“On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, at 8:30 a.m., police officers knocked on my door to inform me that my husband was found at his former employer’s office and he had taken his own life. I knew the very moment I opened the door and saw the two police officers, my husband was no longer with us. When the police officer uttered the first few words, my instinct told me it was suicide. The very moment I screamed, ‘Why,’ I already knew why. At the very moment I noticed tears were not streaming down my face, I knew I was going into survival mode and our life as a family of six was over.
My role as mother and father began and weighed heavily on my shoulders with four young children. There was no time to cry. I needed to move forward into our new life as quickly and smoothly as possible. I needed to be the strongest version of myself in the weakest, earth-shattering moment of my entire existence. I learned letters were left behind for us, including one to his employer. I knew our 14 years together had subconsciously prepared me to find that strength for the sake of my children.
Iain and I met Christmas Eve of 2004. I was bartending at a bar that was considered to be an ‘in the biz’ bar. This meant we were open until the early hours of the morning so other bartenders and waitresses can enjoy their time off when they got off work at 4 a.m. Iain had walked in and ordered a few Coronas. After a few short conversations with me, the next thing I knew, he was gone and a phone number on a piece of paper was left in his place. Our love was a whirlwind romance. We moved in together 2 weeks after we met and got engaged 9 months after that. One year after our engagement, we were married on October 6, 2006.
In the time leading up to our wedding, Iain divulged a few deep dark secrets with me. Iain had battled with drug and alcohol use in the past, but that was not the worst of it. He also suffered from PTSD, as he was sexually assaulted at 6 years old by an elderly man in a group home his mom was helping to facilitate. He would tell me he would calm his demons through his art and I was the light that helped balance it out. I discovered a few of his demons on my own. I knew he had a short temper and I was just as much the hothead. Our arguments were very extreme, and our words were hurtful. Our arguments escalated after a few drinks. Even with his flaws, he had the biggest heart, a great sense of humor, and was a jokester. Iain always wanted to be happy and enjoy life. Nonetheless, I fell in love with this man, and love, in the beginning, is always great. I loved him for the good, the bad, and the ugly.
We decided to try for a family in 2007. I knew conceiving would be a struggle, as I was diagnosed with PCOS in my teenage years. Our marriage was going very well, and it seemed the demons he was battling were no longer with us. After a few failed attempts, we decided to try insemination with donor sperm, then opted for IVF, and when that didn’t work, we tried surrogacy. After a year of trying and spending close to $25,000 dollars, we were devastated and felt down on our luck. Shortly after we had our last failed attempt through surrogacy, I was laid off from work when the recession hit in 2008. Iain had to change jobs because his job at the time was no longer making money. Iain worked as a designer and project manager for kitchens, tile, and stone and I worked in construction. So naturally, our businesses were affected first by the recession. His drinking had increased, and our arguments became violent. His artwork was becoming dark. He had days where he sat on the couch and just drank, not saying a single word to me even as I tried to reach out to him.
By this time, I discovered his personality was split in two. Complete opposites of each other. There was the Iain I fell madly in love with and his alter ego, who I use to call James (his middle name) who I absolutely could not stand. A true Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. His demons were back when James came around.
In 2010, after we had gone to couples counseling for some time and the demons were at bay, we were introduced to the world of foster parenting. We so desperately wanted to become parents and figured that void would be filled even as a foster parent to a child. That time is one of the fondest memories I have of Iain. We were so very happy. He was so excited to become a foster dad. He put his talent with art to good use on our very first baby room: a Kung Fu Panda theme that was good for either a boy or a girl. He even made a few beautiful art pieces of me and the pets to hang in our home to show his love for us. We officially became foster parents in the fall of 2010 and had our first placement in December of that year, a newborn baby girl named Hannah. That image of him holding Hannah in our Kung Fu Panda room is one that still makes me smile to this day. Within our first year of becoming foster parents, we were placed with two beautiful girls, Hannah and Gia, who we hoped to adopt.
The foster agency warned us of two things. One, that reunification is the goal with foster parenting, and two, the first loss of a foster child is the worst. It was. After we lost Hannah, Iain began spiraling again. The drinking increased, his lack of energy or enthusiasm to do anything was evident. Losing Hannah to her aunt in Ohio took the biggest toll on him. We ended up separating for 6 months in 2012 while yet again seeking couples counseling at a church. I believe in God, whereas Iain had his doubts. I felt the church is where we needed to be but this time, I wanted to address the demons he had been battling. He agreed to finally open up to the counselor about his past. In 2013, as soon as progress was developing with Iain, he was then diagnosed with cancer. Iain knew he had to quit drinking. He decided to go to AA. He also had to do chemotherapy for 2 years.
By the end of 2016, we had fostered over 12 foster children and had finally achieved our forever family, two boys and two girls all under the age of 4 years old. Iain was happiest I had seen him in an exceptionally long time. He finally became a dad and he was at a job he absolutely loved. I found myself working as a legal assistant for a prestigious law firm, a field I had desired since my college graduation. Although we had a few hiccups and mishaps our family routine was as ‘normal’ as the next family. I thought the drinking was gone. Finally, the demons were gone, and our life could move on.
March of 2018, I was laid off from the firm due to the firm going in a different direction. We had decided I would stay at home with the kids to help with maintaining the home, homework, after school activities, and doctor’s appointments. Iain decided he would have to get a job that paid more with his salary than the job he was currently in. He was elated to do this, as he prided on himself being the head of the household and providing for his family. He finally felt he could succeed in this role, so he jumped on the opportunity. A month after I was laid off, he was offered a job at a construction company paying him exactly what we needed. He was so proud and excited to begin his new journey with this company. However, after a few months of him being on the job, I noticed he was acting erratically. He became short with the kids and me. He began to drink again, and it was getting steadily worse. I kept reaching out to him, but he shut me out.
One night, he came home extremely late and he was crying. Another night, he came home and threw all his artwork out, saying it shouldn’t be around the children. He kept saying over and over how much he just wanted to run his car into the wall. I had always known Iain to be extreme with his words. All I told him that night was I was there for him and the kids and I need him around. I knew the stress of the job was getting to him, but I was not aware of how toxic his work environment was until it was too late.
January of 2019, he was let go from the company. Iain finally disclosed to me the full ramifications of how he was being treated at his job by his boss. He claimed his boss never liked him and treated everyone poorly. Because he was so outspoken about his ideas, she wanted to fire him. This was the beginning of the end. I had never seen such darkness come over him. He had so much anger and hate in him. I was desperate to help him and find anything to make him feel better. My sister and her boss attempted to get him some labor work until he could find another job. I was trying to find another job but he demanded I stay home with the kids and assured me he would find something.
He discovered his boss denied him unemployment benefits. Monday morning February 18, 2019, at 6 a.m. was the last time I spoke to him. It was the last time I saw him. Our youngest daughter was ill and I slept with her on the couch in the living room because she was coughing and throwing up. He came downstairs, kissed all of us on the forehead, and said, ‘You slept downstairs.’ He sounded so sad and I explained it to him and promised him I would go back to our room that evening. I told him I loved him and saw him off the door, walking towards his car. I never got to sleep with him in our bed again.
The first 3 months after Iain died were a blur. All I kept asking myself was why he did that to us… especially to the kids? He loved those kids with everything he had in him. Two weeks after he took his own life was my youngest daughter’s birthday. I normally would have had something grand planned for her. That morning of her birthday, I dropped her off at school in my pajamas and ran to Walmart to grab whatever I could find, just to go back to the school and drop all of it off so she could celebrate with her friends and not at the house with just me and her siblings. I knew it was better for her but it killed me inside. The week after that was my brother’s wedding, only 3 weeks after Iain left us. Performing a hula as a gift to my brother and new sister-in-law that was planned months before Iain died, trying to smile yet crying all day, was all I could do and all the strength I had. This was our first event without Iain and it was so devastating for me. I was counting the days into our new life. The minutes felt like hours, the hours felt like days and the days felt like years. I thought the more days in between our new life and old life the better we would be. I was wrong.
Watching my children hysterically cry and miss their daddy was pure torture and hell on earth. I could not take the pain away for them… I would never wish that moment on my worst enemy. Having to remain strong and let them know we were going to be okay even though there were days I wanted to give up was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I could not bring myself to believe Iain was battling depression. I wanted to blame it all his boss. I was told at his memorial service from his former co-workers more details of the toxic environment he had to endure. I mean, after all, he wanted to make a statement to his employer by hanging himself on the side of the company building on the roof access they failed to lock properly and then on top of that, leave a letter for her explaining what she did. Why wouldn’t I want to blame her? As if that weren’t enough, I was informed by the detective on the case the company was fearful of me and they were watching me — as if I was the one who would cause any damage to them when, in fact, they were the ones who triggered his depression to the point that my kids became fatherless.
I was drinking to try and numb the pain, to try and deal with my new life, just to make it to the next day. One evening after going out to my friend’s show, heavily drinking and crying, I passed out on the couch and heard a voice tell me, ‘Get up.’ It sounded like Iain and at that moment, I had to change. As angry as I was at him, I still loved him and knew this is not what he would want me to do.
In my time of grief and close to insanity, I decided to become proactive and sought grief counseling for my children and myself. I kept telling myself something my late husband and I use to say to each other: Keep moving forward. I continued their afterschool activities of dance and gymnastics because I knew, as a former foster parent, normalcy is the key to a dramatic change in a child’s life. I took multiple Disney trips to escape, to forget the pain and try to heal.
I knew my kids now looked to me for security. However, I also knew I had to be honest with them about how I was feeling and what happened to their father. I allowed myself to cry when I needed to. I read books on moving on after suicide. I raged and was angry at Iain for a long time. I broke important memorabilia and sentimental items he bought me or shared together. Suicide was the greatest betrayal and the greatest damage he could have done to this family. I felt abandoned, betrayed, and damaged. I needed an outlet to express all that hatred I had building up inside. I shared his story on my YouTube channel to bring awareness to toxic work environments and mental illness. In that video, I shared the letter he wrote to his former employer so viewers would know the full ramifications of mental illness in the workplace. I decided to join a gym. I would physically exhaust myself hitting the punching bags and sparring with the coaches that all I had left was raw emotion and I just let it out. It wasn’t until recently I have let that anger go. I am starting to accept a form of peace within myself.
It has now been over a year and a half since I last saw my husband. In the midst of finding myself, my stride, and gaining confidence as a widow in my new life, I did manage to find love again. I thought I would never love again. Of course, it happened when I wasn’t even thinking about dating. I am now what the widows call in My Chapter 2 — in a happy, healthy relationship and newly engaged to an amazing man I had been friends with for a few years. A man who loves my children and me with his entire heart and soul. A man who I know my late husband would hand-pick for us in his place. I still consider myself a widow and a solo parent. I still have triggers and I battle with PTSD from my marriage to my late husband. I do seek counseling on a weekly basis in addition to taking antidepressants due to the trauma I experienced. I have strong abandonment issues and fears of going through the same experience all over again with my fiancé. I believe that is something that will never leave me.
I try to remember something my sister told me shortly after my husband passed. She told me she honestly believed I would love again because I believe in love. After everything I have been through, she was right. I’ll choose love over hate, bitterness, and anger any day. Love is what gave me the strength to pull through for my children and love is what brought me to where I am today.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by CiCi B. from Fort Lauderdale, FL. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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