‘Don’t let him move back in, he’s going to kill you.’ I’d been living through hell in a horrible marriage. Most said, ‘Wow we thought you were so happy.’ I didn’t want anyone to know.’

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“There has been so much in the news lately, for some reason I just feel like sharing tonight. Someone may need to hear our story. Facebook memories are great and then for some of us, not all of them are things you want to look back on. This memory popped up today. I wasn’t even going to look at them because I wasn’t too sure what would be there. In these pictures, you see a little girl who’s happy.

Four children smile as they lay down on side of curb

Happy that her friends are spending the day with her. She’s excited and doesn’t understand why so many people have stopped by. Why are people bringing us food? Happy that she’s watching our small-town Christmas parade. Not realizing that her world is about to change.

Children walking up to truck that is driving in parade

What you don’t see is a little girl who will soon find out that she no longer has a dad. A mom who had to continue her normal day holding a secret that she wouldn’t tell her daughter for 2 more days. Because how do you tell a 5-year-old that her daddy has died? When the only thing she can relate that too is our family dog, Gizmo, that died earlier that year. She doesn’t know that I woke up that morning ready for Friday to be over. Only to get a call from an employee asking me to stay at home until further notice. Only for me to find out a few minutes later that her dad had shot himself in his car at my work.

My first thoughts are to get Ansley to school. Because what happens next? I get her ready. Calm on the outside, a ball of emotions on the inside. As a mom, that’s the only choice you have. On top of my car, there’s a box. I immediately know it’s from him. I throw it inside and take her to school. Waiting on Erin and Elizabeth to meet me at my house. Erin was sent by my boss to tell me what had happened, but I called her before she could to find out what was so bad at work that we couldn’t go in. I didn’t know it was only me. I lose it. What does this mean? What do I do? How could this happen? Why? Anger. What ifs.

What most people didn’t know, friends and family included, was that I’d been living in a horrible marriage. Most said to me, wow we thought y’all were so happy. We had no idea. And that’s exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want anyone to know. And for the last 6 weeks, I was living through hell. We were separated. Had been on and off for years. But not wanting a failed marriage and my child in a broken home like I had, I tried to make it work. I put my wants and needs aside. Years of manipulation, control, isolation from most of my friends, abuse, and so much more. But everyone has a limit. I had mine. So, this separation was final to me.

Weeks of using Ansley as a bargaining tool and drilling her and trying to manipulate her into hating me led me to make the decision to separate legally. The last thing you’re going to mess with is my child. Mess with me. Not my child. See, in South Carolina as long as you are married both of you have rights to your house. You can come and go. You can’t change locks. The other person can show up at 3 a.m., and he did. Often. He would take Ansley. He would hold her as he was yelling. Unless I got a restraining order, what could I do? People ask why I didn’t.

Honestly, I don’t know. I didn’t want people to know my marriage was failing. That I failed. I knew one day I’d go to pick her up and he’d have taken her, and I wouldn’t know where. So, I let him know I’d be doing the paperwork for a legal separation and custody. He would text me and be nice and then immediately the mood flipped. He’d text 100 times and then nothing for a day. He got fired from his job on purpose and tried to manipulate me to let him move back in.

My aunt talked to him as he needed a ride from the airport. After taking to him, I’ll never forget what she told me. ‘Don’t let him move back in that house, he’s going to kill you.’ She said he was up and down. She asked him to let her take him to the ER for help. She thought he needed to be evaluated because he was acting so spastic. I knew he did. It progressively had gotten worse.

So, I knew I couldn’t give in. And that’s when it happened. I’ll never understand. You always have something to live for. Suicide is NEVER the answer. He didn’t get drunk and kill himself. He planned for days. He planned every detail. I’ll save all of that, but he knew what he was doing. He thought about it and followed through. He threatened it every now and then. But everyone says that’s usually all it is. It’s not. Why he didn’t kill all of us, I don’t know. Why my dogs didn’t bark that night as he was in my yard, no clue. I know God had his hand of protection over us. Because it could have been so much worse! And the people who know me know how I don’t sugar coat anything about this part of my life. I have been asked how I handled what happened so well. I don’t know that I did. And as bad as it sounds, I was relieved. Yes. Relieved. I’d actually sleep that night. All night. Without worrying about what I would wake up to in the middle of the night. Not worried if I needed a gun by my bed.

I’m sure that sounds horrible and makes me even worse. But it’s the truth. I wasn’t sad for myself. I didn’t miss him as a husband, as a friend, or a person. I don’t have a sappy sad story of losing someone. I lost that long before. Honestly. I was sad for my daughter. Sad that she would one day wonder why she wasn’t enough for her dad. Why he didn’t see enough in her to deal with his demons and get help. And one day, she will read the death certificate, the very detailed death certificate. And I hope that she knows that she was enough. And he wasn’t.

Throughout our fights and at the end, he always made sure to say he didn’t want her calling anyone else daddy. And he didn’t want his wife with anyone else. Well. Guess what. She calls someone else daddy. She’s slowly moved from Mr. Tommy to sometimes saying dad and sometimes stepdad. And that’s perfectly fine. It’s her decision. She would not have. He would have never been replaced as her dad. I’d never allow that. And no one would expect that. But now I have an amazing husband. Someone who lets me chase my dreams. Someone who takes care of me and our kids. Someone who sees me as a partner and not an obsession or possession. Someone who Ansley can call dad if she wants. We have a great life.

3 years ago, I had no clue what would be in our future. And man, has everything changed. She’s slowly forgetting. That makes me sad for her. He made the decision. One that changed his daughter’s life. We went through the sad stage and the anger and the misbehaving and everything else. I’ve heard her tell me horrible things out of anger and not understanding. She doesn’t know what actually happened. Just daddy was sick. And I still don’t know if that was the right call either. But I was left with all the responsibility of raising her. I get all the bad times, but I also get all the good times. I don’t have to miss anything. And honestly, I’m thankful for that.

Truth be told, I don’t know what kind of life I’d have it he hadn’t made that decision. And that’s horrible to think I’m actually better off because of it. But it does cross my mind and honestly makes me relieved that he did. Although I would never wish that to be part of my story and if I could change it I would. I would want my child to have her dad that’s all. I don’t want her growing up and having issues because of his decision. I’ll never understand leaving my child or choosing anything over her. She will always be first.

I’ve always worked. I’ve never put my life in someone else’s hands. I’ve always made sure I could take care of myself if I needed. And thank God I did. I beg anyone thinking of suicide to think about this picture. A little girl happy at a parade as her dad is in a morgue. Not knowing that her world is about to be flipped upside down. Think about the loved ones who will have to carry the burden of the choice you made. Think about the people who have to clean up the stuff you left behind. We have to continue. You took the easy way out. The selfish way. We didn’t get any say. We didn’t choose this. But we have to deal with it and fix it. There’s always something to live for. There’s always help. There’s always someone to talk to.

I don’t share this part of my life much in detail. I don’t think I ever actually thanked everyone who showed up for us. Everyone who helped in some way… Everything that anyone did meant everything to me during that time. It happened. And everything happens how it should. We don’t understand why, but I know God’s plans are greater than my own. And during the darkest times, know that there’s only light and great things to come. There just has to be. Knowing what I was going through 3 years ago today and seeing the life I have today proves that to me.”

Four children hugging on side of curb as they watch parade

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by V.B. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.

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