I held a funeral for my husband, but I was the only one there.

It was 2012, and I watched as he walked past me in the kitchen. A shell of his former self. No light in his eyes. Emotionally gone. I accepted that mental illness had won. I knew he would never come back. So I held a funeral in my mind.

You see, just like so many others do, I believed in the lies. The lies that told me there was no hope. The lies that told me not to accept help, to hide, and to deal with all that mental illness gave to us on our own. Behind closed doors. Shhh. Keep it secret.

But it didn’t work. And I had to hold a funeral for my husband. My husband who was physically still there. Heart beating. Healthy body. I learned how to live without him…that I didn’t need him. Oh how I still wanted him. But he was not the man I had married. Mental illness had taken him from me.

Till death do us part, right?

I had prayed to God over and over. I had prayed that He would heal Jeremy. All the while, I continued to live in complete silence about our reality. And God wasn’t answering my prayers. Where was He? Why had He given this to my husband?

That day, I gave up on the life I had wanted. I watched that shell of a man he once was walk past me and I changed my prayer. I changed my attitude. I would be OK. I didn’t need my husband. I could still do everything I always wanted to do, be everything I wanted to be. But I would do it on my own.

I prayed that God would take him . . . that my husband would just finally be successful in his suicide attempts. I screamed and cried and grieved and slammed my fists on our shared bathroom counter. But he had been gone long before I held this funeral.

I sound horrible; I get that. And I don’t judge you for judging me. It’s devastating today to hear myself talk about the reality of my prayers at that time in my life. But it’s the truth. And I lived in the dark and in silence for too long. No more. So this is me. Take it or leave it.

I took my vows seriously. I knew Jeremy was physically still there. The thought of physically leaving him never entered my mind. In my mind, I was a widow. I still loved who he once was. But I truly believed he was gone and would never come back. I had to have a funeral to move on . . . to be there for our kids. They didn’t have their dad anymore – not their real dad. They had mental illness.

But from time to time, I would see light in my husband’s eyes. I held on to that hope as tightly as I could. And that hope is why I never wanted to leave. But I had to hold the funeral. I had to free myself of the life I was living. So I pictured the life that I would lead from that point forward. I would be a single mother. I would raise our boys . . . never EVER letting them believe the lies in our society. I would never let them believe their dad chose this life. I would never let them believe their dad was the one who had done this.

They needed to understand how to separate the mental illness from the person. This was Depression . . . not dad.

I understood. I was angry. Oh so angry. But I had to keep going. So I held a funeral for my husband. Now, he brings me flowers.

God changed my prayer after I gave up the control. I tell our boys He “one-upped” us. Boy, did He. Jeremy is now two-and-a-half years free of suicidal thoughts. My husband learned to accept help. He learned how to fight. He tells his story to anyone who will listen. He talks to his counselor, psychiatrist, and pastor. He turns to his support system when he realizes the dark thoughts are on the verge of breaking through. He takes his medications and thanks God even for the hard times. Jeremy says, “If I can help just one person understand they’re not alone . . . that it can get better, then it’s worth it.” It’s not the power of the curse . . . it’s the power you give the curse.

He’s the strongest person I know. And now, he brings me flowers.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Bailey Koch

Bailey Koch is an advocate for those who can't easily advocate for themselves in every way. Married to her hottie hubby, whom has survived 5+ suicide attempts, and mom to two teenage boys, the oldest with High Functioning Autism and youngest with Epilepsy, Bailey is passionate about mental health and parenting through the messy realities. Additionally, Bailey is a Doctor of Special Education and works as an instructor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney preparing future special educators to be advocates for the learning of all. Bailey and her husband, Jeremy, have written and published two books. "Never Alone: A Husband and Wife's Journey with Depression and Faith" details their struggles with severe depression and the journey toward understanding their purpose, accepting help, and finding faith. "When the House Feels Sad: Helping You Understand Depression" is written for families, at a child's level, to open up a conversation about the reality of Depression. Follow their journey, the triumphs and the challenges, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/anchoringhopeformentalhealth and Instagram at @anchoringhopeformentalhealth.

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