How To Survive Suicide Of A Loved One.
Someone personally recommended Kim to us because she is someone who has experienced great loss, and yet she has turned that around to help others who find themselves in a similar situation.
Kim Castellano is the author of the book, A Walk in a Widow’s Shoes. The book tells the story of how her husband committed suicide and how she was the one who found him. One can only imagine how horrific an experience that was for her.
In her book, Kim tells her story, and at the same time educates her readers about what they might expect should this awful event occur to them. Not only did she have to deal with the emotional loss, but there were also legal, familial and societal issues to deal with as well.
We asked Kim about this in detail in this interview…
Kim, you have written the book, “A Walk in a Widow’s Shoes” as a guidebook to people with the loss of a spouse, partner, or someone close to them. Can you please tell us about the book, and how it can help?
My book is my story, my journey through the grieving process from the moment I found my husband to my present life, ten years later. There are ideas and suggestions that really helped me which I write about throughout my book–some helping the widow/widower, others helping children or friends/relatives. Even something very simple can help. One small example: I suggest sending a cookie basket to a family with young children, because it makes the children smile and forget their grief for a little while…
Suicide is still a taboo subject in many people’s minds. How are you able to open the door on this with people who are closed to the entire subject?
Yes, Suicide is still very taboo, unfortunately. There is a chapter just on suicide, because it’s unlike any other death.
When asked how my husband died, I always say and have said from day one, that he took his life. Once I say it, nine out of 10 people will tell me about someone they knew who suffered the same fate. That opens the door to conversation. It helps people know they are not alone and should not be ashamed. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened, especially since publishing my book.
Can you please tell us the story of what happened as you remembered it, on that day of March 30, 2006?
I remember it was a beautiful spring day, and I was going about my usual morning routine: making beds, packing my daughter’s lunch, cooking breakfast. It was a Thursday, which was my usual grocery day. I asked my husband if he needed anything from the store, and he said razor blades and shaving cream. We said our goodbyes and our I love yous. Those were his last words to me. I found him about an hour and a half later.
I’m so sorry to hear that. The experience of finding a loved one who passed away is just beyond traumatic. How did you deal with those first few hours and the few days after that?
Death in and of itself is hard. Watching a loved one pass is extremely hard, but way harder is finding your loved ones…no matter how they died. However, no one should see their loved one in the manner in which I saw my husband. I let out a horrific blood-curdling scream and literally ran from the room. After I dialed 911, I sat outside on my porch shaking. When the police arrived, they determined I was in shock and did their best to calm me down.
After the medical examiner left with my husband’s body, my brother drove me to the hospital where I met with my doctor and psychiatrist. It was determined that I had PTSD and was given a mild sedative to go home with. After a couple of weeks, I started meeting with a grief therapist. Several months later, my children and I began going to a bereavement group for families. We were there for three years, which was the best thing I did for myself and my daughters.
Did your husband leave a note, or were you able to have any insight into why your husband committed suicide?
No, my husband did not leave a note. On one hand, I was happy there wasn’t a note because that would mean he gave it a great deal of thought. On the other hand, without a note, we were left to surmise why he did it. Without a note, there is no closure. I have drawn my own conclusion as to why he did it. Many people say suicide is a selfish act; however, I truly believe my husband’s death was selfless.
He was drinking a lot the last few months of his life. I had no idea until he confessed that fact to me a couple of weeks before he died. He hid it very well. His father was an alcoholic, and I truly believe my husband wanted to spare me, and especially our girls, the life he had and grew up with, as I think he saw himself turning into his father, something he didn’t want for us.
How unfortunate that he didn’t seek help for that. And how did you explain the situation to your children through this difficult time?
My girls were young, just-turned-seven and four-and-a-half. When I told them that he died, they just cried and cried but never asked me how he died, so I didn’t tell them immediately. I waited until I knew the time was right and the opportunity presented itself.
When that moment came, I sat them down and told them the truth. My seven-year-old asked what suicide was, how he did it, and even where. I told them everything, because I knew they needed to hear it from me, and I didn’t want to lie or have some dark secret. I found out months later from several therapists and grief counselors that that was the best thing I could have done.
How were you able to maintain your emotional and physical health?
Children force you to be present. In the beginning, I had to suppress my grief a bit during the day to be a parent to my little girls. Once they were tucked in bed, I would fall apart.
When they were at school, I resumed my three-mile walks and returned to yoga. I started doing a lot of volunteer work, which kept me busy and stopped me from thinking too much during the day. And, of course, I met with my grief therapist.
Kim, I understand that you have helped many people with your story and with advice. From your experience, what words of advice can you share with those of us who have lost a loved one through suicide?
That your loved one must have been in a great deal of pain–so much so that they thought dying would be better than living.
I have spoken to several suicide survivors and have heard time and time again that they didn’t remember trying to take their lives. They were acting on almost auto-pilot. Depression is a mental illness and left untreated, that person can spiral out of control. It’s often said that people about to take their lives seem happy and/or normal, and I believe it’s because they are at peace with their decision–that they will be free of their pain and no longer suffering.
And in regards to the aftermath, what can you share about details that are important for the family to know?
Yes, two things. If you do not have a will, I suggest you do one as soon as possible. Probating my late husband’s will was very difficult, and I cannot imagine him not having one at all.
Second, and extremely important, if you do not have a separate bank account from your spouse, you need to do so immediately! You and your spouse or partner can have joint accounts, but make sure you also both have individual accounts.
When your loved one passes away, you can transfer money to your individual account to pay for the funeral, burial plot, etc. Otherwise, once the bank finds out your partner is deceased, your joint accounts will be frozen and you will be left without funds until the estate is probated.
Thank you for sharing that with us. Finally, and perhaps most importantly for our readers, how did you recover from all of this? When we fall down seven times, how do we rise up eight after losing a loved one?
In the beginning, you have to live one day at a time. On particularly bad days, even a minute or a second at a time.
If you have children, they will push you to be present and accountable. They are a God-send.
To be honest, I don’t think you ever recover, but you just keep moving forward and try and live the best life you possible can.
The most important part of your recovery, besides going for professional help, is paying it forward. Don’t let your loved one’s death be in vain. Become an advocate. Do a Suicide Walk. Volunteer at a bereavement center. That is the reason I wrote my book: to help people, which in turn also helped me.
We think it’s important to note that despite this tragic event, Kim has gone on to live a happy life with her two daughters, after thinking her world was over. Not only that, but she has volunteered and helped people. The fact that she has done all of that is inspiring. To know that even after an experience like that, your heart can remain open and not bitter and closed to the world.
There is no greater loss than the loss of a loved one, but Kim is carrying on in her husband’s memory, and helping people with her book. We can’t think of a better reason to write a book. Can you?
You can reach Kim at her website: A Walk in a Widow’s Shoes, and purchase the book on Amazon here:
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