Tag Archives: mental health

Surviving a Husband’s Suicide

the saddest girl in the world -- if you taste cold water, know that it is a message   : eye series, scott richard, painting

Joana and Emmanuel were young and in love.   Barely out of their teens, they had their first child.  Soon after, they got married and eventually had another child.  They had their fair share of struggles, like many young married couples do.

After being together for 6 years, Emmanuel moved overseas for work in 2001. Their marriage became estranged, but Emmanuel continued to support his children.   He kept in touch through phone calls and visits during special occasions. The last time he came home to the Philippines was in 2006.

One Sunday in February 2010, Emmanuel missed his usual phone call to the kids.  Joana sent several text messages and tried calling his number but no one answered.  She felt that something was seriously wrong and tried to convince her estranged husband’s siblings to try and contact him.  They dismissed her concern, saying that he was probably just busy and that he would soon get in touch.

Three days later, Joana received the tragic news from her in-laws.  While in his house overseas, Emmanuel had neatly arranged his belongings, laid out his insurance papers and bank statements, and then committed suicide.


Joana’s first reaction was anger.  “I was shouting at them. I was so angry with my in-laws for not believing me when I insisted that they contact him. I was so frustrated that no one listened to me.  I thought that if someone did, things would have turned out differently.”

Joana was also angry with her husband for doing what he did.  “It was selfish of him to not let me, our children, or anyone else say goodbye.  It was selfish of him to not let anyone have closure.”

She also felt so hurt and betrayed.  After the suicide, her suspicion of another woman being in her husband’s life was confirmed.  She also learned that some months before, he was already battling addiction and depression.  He was on medication; he was seeing a therapist; he had made previous attempts to commit suicide.  Though they had stayed civil and kept communication open for the sake of the kids, Emmanuel had kept most of his life secret.


After she calmed down, the implications of what had happened started to set in. “What now?  What about the children?  How will we cope financially?  He was always the main breadwinner, and I didn’t even have a full-time job.”

During the wake, she couldn’t show her own grief and confusion. Despite suddenly becoming a young widow, she had to be strong for her children and her in-laws who were feeling lost and hurt. “Suddenly, all of my husband’s relatives and old friends came pouring in.  All shocked and saddened.  I couldn’t even get my wish for some private time with him for our children and myself.  Everyone wanted to be there right away, to say goodbye, to try to make sense of what had happened.”

After the burial, Joana and her family slowly went back to their daily lives. Her children went back to school.  She took a job.  Her in-laws went back to their families and routines.  With this new normal, grief, guilt and regret were almost constantly in the background.

Joana would ask herself, “Maybe if I had been warmer, more accepting when he told me two months before the suicide that he was tired and that he wanted to come home.  Back then, we had been estranged for so long and I had finally moved on.  I wasn’t ready to just let him come back and everything would be just like before.”

“Although it didn’t quite feel like I had lost a husband because we were already estranged years before, I knew that I had lost a partner in parenting.  Despite the distance, he provided for our children and he tried to be present in their lives.  My children lost their father and we can never bring him back.”


mother . . . kids . . . and a bag . . .

After a few years had passed, Joana is now more comfortable talking about her husband’s suicide.  She has forgiven herself and is moving on, with the constant love and support of her children, family and friends. She wishes that talking about depression and suicide wasn’t taboo in the Philippines, so people suffering from depression can get help more easily before it’s too late.

She can’t say that she has accepted what has happened.  There are still unanswered questions that will stay that way.  “I still ask, ‘What if? But I know that no one can answer that.”

During unguarded moments, while walking alone in the mall or just before going to bed, Joana would suddenly remember her estranged husband. She knows that even though he is no longer physically around, he is still watching out for her and their children.



The Black Dog Named Depression

In September 2013, after my friend’s suicide, I began a quest to understand depression.  This was my attempt at making sense of what seemed to be a senseless and tragic loss.

I stumbled upon this short and insightful video made by Matthew Johnstone in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

Using images and words that anyone can understand, this video gives a glimpse into what goes on in the life of someone experiencing depression.  The image of a black dog that follows you around, wakes you up with negative thoughts, grows big or small, and most importantly, can be taught to heel gives a face to depression, something we can handle and get a grasp on.

This video is a simple yet powerful introduction to understanding depression.  It makes some very important points:

  • Being depressed is more than just feeling sad.  It’s becoming devoid of feeling altogether.
  • When you lose all joy in life, you start questioning the point of it all.
  • Depression is an equal opportunity illness.
  • There is no silver bullet or magic pill.
  • You don’t have to be afraid of depression.  It may not go away completely, but with knowledge, patience, discipline and support, it can be managed.

If more of us are aware of depression and its nature, we have a better chance to help others and save lives.

Depression is Real

Depression , Hate , Alone

I grew up unaware of clinical depression.  I thought it wasn’t real.  When someone would say he was depressed, it would be from someone who was moping over a heartache or sulking after getting grounded.  I thought depression was an emotion that you could brush away.

In 2013, I was in for a rude awakening.  In September last year, a dear friend of mine committed suicide.  After having found out through an email, I was in shock and in denial for days.  I had just seen her 2 months before then.  I had the pleasure of meeting her baby girl, the newest addition to her now brood of 3 lovely children. It was a day well spent in her cozy home; moms happily chatting, kids busy playing. No signs of trouble, no lingering farewells.  To quote a line from the song “Fire and Rain”, a song that now haunts me, “But I always thought that I’d see you again.”

I couldn’t understand how such a lovely woman – kind, generous, caring, happy, with a loving family – would commit suicide. I never thought that someone so strong and well-loved could secretly battle postpartum depression, and lose.

I will never see my friend again. Like her family and friends, I am learning to accept that I will never fully understand what had happened. My heart aches for her husband and children who are slowly moving forward and getting used to the new normal.

I write this post to begin my journey to understanding depression. I hope to let other people know that depression is real, and it is very frightening and powerful. But if brought out of the dark and into the light, with the help of others, it can be beaten.


photo by: rockindave1