Everything that I have read about bereavement suggests that anger is a natural emotional response to the death of a loved one. Perhaps this might be expected to be particularly true in the case of suicide. How could my partner have done this to themselves? How could they have been so selfish and done this to me? How could they have left me with all this to deal with, not just now but for the rest of my life?
And yet my only source of anger stems from the frustration that I have nobody to be angry with. Except for myself - for my own failings in the last few days of Louise's life. For the decisions that I made which seemed at the time to be entirely reasonable but, with the benefit of hindsight proved to be wrong. For the things which I could have done but didn't. And for the failure to recognise the signs. Ultimately, for my failure to be able to perform the most basic duty of any husband, to keep his wife safe. But this is guilt rather than real anger, a topic which, if I ever have the strength, I will return to because it haunts me day and night.
I feel no anger towards Louise. I couldn't. Anger wasn't a part of our relationship. Neither Louise or I found the emotion easy to deal with. For some couples it can be a healthy release mechanism, a way of working things out. Not us. It wasn't in our natures. We had other effective mechanisms for working out our differences. I can truthfully say that we never once had an argument. We certainly had some difficult conversations but they were always controlled, measured and respectful. The only time that I ever raised my voice to Louise was a week before she died, when she suggested that it might be better for me if she killed herself.
But more significantly, I can have no anger towards Louise because I understand why she committed suicide. the greatest strength of our relationship was the way in which we talked and communicated emotionally. I could never presume to be able to fully understand what it is like to be inside the head of somebody suffering from deep anxiety and depression, let alone the kind of darkness which eventually leads somebody to believe that the best course of action is to kill themselves. But I think that I got as close as possible. Louise herself used to take great comfort in the fact that I understood her.
As a consequence I could never blame her for what she did, no matter what the implications are for me. I know that Louise worked incredibly hard, fought so bravely over the years against the episodic depression and anxiety she suffered. And I know that in the final weeks, and even into the final days, hours and moments, she was continuing to fight to keep alive the will to live. Ultimately she lost that fight. But it wasn't through her choice. She suffered from an illness as insidious and dangerous as a cancer and eventually it proved too strong for her. But there was no weakness of character and even the final act was in its own way as brave a thing to do as anything I can possibly imagine. Certainly braver than anything I would ever have been able to do. Sometimes its not the weak who commit suicide but the strong.
Of course it was wrong. Louise had so much to live for but her illness had caused her thinking to become momentarily muddled. At the time she killed herself she did it because she genuinely didn't want to continue living the way she was feeling in that moment, and because she genuinely thought that it was the best thing to do for me, to release me from the strain of supporting her. It was, in many ways, an act of supreme self sacrifice. I could no more be angry with Louise for eventually losing this fight against such a powerful force than I could had she lost her life to cancer. On the contrary. I was always incredibly proud of Louise and if anything that pride is enhanced even further because of my sheer admiration for her courage, dignity, strength and generosity throughout her illness.
But this means that I have nobody to be angry with. And that leaves me frustrated because I have anger within me but there is no outlet for it. I want to scream at the injustice of Louise losing her life, of the world losing such a wonderful force for goodness, of me losing the person I had just so recently found and thought had completed my life at long last.
I suppose that I could turn that anger towards God. But that presupposes a relationship with Him of the type where I hold Him accountable for all human destiny. My Christian faith is not of that type. I have hope in the existence of a an inclusive greater being of infinite wisdom, love, mercy, understanding and compassion. I pray daily even in normal circumstances and especially so at this time. But I have no certainty. I cannot find it in myself to blame God for a human ailment, even one which modern medical science still understands so imperfectly.
So I find it difficult dealing with anger. But it's interesting, and of some comfort, to reflect on what I have just written and find that although I set out to write about anger, the emotion which continues to overwhelm me is actually love.