Finding Support to Cope with Suicide Loss | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Finding Support to Cope with Suicide Loss

By David Salmon

I am not going to lie, the past few years have been the hardest of my life. I had a fairy tale marriage, things seemed “perfect,” and it felt like they were always getting better. As far as I was concerned, I was living the dream, second to none. Then my whole universe was ripped apart after my wife died by suicide, and all that was left behind was a cold, lonely, shell of a man trying to make sense of it all. And it didn’t make any sense at all.

My wife had taken her life, and all I could think was I need to be with her to look after her, wherever she has gone. But then I realized that other people needed me here — my daughters, grandchildren, mother, brother, sister… the list is endless.

Drinking became my solution and coping mechanism, and it seemed to work for a while, but with the highs come the lows — and the lows were dark. My family and friends were very supportive, but I needed more. My youngest daughter must have seen something wasn’t right.

“Dad,” she said, “there is a local group called It’s Worth Talking About, a group which deals with mental health issues.”

I don’t need any mental health group, I thought… I was just the man who, on many occasions, drove his car passed the crematorium, played sad music, rolled his window down, looked up to the sky and sobbed his heart out. I was just the man who was drinking night after night with different people to take away the loneliness. I was just the man who could not get out of bed. I was just the man that put on a really bad brave face just to survive. I was a 60-year-old man, my life was over, what I needed was alcohol, more isolation and a lot more crying. But I had a choice.

One Tuesday night, I was at a friend’s house, only 10 minutes from this peer group venue. My friend was pouring me my second whisky when I said, “No, I am going to try this group thing.”

I recall my first meeting clearly, a few guys sitting around a table talking about the week they’d had — some had a good week, some hadn't, and I knew I hadn't— but within about 20 minutes I knew I was among friends, caring friends. Initially, I had gone with the intention of just listening, but within another 20 minutes I was pouring my heart out, crying my eyes out. And it felt great. I felt at ease. I felt heard by people with a real understanding of what I was going through — people who had or were going through similar circumstances. I left the meeting and called my daughter, talking non-stop about what I had experienced.

For the first time, I felt hopeful. It was only a slight bit of hope, but I could see light, a faint light, and realized that maybe I could get through this with help.

I now attend this group every week and have been going now for over a year. I continue to go so I can give something back. I go to give support to the facilitator by giving advice, comfort and understanding to all the old and the new guys who take that brave step to walk through our doors.

My life was once over; I had lost the most precious person in my life. But I hope that her story — and mine — can inspire people to talk. To seek help from friends, family and your local support groups. I will never “get over” losing my wife, but I am learning to live with it. I will never forget her, and I know that peer support is there for me and always will be.


NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).