DEAR ABBY: I am a widow with four children. My mother passed away in March 2004, and 11 months later I found my husband dead in our bathroom after he had shot himself in the head. Needless to say, my world has turned upside down. I think I am managing pretty well, and I thank God every day for my children. I don't know what I'd do without them. However, I miss my husband more and more every day.
I do not know how I am going to handle all this. I don't know what I will tell my 3- and 4-year-olds one day when they ask me how their daddy died. I also can't picture myself loving another man, or being loved by one.
Am I destined to be a lonely widow? How can I tell my children the truth without destroying their lives? -- MOURNING IN ARIZONA
DEAR MOURNING: I hope you realize that all of the emotions you are experiencing right now are NORMAL. You have suffered two tremendous losses in a short period of time, so it's not surprising that you are feeling the loss deeply.
When your children are old enough to begin asking questions about their father, explain to them that although their daddy loved them very much, he was sick and he suffered from an illness -- depression -- and that one day he took his own life. As they grow older, they may need this information, because depression can run in families. They also need to understand that there is treatment for it. You do not have to give your children all the details at once, and it may be better that you don't.
As for being "destined to be a lonely widow," nothing could be further from the truth. But you will first have to deal with your own feelings about what happened. A source of support that might be helpful would be the American Association of Suicidology, which has hundreds of associated groups. It can provide you with referrals to local self-help groups for survivors. Newsletters, pamphlets, etc., are also available for a fee. The organization's address is 5221 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20015, and the Web site is www.suicidology.org.
Being a survivor of suicide can be isolating, but it doesn't have to be inevitable. By writing to me, you have already taken the first step in reaching out. I wish you happiness in the future.