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Please stop telling boys to soldier up or that men don’t cry! They are just human!

By Claudia Carvalho

first time I smiled for real after james passed.jpg

I met James at the beginning of 2016, after 6 months together we decided to move in together!


We were made for each other… James was a tree surgeon and an abseiler. He loved heights! And he was super strong physically, always smiling… but behind that smile there were demons… demons that he tried to hide from everyone, especially from me… when I realised I begged him to talk with someone, to ask help, to talk with the GP, anyone that knew how to help him… the last time I talked with him, he told me I was right and that he would seek help… unfortunately on that same day, by the evening, he decided otherwise, and on the 9th of July 2020 I got the police knocking at our door giving me the worst news ever…


My life was changed forever after his decision to end his life… my life was changed forever without my consent…I lost 10 kg in one month, I couldn’t eat, I just cried and I couldn’t sleep either… I just couldn’t understand why… And the why’s are the worst, they are still present they will always be with me… I was so lost after he passed that way… we had plans, we were talking about making us legal, you know, having a piece of paper saying we were a couple? When that police officer knocked at our door and told me he was dead it was like I had died as well. I remember seeing myself from outside and nothing making any sense… how could he be dead? How could I be a widow? I am no age to be a widow! I have the age to have fun and good times with the love of my life, not the age to mourn my partner! It was like all my future had vanished in that moment… now all it was fog and uncertainty… I felt the most excruciating pain in my heart and I remember this strange sound coming out of me, a despair kind of grunt, that I didn’t recognise as being made by me at the moment… it was like my heart had broken with the shock… I never was the same person since that day… Actually, I died with him, the Claudia I was before died in that moment… The happy easy-going Claudia died with James… Like you mark history as before and after Christ, I mark my life as before and after James's passing.

I force myself to smile so people do not pity me, and because of the saying “fake it till you make it”… I remember the day I really smiled truly after James passed… I even have a photo of the moment… I was at work, a new job I was offered 4 days after he passed… Work was a big escape for me… it helped me to keep busy and not think in all the sadness I was in… I used to fall asleep crying and wake up crying…It was 3 years a few weekends ago, now I don’t cry every day…I learned how to live with the pain of missing him… After James passed, I realised I needed to regain control of everything in my life… I wasn’t going with the flow anymore and “qué será, será “ wasn’t my motto anymore! Now I cannot see a movie I never saw before without reading the plot of it… Yep, I like spoilers now! I realised that I got anxious if I didn’t know what would happen… the way to control it, in the case of movies or TV series is to go online and read the plot, with spoilers, before watching whatever movie or TV series… then I can enjoy it! I joined the gym and even got a personal trainer, I needed to control my body… I lost interest in reading unless I can get a good synopsis (meaning with all the spoilers)… I loved to read… I loved books, James made me promise I wouldn’t buy more books when we moved house because we packed 8 boxes with books!!!

And then, there were the more practical and mundane things, now I am alone paying all the bills, looking after our cat, little Kiko… I am alone when I get sick, I don’t have James to look after me and cuddle me… The dream of buying a house was postponed… we were talking about buying a house, we were saying for it… But again, now I am alone, and it is so much harder…

There is also the suicide stigma for those who stay… People thinking he did it because you weren’t happy, no, we were extremely happy… But you don’t want people thinking your relationship was bad, so you hide how he passed… I just started talking about it recently… Of course, people close to me knew, but not at the new job, or the new friends, I didn’t want to be looked at with pity and at the same time to have them thinking it was because of me or because I couldn’t make him happy… Also, I was raised as a Catholic, in a small village of Portugal. I went to Sunday School when I was kid, I was taught there that suicide was a mortal sin! Our souls would be lost forever if we did such a thing… Though I don’t believe in that anymore, and I believe that if God is our father, then He will never want us to suffer, that thought was ingrained deep in my mind…

I have been working a lot on my mental health since, I have had the support of a psychologist since the beginning, and of my lovely family and close friends. I am lucky I can afford a psychologist and have family and friends support, others in my situation aren’t as lucky… So many follow the steps of their loved one after such a loss… I won’t lie, I thought about that…But I couldn’t put my family and friends through this pain I know so well… I don’t think my parents would survive… I can see how painful it was for them to see me in pain for losing James, I couldn’t just put them through more pain…

I know James was mentally not ok, as I like to say, he was with cancer of the mind… I forgave him long ago because you do not blame someone who died of breast cancer, for example, why would you blame someone for his poor mental health?! For his cancer of the mind?! James could be here now, alive, if he had talked with someone and got help… but he was afraid of that, he thought that wasn’t manly of him, that if people found out would never trust him and give him work… This mental health stigma needs to end in male-dominated spaces and professions.


Is it okay not to be okay, and is it okay to talk and ask for help? Please stop telling boys to soldier up or that men don’t cry! They are just human!

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