Robin William's Suicide and Your Own Loss

With the recent, widely publicized death of actor Robin Williams this week, those of you who have lost a partner to suicide may be reminded of the pain and confusion that followed your own loss.

To help you gain some insight as well as develop coping strategies, we're posting this excerpt from our book, Lost My Partner - What'll I Do?

As always, we look forward to hearing from you.

Understanding Suicide 

You as the survivor:

“She seemed okay. Why didn’t she tell me she was feeling so depressed?”

“He often said life wasn’t worthwhile, but I didn’t think he’d ever kill himself.”

The aftermath of suicide can be especially difficult to cope with because it can leave you, as a survivor, feeling:

- Confused, guilty and self-blaming about why this act was committed or that you may have been responsible.

- Believing that you weren’t valuable and/or powerful enough to prevent someone choosing to die.
- Shamed by the attitudes and questions of family, friends and the police.

- Concerned about your clergyperson’s reaction, as some religions regard suicide as a sin.

- Worried about what to tell your child/children about the circumstances.

Expect your mourning process to take somewhat longer, because of the added burden of all of the above.

 How to relieve yourself and your family of some guilt:

1) Your spouse/partner exercised a choice and ultimately was the only one to have the power to act on that choice. If there was anger at you or anyone else, there were more effective ways he/she could have chosen to communicate feelings.

2) You are not to blame for something as complex as another person’s act of suicide. A multitude of factors, such as personality, self-esteem, family history, and the ability to deal with life’s stresses all contributed to your partner’s behavior.

3) You may be turning the anger you feel about your spouse/partner’s abandonment inward onto yourself. This can take the form of guilt and self-blame at being helpless to stop a suicide. It is not disloyal to be angry at people we love when their actions cause us pain.

4) A suicide note reflects only what your spouse/partner happened to be feeling at the time it was written. Try not to view it as a generalization about your entire past relationship.

Additional important points to consider:

1) Children tend to blame themselves when a parent dies, even though they may not express it openly or be aware of it themselves. Recognizing this can be difficult, because, unlike most adults, children show they’re upset by their behavior, rather than by talking. A child may especially prone to self-blame, in the case of suicide. Children need to be given simple, truthful explanations of what has happened. It’s best to tell them how it happened, or they will fantasize about all sorts of frightening possibilities. Consider having your child/children work with a mental health professional to deal with this trauma.

2) Because it’s common for family members to blame the surviving spouse for either causing or not preventing the suicide, it’s helpful to talk about your feelings with supportive people outside your family. Join a specialized support group, if there is one available. The American Association of Suicidology (suicidology.org), provides information to survivors about support groups, books and specialists. Also check out Survivors of Suicide Loss (soslsd.org) for support options.

3) Despite the feelings of shame it may bring, it’s best to be truthful with yourself and others about how your spouse/partner died. Creating a face-saving “cover-up” will only complicate and further delay working through your mourning process.

4) As clergy, in general, have become more aware of and influenced by the field of psychology and suicidology, they’ve developed more sensitivity to the issue of suicide. If you’re otherwise comfortable talking with your religious advisor, you can turn to them despite an “official” doctrine about suicide.

5) Write your feelings in a journal or as a letter to your spouse.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: If you or someone you know is seriously thinking about taking his/her own life, tell someone immediately! Call the Operator to reach your local suicide hotline and/or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org to talk to a trained telephone counselor 24/7.


reflections by deb edwards: what i know for sure about being a widow - 2 years later

Here's an update that Deb Edwards sent 2 years after her husband's death:

When I think about my husband now, I remember more of the happy times than the sad times.

Time passes differently now; the first year time was measured in hours, days, weeks and months. Now it is years.

I am learning just how capable I am...in surprising ways.

Some days the “hole” actually feels a little smaller.

I found out who my real friends are and I feel so blessed to have them in my life.

Life does go on - I see that in the eyes of my grandchildren and with every passing season.

Grief still sneaks in when and where I least expect it…I’ve learned just to go with it and be gentle with myself. Especially in the cereal aisle.

I still have to force myself to go outside my comfort zone, but have done new things and continue to amaze myself.

I still miss my husband everyday, and can look around a room and feel like I am the only person that is not part of a couple.

I try to live my life with love and faith and forgiveness - no regrets.

There really is “light at the end of the tunnel” (can’t believe I said that) just keep your eyes, mind and heart open.

I know that my husband is looking down on me from wherever he is...and he is smiling!

This journey is not over. And the path is not always straight

Deb Edwards


our blog is five years old!


It's hard to believe it's been five years since we first stumbled our way onto the blogosphere.

Since that time, we've heard from many wonderful friends and fans who have shared their insights and experiences about surviving the loss of a partner.

As we continue to share information and tips about coping, we hope you'll keep commenting and offering feedback about how we can best help you.

Thanks again.

Laurie and Ruth


still our favorite pick for online support if you've lost your partner


A while back, we recommended GriefNet.org as a solid resource for online bereavement support groups. After reviewing some other sites, we're still big fans of GriefNet.

Their non-profit site now offers over 50 specialized email support groups as well as two web sites. According to their home page:

"Our groups operate 24-hours/day, 365 days/year.  Members participate when they wish and are able to, not at a set time.  When one member of a group sends an email message to the group, everyone in the group receives a copy. This allows many people to respond with love and caring to the thoughts and feelings of an individual, day and night, year-round. Since 1994 these groups have helped thousands of people around the world deal safely with their grief". 

We also like the fact that there is a mental health professional in charge:

“All groups are monitored by trained volunteers who make sure that the groups are running smoothly. Overall supervision is provided by Cendra Lynn, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and traumatologist.”

A sampling of GriefNet’s email groups includes:

Grief-Widowed: a support group for anyone who has lost a partner or a spouse at any age, at any time, of any sexual orientation. If/when subscribers find a need for a more focused list, that can be created.

Widowed-with-Kids: for those who have lost a partner or spouse who still have children living at home. This is a place where the unique problems of parenting when widowed can be discussed.

Grief- Widowed Moving On: for anyone who has lost a partner or a spouse at any age, at any time, of any sexual orientation, and who has moved on beyond the first raw stages of dealing with that loss. This list was formed at the request of people in grief-widowed group whose issues have become different from those who are newly bereaved. Some persons subscribe to both lists.

Young Widowed: for those aged 40 or under who have lost a spouse or partner. Please note: the age cut-off is only suggested; those who feel themselves to fit into this category are welcome.

Widowed Gay: for gays who have lost a partner to death or whose partner is currently dying. Gays are also welcome in our other widowed groups and while we have never had a homophobic incident, this group was created in response to a special request from some gay widowed members.

There is also an companion site, KIDSAID.com, that offers support groups for children and teens as well as information and Q&A for parents.

Let us know what you think!


inspiring quotes to start a new year

Now that you've survived the holidays, here are some words we hope will help you face new challenges ahead. 

I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's.
— Henry Moore

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
— Albert Einstein

Maybe this year, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives not looking for flaws, but looking for potential.
—Ellen Goodman

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
-- Hal Borland