsey, and The In-Law Survival Guide.

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