Content warning: Suicide, Grief.
Whilst there is no such thing as hierarchy in bereavement (loss is loss), losing your soulmate comes with a unique set of challenges and emotions.
Losing your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, fiance or significant other is one of the most painful experiences anyone can go through. Often, they’re your best friend, your go-to support and the person who knows you inside out. To lose them is like having the entire rug pulled out from under your feet. To lose them to suicide is even more complicated.
From shock, anger, hopelessness, depression, ‘survivor’ guilt and everything in between, there’s no set pattern to the grieving process, especially when you’ve experienced one of the most profound losses and life-altering events anyone can go through. Everything changes overnight and suddenly you’re facing a future you never imagined you would have; plans cut short, broken dreams, what-ifs, being single again. It’s the unthinkable.
People often ask how long the pain will last and although grief isn’t linear and healing comes slowly, you *will* learn to move through life with happiness and joy again, while remembering your partner with love.
We spoke to one of our readers, Charlotte, about the sudden death of her partner, Charles, and how she’s doing with her grief journey today. For anyone mourning the loss of a partner and trying to make sense of their new life whilst processing unfathomable heartache, we hope Charlotte’s experience helps you feel less alone. You never get over it but in time, the grief gets softer and life grows around it. You’re not ‘moving on’, you’re moving forward.
Can you tell us your story, as much as you’re comfortable sharing?
In January 2019 my life suddenly changed when my loving partner, Charles, suddenly took his own life. We had a very happy life together, shared a lovely house and went on great holidays together. One day, he didn’t come home. I filed a missing person’s report and the police found his body the next day.
There were no warning signs, no previous concerns about mental health, and nothing unusual about the morning he left me. Charlotte
No one could have seen it coming. There were no warning signs, no previous concerns about mental health, and nothing unusual about the morning he left me. He had woken up, made his usual breakfast (marmalade on toast and a black coffee) and left his beard clippings all over the sink. But we never really know what’s going on inside someone’s head.
The days following are a blur to me, but there was never any explanation as to why he did what he did. The hardest part is not knowing why.
Can you share something wonderful about your loved one with us?
His passion for helping me grow. He taught me so much about the world. He was so kind, thoughtful and caring.
How is your heart doing today – where are you at with your grief?
Some days are good and some days are bad. I still miss him terribly, and am sure I always will, but grief doesn’t occupy my mind 24/7anymore. It’s nice to have some peace from it.
How do other people respond to your loss?
It’s hard to relate to someone who hasn’t been through such a different experience and suicide grief is very unique.Charlotte
It was very hard, being only 21 when it happened, as the majority of people my age had never had to experience any grief. I found that lots of friends kept their distance. People don’t know what to say because suicide is a taboo subject. It’s hard to relate to someone who hasn’t been through such a different experience and suicide grief is very unique. There was a significant lack of resources out there aimed at helping people deal with grief through suicide.
What’s your biggest lesson in grief, or a moment you’ve surprised yourself in what must continue to be the hardest and bleakest of human experiences?
Just how strong humans are capable of being.
What’s one thing you want everyone to know about your experience?
Your story isn’t something to be ashamed of and it doesn’t have to define you. Speak up and share your story, it might help others.
How has your loss changed you?
I’ve got much more confident about speaking about my feelings. I opened up to my family, doctors, and friends, and got the help and support I needed to work through my grief. I continued to get help and in turn, started to help others. Being open has allowed others to open up to me.
How have you learned to show up for yourself throughout your healing? What’s helped you learn to live with your grief?
The first few weeks were tough. Existing was difficult. Little things like showering and brushing my teeth seemed impossible and were forgotten. What helped me the most was journaling.
I started by writing letters to Charles just before bed, telling him about my day just like I would have done if he were still around.Charlotte
Writing my thoughts down got them out of my head. Once on paper, I could rejumble them to make more sense. I started by writing letters to Charles just before bed, telling him about my day just like I would have done if he were still around. It manifested into my writing for myself, and then eventually into blogging with advice for others.
How do you feel about the word widow? You have suffered an unthinkable loss, but is it something that should always define you?
As we weren’t married, I’m not a widow. It definitely shouldn’t define your life, however, I do think the label can be helpful. Instead of a widow, I feel I’m dubbed as “the one with a dead boyfriend” which isn’t nice to hear. It can be difficult when meeting new people as if Charles ever comes up in conversation because I still don’t know how to describe him. He’s not an ex; we never broke up. But people are shocked to hear late boyfriend from someone young.
There’s often a lot of judgement around women dating after losing a partner. Is this something you’ve experienced? If so, how did you cope with unsolicited opinions on when it was the ‘right’ time?
There was definitely a lot of talk from the people around me about whether it was “too soon” or not to start dating. I didn’t put a timeline on myself, but the people around me did. It was difficult listening to people debate my future. It was difficult to make up my own mind with so many people trying to influence me, but ultimately I realised that my own judgement was the most important.
When did you know you were ready to start dating? What were some of the feelings and challenges you faced to get to that point? What’s the reality of dating after the loss of a partner?
I was lucky enough to meet someone who was willing to listen about my experience and help me move through my grief in my own time.Charlotte
I was lucky enough to meet someone who was willing to listen about my experience and help me move through my grief in my own time. I explained on our first date what had happened and that I didn’t know how I would react in situations going forwards. He was extremely understanding and we took things slowly. It has definitely been hard and I’m sure he’s learnt a lot too along the way. Most importantly, he’s stuck with me through the highs and the lows.
How do you feel about the future now?
It took a long time to get back on track. After losing Charles, I felt as though I had lost myself. Passions disappeared and I questioned lots of choices I’d made in the past. I changed jobs a few times but eventually I managed to start feeling like myself again.
The future is looking much better. I’m currently working on a project within my job to help police officers reach out for help with their mental health. It’s extremely rewarding to help others.
One thing you wish everyone would stop asking / telling you…
When I should/shouldn’t be doing things. At the beginning, many people told me how I ‘should’ be feeling according to the “5 stages of grief” but you really can’t put everyone in these boxes.
What’s the best thing someone ever did or said to you? A pivotal moment that made you feel seen and understood…
The first time my current partner, Dan, took me to Charles’s memorial bench and sat there with me. The fact he understands that Charles will always be an important part of my life and is willing to share that love with someone he never met is incredible.
Do you have any advice for anyone going through the loss of a partner right now?
Please don’t give up. It might seem hopeless right now, it might seem like your world has ended, but life will continue and the pain will lessen. Take all the time you need.
Also, it’s okay to walk away from the people that make you feel bad. Not everyone will understand and that’s okay. But remember that you’re the one that’s healing, you don’t need to fix or educate them first.
Website and resources
Mind: Open Mon-Fri 9-6pm. Call: 0300 123 3393
Samaritans: FREE to call, open 24/7. Call: 116 123
Calm: Open 5pm-midnight. Call: 0800585858
Widowed and Young: Open Mon-Fri 9.30-5pm. Call: 0300 201 0051