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Dead of a Broken Heart

Here’s our message: if you suffer, get help. You’re worth it.

There are too many unanswered questions from that night in early April, when my wife fell to her death. Did she slip? Did she jump? Did she plan her death? Did she have assistance?

Imagine not knowing exactly how your life partner died. Or your mother.

Yet, even in the face of missing facts and incomplete information, my daughters and I know the truth: the traumatic brain injury that claimed Ami’s life was not the real cause.  Ami died due to alcoholism and addiction, the behavior that put her at risk. She died suffering from post-trauma and major depression, the diseases that resulted in her self-medication with alcohol, then drugs. But what Ami truly died from is this: childhood abuse, the trauma that decades later resulted in her addictions.

Was it suicide? Probably. Would knowing the specifics of that night make a difference? No, not really, not in our understanding of what led to her death.

Ami’s official cause of death was listed as “under investigation.” Yet we know in our hearts that she wanted death. Ami previously attempted taking her own life many times. It was as if she was practicing, rehearsing her exit, trying different methods to see which would suit her best, trying to see if she had the courage to go through with suicide.

The sad truth is that for years Ami’s strategy for living was to exit her anguish and suffering. Exit from her emotions. Exit from her pain. Exit from her memories

I admit that I prefer the simpler story, the tidied up, factually correct, and woefully incomplete version that my daughters and I have told these last seven years: that Ami fell down a set of stairs, hit her head and died.  It cleans up all the messiness that my daughters and I witnessed. It wipes away the pain that Ami faced, as bravely as she could, with the tools that she had.

My wife died of a broken heart: major depression and post-trauma, compounded by alcoholism and drugs, as the result of childhood abuse. My daughters and I have guarded these facts zealously to protect her memory and her good name.

Yet we are challenged by our silence. Depression kills. Keeping depression hidden in the shadows is tantamount to aiding and abetting the disease. So we’ve decided to break our silence.

Here’s our message: if you suffer, get help. You’re worth it. The people around you need you.

Let’s not lose another wife or mother—husband, father, son, daughter—to these diseases. Alcoholism. Drug addiction. Post-trauma. Major depression. They are diseases. They are all treatable.

This is a prayer to be said by someone with depression. Word choices are shown in brackets. They are illustrative. Use words needed to help with your particular situation.


My Depression

I have fallen into blackness,
A hole,
A cave without light.
How deep is this pain?
This loneliness?
This suffering and isolation?

G-d of Old,
I call out to You
From the depths of confusion and fear.
What balm will ease my suffering?
What consolation will guide me?
I am afraid and ashamed.
I am sad and lost.

G-d of healing,
Be the light that guides me
Back to myself,
Back to my joy,
Back to my holiness and wonder.
Help me to stop committing acts of violence against myself
With [self-abuse][anger][shame][food][a blade][alcohol][drugs][sex].
I know Your healing power,
Your salvation and grace.
Lead me on a journey
Back to wholeness and to self-respect.
Help me to live a life of happiness and love.


© 2014 Alden Solovy and tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.


Here’s a link to a prayer to be said on behalf of a family member or friend facing mental illness. Both prayers appear in my book, Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing.

Alden Solovy is a Jewish poet, liturgist and teacher whose prayers have been used by people of all faiths around the world. The author of Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing, his nearly 600 new prayers appear in multiple anthologies, prayer books and websites. His work can be found at tobendlight.com.

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