On Grief, Death and Madness

“The body’s delicate. The tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there.” – King Lear

My ex-husband passed away.  He passed away two days ago.  It was Monday and I had just returned home from Toronto.  The kids were at school and I had the day off work.  The weather network was issuing an advisory about strong winds and a torrential rain that would turn into snow.  I thought of calling my ex to see how he was doing, but I decided not to do so because I didn’t want to poke the bear…the bi-polar bear as my ex and I sadly used to say.  Later that day as the predicted tempest rattled my condo, my brother-in-law called and told me the news.

I felt absolutely gutted.

I am surprised, really, by how much sadness I have felt since.  I shouldn’t be this sad:  he’s my ex and I was half expecting this to happen.  I honestly didn’t think my ex would make it through this year.  I told my boyfriend that I didn’t think he would make it to Thanksgiving.  He didn’t.  He died in the middle of Rosh Hashana, the Feast of Trumpets, the holy day of atonement. But that doesn’t matter because my ex isn’t Jewish, he’s Catholic, the religion of forgiveness.  He didn’t commit suicide or overdose. He died “naturally”  – cardiac arrest.  However, I blame my ex’s inadequate care and management of his mental illness for the stopping of his heart.  And for this, I feel a crushing sense of guilt and regret.  Absolutely crushing.  I need forgiveness for not being a better friend and support person to him these past 8 months.

I don’t want to disparage the man or sensationalize his manic episodes, but it was my ex’s mental illness that made it impossible to stay married and later impossible to stay in contact. When he was ill he was like a raging, rabid dog: dangerous, hurtful and destructive.

I left him for my own sanity and for the financial and personal security of my children. He was not their biological father, but time and love blur lines and my boys called him dad and to my youngest, who was always sheltered from the mania and psychosis, this was the only dad he knew. This is what crushes me the most. I left the door open for my ex to keep in contact with the kids and I. And he did for a while. We stayed close because normalcy isn’t always the right way, and I cautiously trusted him up until 8 months ago when he told me that he didn’t need his medication anymore.

The past 8 months were hard on him. He lost a best friend to depression, then his father, and then his mother. He lost himself.

I wasn’t there for him during these times for a number of reasons. I was trying to distance myself from the caregiver role. It wasn’t appropriate for me as his ex-wife to continue to take on that responsibility and, to be fair, I had had enough. It was emotionally draining and I was trying to move on with my life.   I stayed away from his family and their grief because I enraged my ex when he was manic and I didn’t want to fuel that wildfire further. I had hoped that he would be hospitalized and come out of it, which he was and did. However, he quickly spiralled back up, twice.  I was hoping that when he crashed this fall as he predictably would, we would have  rational conversations again, that we would go for coffee and talk about our kids once in a while.  I was hoping for a lot of things, all of them based on him being well.

He texted me two weeks ago. He mentioned that he was feeling depressed and that he was still in the hospital. He talked about his daughter and his graddaughter. We talked about the football game. I thought about going up to visit him, but was uncertain because I didn’t want to invalidate the restraining order that was in place, just in case he went off his meds again.  Just in case I needed it, again.  Stupid.  I wish I would have gone. Life is too short to be scared of extending kindness.

I miss him, but I suppose I have missed him for a while.  I know that he was sick and I regret not showing him more kindness and understanding in the past few months. Underneath the grandiosity, the mania, the psychosis, there was self-loathing and fear and cries for help. I’m sorry, Rob.  Please forgive me.

And in his madness King Lear asked: “Wilt break my heart?” Yes, Yes it will. And mine too.