This is an anonymous story, as told by Suzette Sherman. Our “Opening Our Hearts” stories are based on people’s real-life experiences with loss. By sharing these experiences publicly, we hope to help our readers feel less alone in their experience of grief and, ultimately, to aid them in their healing processes. In this post, we tell the story of a man who lost his girlfriend, Denise, to a freak accident.
In retrospect it was an odd part of my life. I was growing up and I didn’t know it at the time. I was in my mid twenties and had been in two relationships living with women. I was working at a law office and partying a lot. It was the early 80’s. It was like that back then.
Denise and I had barely dated 3 months. It was casual dating. She was from a different world and I didn’t fully realize it back then. She had been married to two millionaires, so she had never worked before. She belonged to the Junior League. I didn’t even know what that was. She had spent her time with her last husband sailing around in a yacht and scuba diving. She had told me one day he had rigged her tank to run out of air, but she made it back up for air in time. She told me he was trying to kill her, so she divorced him. That was an early sign of her emotional instability.
“She jumped out of the car. She hit the ground wrong and tumbled. She died immediately on impact.”
One day at my apartment, Denise swallowed almost a bottle of pills from my medicine cabinet. I took her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. Later I picked her up and drove her home. While driving I told her “I don’t think we should date anymore.” I was nearing the end of a street to turn right and the car was in first gear going slowly when she suddenly kicked the door handle of my Alfa Romeo open with her foot and said, “Have a nice life.” She jumped out of the car. She hit the ground wrong and tumbled. She died immediately on impact. I ran and gave her mouth-to-mouth and then ran to a house knocking on the door to call for the authorities. It all seemed surreal. It was crazy.
The next day her roommate Donald called me to let me know “you probably feel guilty about it”. He wanted me to know it was not my fault. He explained he did not think she meant to kill herself. He had known her a very long time. I was surprised he called, as he was a rich Southerner and had always been a condescending smartass to me. I was simply a pawn in her game. It gave me a need to talk about it.
My best friend Paul in San Diego called me right after and sent me a ticket to fly down and spend 2 weeks with him. “I don’t think you should be alone right now,” he said. I was lucky I just happened to be working for a law office that represented the police and they helped me out. There was no mention of her suicide in the media. After all, I was black and she was white and it could have been front-page news given it was the 80′s.
“I felt guilty for a long time.”
I didn’t know her, so how was I to know the reactions she was having were out of the ordinary? Afterwards there was all these “how comes?” How come she did it? How come she did it to me? How come I did not see it coming? I felt guilty for a long time. In hindsight she was frustrated with her life and was having to work for the first time after a lifetime of privilege. She was selfish. When you do something like that you’re selfish. She hurt her mother, sister and family. They are here to suffer. When your life gets hard, you should reach out to the people you care about, not slap them in the face like this.
“A lot of people I know have died, and because of that I’m able to talk to people about death now.”
Life is like some movie I saw years ago. I think it was an Indiana Jones movie where the father said “In life the older you get the more life takes from you and the less it gives you.” A lot of people I know have died, and because of that I’m able to talk to people about death now.