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The hole you left behind: An open letter to anyone contemplating suicide. 

By Rebecca Shaw

Rebecca Shaw.jpeg

Hearing that my husband had died by suicide was like being stabbed, telling my children that their dad was dead was the worst moment of my life. 

I want to tell you a little bit about what my life has been like since my husband and father of our two children died by suicide three years ago.


It was September 2019 when I heard the words, ‘Dalton is dead’. My legs went from underneath me. The moment ‘the knife went in’, I was in the middle of running a conference until suddenly I was wailing on the floor, unable to comprehend anything.


A blur of events followed, including a visit from the police informing me that I would need to formally identify his body, make a statement and that an inquest would be opened, (standard procedure for anyone who dies of unnatural causes) and there would probably be media interest in the outcome. 

I couldn’t take it all in, I was supposed to be at work, what was I meant to tell my boss? The truth? I needed to pick the kids up from school, what  would I say to them, I had no words. I was in total shock, my mind was reeling as I began to process the realisation that our lives would never be the same again. 

That night I Googled ‘how to tell your children that their dad had died by suicide’ and the next day I spoke to someone from a charity from Winston’s Wish who talked me through exactly what I should say. A sympathetic adviser explained the process that usually follows, the boys should be given all of the information in a timely and appropriate way. Telling my children that their daddy had died and explaining that they would never see him again was the hardest thing I have ever done. Then, over time I had to gently introduce my then, five and eight-year-old children to the term ‘suicide’. 

Over the following weeks, my emotional stab wound was pouring with blood. I have very little memory of this period of my life. I can recall feeling so tired but scared to close my eyes because of the nightmares, he was there but I couldn’t reach him followed by a very real sensation of falling. Not knowing what day it was but the house smelled of flowers, so many flowers I didn’t have anywhere near enough vases. 

Decisions such as choosing a coffin, what he would wear to his funeral, and what details to include in the eulogy, needed to be made. Sorting out the bills in his name which was seemingly impossible without a death certificate, this would only be provided once the inquest had been concluded and this would take months so the administration and financial battles continued. I kept rereading his suicide note, searching for answers to why he made such a final decision on his own. 

Over three years have now passed and I still can’t believe that he is gone.  I cannot ‘accept’ his death, because he is still so present, (yet absent) in our lives. My life is now focused on providing my children with as many opportunities as they would have had before their dad died. I work hard to be a good role model but it’s more than that, there is an enormous amount of pressure for me to survive because the boys can’t lose me too. 

Every relationship I had has now changed, the person I am has changed, I feel alone in a world that nobody understands except for those who have been touched by suicide, even then circumstances vary so much that nobody really gets it. My faith in people has gone. How can I trust anyone knowing that suicide is always an option? 

The boys often ask me, if I had a wish what would I ask for, the answer is always the same, a Time Machine. I wish I could talk to Dalt and tell him how much he is needed in our world. 

If you think the world would be a better place without you in it then I implore you to reach out to someone and tell them how you are feeling.  In his final moments Dalton must have felt so alone but I wish he could have seen the amount of people at his funeral, the room was so full, people had to stand outside. Organisations such as; CALM and Samaritans are there to provide support and can make the difference between life and death.


Please help to end the silent suffering. 

If you need support, you can find help here. 

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