[Editor: today is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, a program of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.. It’s the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope. AfterTalk commemorates this occasion by reprinting Dr. Wendy Epstein’s eloquent letter to her husband, who committed suicide 21 years ago.]
Originally entitled “To my Deceased Husband, I want to tell you about our children”
Since Larry and Lisa created AfterTalk I finally feel I have a pathway to write to you even though you died 21 years ago. I realized that the only difference between writing a letter to someone who is dead vs someone who is alive is an expectation of being with that person in the future. In both situations the person is not with you in the present. I cant conceive of an afterlife, but if there is one, than I will be curious to know if we can resume our dialogue where this conversation leaves off.
Our daughter was a little more than four and our son only eleven months old when you ended our lives together by your own hand. For over two decades, I have yearned to share you with our children. Larry and I have been married for 19 years and he has been their father much longer than you were. I’m sorry because I feel I have just hurt you by writing that.
I have been sad for twenty years because they feel the loss of not knowing you; I continue to feel more remorse and guilt for not keeping you in there lives. You and I were physicians together and yes, you were in a severe depression, but I blame myself because I was a physician , I am our children’s mother, and I was your wife and you were their father. I keep wondering if there was something more I could have done that might have kept you in our lives.
I want you to know how painful it has been to see you in both our daughter and son and to not be able to have them see you in themselves. Our daughter sees you in our son, and its both painful and wonderful. As our son ages he is reminding both us of your appearance and mannerisms. He likes opera and classical music just the way you did. He specifically loves Mozart as you did. Yes I know;I also wonder what is the neurobiology of musical preference? His facial expressions are yours. He arrived unexpectedly one afternoon from college wearing glasses and looked so much like you that our daughter, my mother and I began to cry. He didn’t understand.
This hurt is difficult to describe and I am learning that its never going to go away. Its part of our lives and to a large extent it holds tremendous sway and shapes our daily lives. When you left, you left a blank space forever present, never to be filled in the specific way you would have filled it. We know it’s there, and will be there until we no longer have a mind to remember you in.
The particular episodic minutiae of life’s consciousness are infinitesimally innumerable and mounting up even as I pause to tell you about them. They are each precious intricate pieces of a puzzle like our son’s first bike ride on the pier. Our daughter at five years old was staring so intently at the man at Toys ‘R Us when he was assembling her new bike because she outgrew the one you had bought her. When I asked her not to stare she told me “I cant help it; I am thinking of my Daddy.” Since our son was a baby when you died, he didn’t remember your voice. When he was a young boy, I played him a tape recording and later showed him the precious pieces of video; he cried because you were and are, unknowable, untouchable, and gone forever. Everything that is something of them in my life I want to share with you but haven’t been able to. Here I will try to begin writing to you about our children.
Love always, Wendy