Losing a Wife
By Noel Braun, author of No Way to Behave at a Funeral available through his website, www.noelbraun.com.au
Maris, my wife of forty-two years died by suicide on the 30th October 2004. following years of struggling with depression. She tried everything to relieve her suffering-medication, counselling, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, meditation, innumerable self help books. She was seeing both a psychiatrist and psychologist at the time of her death.
I could not imagine how I could ever cope. I was standing on the cliffs of despair. I could have fallen off the edge, succumbed to despair and futility, taken to alcohol or to womanising. I wanted to withdraw into myself in isolation.
There was no way around my anguish. I met it head on. I decided that, although I had no choice in Maris’ tragedy, I did have choice in how I responded.
Instead of slumping into despondency and inertia, the sadness that I experienced led to a passion that gave tremendous energy and restlessness. I wanted to build something constructive, of benefit to myself and to others bereaved by a similar tragedy. I was desperate to reach out to others. I needed a focus. I concentrated on my writing, sought interviews with radio and newspapers and spoke to any group that was prepared to listen about the insidious nature of depression.
My restlessness led to undertaking a round-the-world trip in 2005 and again in 2006, part of my efforts to rediscover myself. In 2010 I walked the Pilgrims’ Way, known as the Camino, an ancient pilgrimage route that people have followed for one thousand years. I walked 760 kilometres through France to the border with Spain. This year, 2011, I plan to return and continue the walk through Spain to Santiago. I dedicate my pilgrimage to the memory of my wife Maris. She is a continuing presence in my life and continues to inspire me.
I wrote my story and dedicated it to my wife. My hope was that my book might give some support to those whose lives have been shattered by a loved one’s suicide. I hope that others will find they are not alone in their anguish, their grief, their guilt, their feelings of inadequacy and inability to cope. In particular, I want to reach out to other men. Men tackle grief in a different way, often totally avoiding facing it. Some men build a fortress around their feelings. The pain of loss is just as intense for men as for women, but society praises those who “hold up well," who maintain “a stiff upper lip," who adopt the strong, silent stance, as if the stoic mask provides some protection. On the contrary, instead of shielding against pain, the mask hurts. In hiding pain, it has to be carried silently and alone. Everyone handles grief differently but I believe you need a focus. You need to accept help and to share the suffering. In reaching out to others you help yourself.
There is always hope in the worst of situations.