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The biggest FU ever
May 29, 2012 7:01 AM   Subscribe

This was me. That problem was resolved by him killing himself in our flat. While i was there. Sleeping. Now I have different problems, mainly what the heck do I tell people?

After a completely crazy few weeks, I'm about to go back to work and to lead a normal life again. My question is, when/how do I tell people what happened? At work, most people just know that it was sudden. I don't want to lie about it because I'd have to make stuff up about heart attacks or something then would probably get bored and just blurt it out. Also, I don't want it to look weird that I'm not really grieving the loss of my beloved companion; I'm fucking pissed at this asshole who did this to me, his family, and friends. I've been mentally divested of the relationship for a while (the papers were going to be served that week), but if work people don't know the whole story, it's going to look horrible if I start dating immediately or are just not very sad.

Speaking of dating, my initial thread contained an inaccurate self criticism that people interpreted as me being hideous and morbidly obese. (I'm 6 feet tall, 145 lbs.) One of my reactions to this has been that all I want to do are physical things (run, get spa treatments, and fuck). How can I tell any guy about this? Won't they run screaming in the opposite direction? Again, I don't want to pretend I just got divorced.

(throwaway email: readytobeginagain@gmail.com)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Would you be comfortable enough to say, "My partner passed away. Yes, it was sudden and sad," and leave it at that? Could you get a coworker or your boss to send an email to that effect?

I'm not sure people really do want to know more gory details than that; they will mostly just want to support you.

And I'd hold off on dating for a while, if I were you. Then when you're ready, you can just repeat the above line, and as you get very close, you can disclose more details.
posted by kinetic at 7:06 AM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Would you be comfortable enough to say, "My partner passed away. Yes, it was sudden and sad," and leave it at that?

I like this, but wonder if you might be comfortable referring to him as your "estranged partner"? You don't have to tell the whole story, but giving people a heads up that this isn't exactly a "loss of a beloved companion" situation will help queue them on how to react.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:09 AM on May 29, 2012 [65 favorites]


If you want a little more information so the people have a better context for understanding you, you might say "He suffered from severe depression and in the end it killed him. It's been difficult and complicated and I really don't want to talk about it. So, what's been happening here while I was out?"
posted by metahawk at 7:10 AM on May 29, 2012 [18 favorites]


...also, it WASN'T an FU to you in any way and I hope you are getting some help for that feeling.

Suicide isn't about fucking up other people.

So I hope you're talking this through with a competent professional.
posted by kinetic at 7:10 AM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I'd go with "estranged partner," actually.
posted by kinetic at 7:11 AM on May 29, 2012


Whenever I hear someone not-old "died suddenly" and the cause is not given, I assume it's none of my business (and I then think "suicide, or overdose" because I am human). I'd never ask a follow-up question. If someone does, you should decide how much you feel comfortable explaining.

And I disagree -- suicide is often an act of rage, the ultimate "fuck you" to the people who love them. Not always, but sometimes.
posted by chowflap at 7:12 AM on May 29, 2012 [20 favorites]


"My husband and I had been estranged for some time before he killed himself."

"My husband and I had been estranged and living apart for some time before he killed himself."

"My husband was mentally ill and we were in the process of divorcing before he died."
posted by DarlingBri at 7:13 AM on May 29, 2012 [26 favorites]


I like DarlingBri's last one and was in the process of writing something similar.

As for dating... If you just want to have some sex, the topic doesn't need to come up at all. If you are looking for something more serious I would go again with DarlingBri's last line. I don't think anyone is going to think you are un-datable because this thing happened to you.
posted by ephemerista at 7:16 AM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Status:
"My estranged husband passed away recently."

Pressed for details:
"I'd prefer not to talk about it. It was a difficult time."
posted by bonehead at 7:16 AM on May 29, 2012 [24 favorites]


Wow, I am so sorry for your loss.

I am torn about what advice to give you about your ex-partner and his death. On the one hand, suicide is still so heavily stigmatized by our society that I am tempted to tell you that you should just tell your coworkers the truth. On the other hand, I understand why you would not want to do that. In addition, his death is really none of their business. If I was in your shoes, I would just do what felt right to me on a gut level. Sometimes you may want to talk about what happened; other times you may not. And whatever you feel is right will be right.

I think you should describe your relationship with him when speaking about his death. It could be as simple as “things were more complicated than I let on” to the sentences that DarlingBri suggested above. The people in your life don’t necessarily need to know the details, but having some sense of what happened will help them understand how to treat you and how to react appropriately if/when you start dating.

As for dating, this should come up when things start get serious. You don’t have to tell the whole story right away, but your partners will need to know this about you.
posted by emilynoa at 7:20 AM on May 29, 2012


Also suggest holding off on "dating", though I certainly understand the need for physical relations at a time like this. Just manage your risk on that.

PinkSuperhero and MetaHawk's phrasing strike me as very good. They aren't lies, and set boundaries (which you can enforce if pressed, vis a vis bonehead's suggestion).

As for whether it was an FU or not, I adhere to the school of thought that suicide is both a dessert topping and a floor wax: It sucked to be them, but they had no right to take it out on the rest of the world, here in particular you. But yes, definitely find someone to work on this with.
posted by lodurr at 7:21 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


It might be a good idea to have one trusted co-worker/friend spread the word that it was bad and you don't want to talk about it.
posted by k8t at 7:24 AM on May 29, 2012 [15 favorites]


As someone who works in refugee settings let me assure that there are no experiences to tough to move on from. Rather there are only people too small to deal with said experiences. Be honest about it and keep on with your life.
posted by tarvuz at 7:26 AM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


It might be a good idea to have one trusted co-worker/friend spread the word that it was bad and you don't want to talk about it.

This seriously worked in my office. A coworker's relative committed suicide. We heard it from her best friend in the office. Nobody ever asked any questions.
posted by Tarumba at 7:32 AM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm fucking pissed at this asshole who did this to me, his family, and friends. I've been mentally divested of the relationship for a while (the papers were going to be served that week), but if work people don't know the whole story, it's going to look horrible if I start dating immediately or are just not very sad.

Think you're in between anger and guilt here. Perhaps you want to be more healed that you are. Whilst your perception is that you have been mentally-divested, the combination of 1) your anger, 2) the guilt, and 3) the confusion of how to share it pretty much illustrates that you're all over the place emotionally. A few weeks is not really enough time to process: stressful living situation > divorce request > standoff > suicide > back to work. It's a Big Deal.

Speaking of dating, my initial thread contained an inaccurate self criticism that people interpreted as me being hideous and morbidly obese. (I'm 6 feet tall, 145 lbs.) One of my reactions to this has been that all I want to do are physical things (run, get spa treatments, and fuck). How can I tell any guy about this? Won't they run screaming in the opposite direction? Again, I don't want to pretend I just got divorced.

Oy. Apologies if this is a bit harsh, but do you really think you should be thinking about dating right now? You may well be in the eye of the tornado, so to speak. Whilst the initial shock may have worn off in the last few weeks, the previous (fucking pissed) passage indicates that you still have a bit more work to do. Maybe you want to rush through it and put it all behind you, but then in the latter paragraph, you want to 1) have sex, and 2) tell that person about your husband's recent suicide. The fact that you're worried about them running away screaming indicates you realise on some level that this may not be the best course of action.

Overall, it sounds like you need a therapist and/or a support group. You're angry, you're embarrassed, you need to talk about, you are in a rush to make up for lost time and/or distract yourself. That's a lot going on all at once. It's natural to want to be honest about what's happened and heal. It's natural to want to get past it. It's natural to want to live a normal life. And all these things will come in time, however, as mentioned, you do not seem to be at peace with it by any stretch. I think you need more time and help.
posted by nickrussell at 7:32 AM on May 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


How close are you to coworkers? If not very, try something like this:

"Thank you for your concern but I'd rather not talk about it at work, if you don't mind. It's nice to be able to get away from it for a while. I'm sure you understand."

Maybe not that exact phrasing, but whatever conveys two ideas: 1. You don't want to talk about it 2. This is what is keeping you from being sad at work.

It will explain both your retience and your relative good cheer. If done right your coworkers will gossip about how it's all a facade and you're crumpling into tears when you get home.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:34 AM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you're going to talk about it at all at work, tell the simple truth: your husband was an alcoholic and you were in the process of divorcing him when he killed himself; now it's over and you'd like to move on. That's just enough detail to stop them asking more questions, though they are dying to know more.

But don't tell dates that kind of shit, especially if it just happened and you're trying to bed some guy in the same apartment your husband killed himself in. Your dates will spend all night wondering where and how it happened (looking for stains, bullet holes, places you could hang a rope, etc.), and maybe they'll be looking at you kind of funny. Better to say you are just out of a long-term relationship and leave it at that. If something gets serious, then maybe get around to telling the whole truth, but don't let full disclosure mess up casual romps.
posted by pracowity at 7:56 AM on May 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


What a horrible thing to happen. My condolences, for the situation as a whole.

Good ideas above. I believe that the working principle should be: whatever you say ought to be a depiction of the actual truth. This gives you the opportunity to stay genuine, no matter how people react. But you can paint in different styles: if you want to be nonspecific, don't cut out single details, but be more hazy in general (unless you're going with the young rope-rider's advice and just don't mention what happened in any detail at all).
posted by Namlit at 7:58 AM on May 29, 2012


Dealing with your anger and the emotions surrounding this deeply disturbing event is more important than anything else. Reading that you might get "bored" at describing your ex's suicide as a heart attack or that you're interested in sex or meeting new potential partners in the near future suggests to me that you're avoiding taking the time and space needed to handle your grief and anger, no matter how divested you think you may be right now.
posted by mizrachi at 8:01 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Therapy, therapy, therapy, and, oh god, hugs from me.

Your life right now makes the worst parts of my last year look positively pleasant. I hope things smooth out.

Oh, and - I've had multiple friends who lost a SO begin dating again quickly. Sure, they faced a few malicious whispers, but those busybodies are the exception, and berated for their gall. Who are we to say when you are ready?

Humans need love, sex, and laughter. Go seek any or all of them, as you wish, when you wish.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:01 AM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Anon, you use "bored" in strange ways. You said your alcoholic husband of ten years coming home drunk and depressed was boring. You say when people ask you about his suicide, you, his spouse for over a decade, will likely get bored and just blurt out the truth.

I understand emotionally distancing yourself from a spouse, especially in a marriage as dysfunctional as you write yours was.

But anyone being bored by what you've gone through in these last few months is mind-boggling. It suggests to me that you are not emotionally processing any of this at all.

Rather than thinking about dating a few weeks after ending a ten-year marriage and worrying about discussing your ex-spouse's suicide, you should be seeking therapy to help you deal with all the emotions--like anger and grief--you are either suppressing or denying with all this talk of "boredom".

How about you tell people the truth? Here's what I got from your question:

"It's been a very rough time these last few weeks. It's all just too much for me to process right now. I'm getting help with that, but for now I just need to focus on moving forward with my life. i hope you understand."
posted by misha at 8:27 AM on May 29, 2012 [17 favorites]


After one of my parents died, I remember wanting to have sex with someone, anyone. When my cousin's lost their brother in a tragic accident, one of them remarked that they craved the comfort of someone to have sex with. IMHO, it's natural to want to chase away bleakness of death with sex, especially when the person who died was someone who was, for better or worse, your family.

I wouldn't suggest following that impulse, however. You may not be entirely in touch with all of your feelings and it is entirely possible that having sex with someone might trigger intense feelings of grief. The last thing you want to do is start crying uncontrollably in the midst of having sex with someone new. It's a little awkward.

I think that this is the time for you to start nurturing what friendships you have. You say that you have work friends. Maybe there's someone you would have hung out with if you hadn't been spending so much energy on all of the trouble at home. Start there.

Therapy would also be a great idea - individual and group. You've got a lot of shit to process and therapy would be a much faster way to work through it than trying to do it on your own.
posted by echolalia67 at 8:29 AM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


But anyone being bored by what you've gone through in these last few months is mind-boggling.

I disagree with this, if by bored you mean it's exhausting, irritating, stressful and tedious, which I associate with bored. When you're constantly dealing with someone else's drama, you don't have the energy to be interested in anything else. It's fucking boring and you feel like you'll be stuck in this damn bus station the rest of your life.

Or maybe I'm just projecting.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:40 AM on May 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


First of all, the desire for sex after death is utterly common. It's a TV and cinema trope. It's a real life trope. Second of all, what small_ruminant said. Third of all, divorce is hard enough; alcoholism, mental illness, divorce and suicide all together pretty much demands a therapist, even if just for the very short term.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:47 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Could we please not make value judgements about the language used in the question (e.g. "boring" / "bored")? And while we're at it, not make assumptions about what kind of processing anonymous needs to do regarding this event?

There are a lot of traditional ideas about what absolutely has to be done about grief and trauma, and most of them are wrong for most people. The one thing that's true is that you have to reintegrate it; it is not the case for everyone (or even most people) that they ought to talk about it. That most often results in re-traumatization and fixation. Where it works, you're typically looking at a person who has already made good progress in re-integrating.

Yes, by all means, anonymous should seek some kind of professional guidance. But the form that guidance needs to take should be something for her and her counsellor/therapist to figure out.
posted by lodurr at 9:11 AM on May 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


also, again, desire for physical satisfaction (sex, exercise, whatever) is TOTALLY NORMAL, as darlingbri stresses.

just manage your risk, is all. this is the kind of time when people sometimes take unnecessary risks. people advising that anon not get into a relationship are simply speaking from experience that right after major betrayal-trauma is often not a great time to start a relationship.
posted by lodurr at 9:14 AM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've had a very close friend commit suicide. I don't think it's the same thing, especially after what you've been through; but FWIW he had become somewhat withdrawn from our close, tight knit group due to organic issues of his own, before it happened. All of us reacted differently, after the initial shock. We still feel differently about it. I'm not sure there's a right way to feel, or a right thing to say (although there are a bunch of good suggestions above).
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:25 AM on May 29, 2012


There are a lot of traditional ideas about what absolutely has to be done about grief and trauma, and most of them are wrong for most people.

Going over all of the details that lead up to the suicide, is probably not the most helpful thing to do right now and could very well be re-traumatizing. But having a person or group to check-in with would probably be helpful. There is something really healing about hearing another person put a name to feelings that you have a hard time putting into words. Having another person to check in with you about how you're sleeping, how work is going, how you're relating to other people in the aftermath - all of the things that can be affected the death of a family member - could really help someone focus on the important day-to-day aspects of getting on with your life in a healthy way.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:31 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


My mother went through a very similar situation when my father killed himself (also mid-divorce, but they had kids). She also reacted by feeling very angry and I know that she would've been 1000x more pissed if he'd done so in a space where the kids could've found him, or in a space she considered hers.

Her default answer was along the lines of "my estranged partner passed quite suddenly" and, if pressed for details, "it's complicated and I really don't want to talk about it right now". If anyone gives you a hard time for not being appropriately sad, just say "I'm really trying to focus on staying busy right now". Sometimes she'd skip the divorce part in order to avoid an excess of awkward questions. There is no rule about what you need to tell people - just tell them whatever will shut them up and let you get back to what you need/want to do.

If you're just looking for something casual, you don't need to tell them anything. If you do end up wanting to talk about it, maybe say something along the lines of what DarlingBri suggested above ie. "my estranged partner was mentally ill and we were in the process of divorce when he died". I don't think anyone would run screaming from that kind of explanation.
posted by buteo at 9:35 AM on May 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


A friend of mine killed himself in his early twenties. I took a half a day off for the funeral. My boss asked me how old he was, and I told him. He said something like "Oh, no, so young! What happened?"

Until that point, the thought hadn't even entered my mind that maybe I should think about what to say in response to such a question, so my response was spur of the moment and not even remotely planned. The words that I found coming out of my mouth were: "I... don't want to talk about it."

He apologized and nothing more about it was said.
posted by Flunkie at 10:24 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that most people here are way over thinking this. You tell coworkers "I *really* don't want to talk about it. Sorry." and then change the subject." And if you feel the need to tell dates anything, you say "My ex died shortly after we split up, but I really don't want to talk about it."
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:31 AM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Jesus, you've been through the ringer. I'll send some good vibes your way, you need to catch a break.

I'm hoping to hell that an email went around your office that said: "Please keep Anon in your thoughts and prayers now, as her husband suddenly passed away last Saturday." I live in Atlanta, they do that shit here.

If not, perhaps you can send the email yourself. "Dear Co-workers/Friends/random people on Facebook, Please keep me in your thoughts (and prayers if you like), my husband passed away suddenly on date. This has been a trying time and I would prefer not to discuss it. Just know that it's been difficult and knowing that you are thinking of me means the world to me."

Hopefully no one will persue it any further.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:31 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh god, I'm so sorry.

Do you not want to tell people it was suicide because you personally don't want to talk about it, or because you're worried about how they will take it? If the former, then I agree that a simple "I'd rather not discuss it" would be the best approach. But if it's the latter, I hope you'll consider telling the truth. The stigma surrounding suicide does a lot of people a lot of harm, so if you feel comfortable being open about it, that might be the way to go.

And of course it's OK for you to think about future relationships. You can think about whatever you damn well please. (You can use whatever language you damn well please too; this is YOUR experience, not anyone else's.) But I really wouldn't fret too much over the details just now. Most of these things will work themselves out when the time comes, and you've got enough stress to deal with at the moment.

Take care.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 2:26 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that most people here are way over thinking this. You tell coworkers "I *really* don't want to talk about it. Sorry." and then change the subject

I agree -- I think it's instinct in a way for people to exclaim 'so young, what happened' type things whenever someone under 50-60 dies suddenly, but then they instantly get it and regret (I have done this and seen other people do it). You say it and then you're like "oh crap this is one of those things that's not my business"

If you are thinking about being more open about the suicide, I would just caution about just how weird and inappropriate people can be when they hear it is suicide. It can be a bit alarming. Not sure this is something you need, especially from coworkers.

Good luck to you.
posted by sweetkid at 3:23 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am so sorry and also so very glad that you are safe.

This will sound woo-woo but when you feel up to it it might be helpful to change the apartment ... not a shaman with sage (althought that's fine too) but maybe new paint color or sofa or things that will reclaim the space and make it new and cleansed for you.

Hugs.
posted by cyndigo at 3:49 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would never ever discuss this at work. People in a professional setting should keep it professional.

I don't understand why you can't say to people at work, "I'd rather not discuss it." Of course it's been a difficult time for you, and I believe you should not have to qualify that the passing of a spouse (estranged or not) is "difficult." Simply saying to people, "I'd rather not discuss it" should be enough.

I believe it would be horribly rude for anyone to press further, and you have my permission to politely point that out if anyone presses for details.

Seriously. I think privacy is GOLDEN, especially where your professional life is involved. I would not talk about this with anyone at the office. Ever. Full stop.

----
That said, you should definitely join a support group or get a therapist for a little while. When you're ready, I mean. I'm thinking of a safe place with strangers where you can let it all out.... and leave it all behind in that safe space once you are done letting it all out.
----
Kinda off topic, but - Hey! Can you afford new furnishings?

If you can afford to change EVERYTHING in your apartment (wall colors, carpets or flooring, knick knacks, wall hangings, furniture - the lot) just do it. Can you hire a designer? Even better.

If I were you, I'd go about changing the interior of my home asap so as not to be living with constant reminders everywhere. It will help A LOT to get rid of anything and everything that has the potential to bombard your conscious and subconscious if it remains in your home. I would do this as an investment in my future peace of mind.
----


FWIW, there are studies that suggest repeatedly discussing a trauma simply amplifies the trauma in our brains, rather than helping to heal it. So a little processing out loud with a therapist or support group is good, yet repeated rehashing of the last ten years with everyone you know? Not so good for your emotional health or psyche.

You seem to know this intuitively, just letting you know science backs you up here.



Best to you as you navigate the future.
posted by jbenben at 8:59 AM on May 30, 2012


Wow, I'm so sorry.
posted by OsoMeaty at 7:44 PM on June 4, 2012


I think there has been a lot of good advice about what to say when people ask. I just wanted to pop in to say that finding someone (trusted friend, therapist, support group) to talk all of this over with will likely help you process this and find the language that you need to handle this issue as you move forward. Also:

I'm fucking pissed at this asshole who did this to me, his family, and friends.

This is not an uncommon emotional response in survivors of suicide, regardless of the way the relationship stood prior to someone's death. Your anger is valid; it's valid to be angry at someone who hurt you or the people around you. Again, finding some help processing all of this could make moving forward much easier.

Good luck to you. I'm sorry you are going through all of this.
posted by dryad at 12:01 PM on June 12, 2012


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