Steve Tarpinian, my soul mate of over 33 years, was a great athlete, an even better coach, a visionary entrepreneur and most importantly, a kind, compassionate, human being, who was loved by many and respected by all who knew him. He was perceived by many as “having it all”. Sadly, Steve took his own life on March 15, 2015.
This is a letter from a suicide survivor to the loved one that was lost. Only now, fourteen months after Steve has left us, am I able to write this and as I write it, the tears are flowing. And yes, there is still such a huge void in my life that even now I will still sob uncontrollably over the loss of my soul mate and my best buddy.
My hope is that for a reader who may be contemplating suicide, reading this letter will give them pause to re-consider and reach out for help. For a reader who may be a fellow suicide survivor, my hope is that you know you are not alone in what you may be going through.
By taking your own life, you have profoundly impacted the lives of those who loved you the most. I believe you would be devastated to know what has transpired since you left us. The death of a loved one does strange things to those left behind, suicide even more so. Sometimes it brings out the best in people and sometimes it brings out the worst. I have experienced both from others as well as from myself.
There are so many questions with no answers and so many assumptions are made. Now, it seems like you were a glue that held people together while you were alive. Once you were no longer here, these relationships fell apart and in some cases, even civility and respect no longer existed. Only time will tell if these previous relationships can be salvaged.
Towards the end of your time with us, you shared some negative things about people in your life that had changed my perception of them. Did you do the same and tell others negative things about me and our relationship that may have changed their perceptions of me? How else can I explain the bad feelings that prevailed after you died?
In the early months after you passed, I was very angry at you for leaving me to deal with the tortuous aftermath that I was faced with, some of which I believe may have been related to what you shared with others about our relationship, things that you never discussed with me. Now I realize that whatever you may have said to anyone, myself included, especially in the last few months of your life, were all said through a haze of mental illness, making these criticisms suspect. Your writings and emails I found from this time period showed so much circular thinking and contradictions.
For the last two years of your life, I know I was judged by others for things I may have done or said that upset you. Know that whatever I did was out of love and my intention was never to hurt you. Your loved ones, myself included, were trying to do what we thought was best for you. We tried doing the same things we always did over the years to help you through your depressions and anxieties. In the past, you seemed to always bounce back. However, these approaches were no longer working and you were spiraling down further and further to a point of no return. You yourself always loved to quote Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity; “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I realized for my own sanity, I needed to do things differently. Sadly, nothing seemed to help you in the end.
In your musings from earlier in 2015 that I found, you wrote that I would be better off without you, that I will move on with my life after you are gone. This is so far from the truth. I can never move on from the great life and love we shared for over 33 years; I can only move through life now.
I do want you to know that for the first time since you have been gone, I can finally say I am going to be okay, but I am forever changed. Changed for the better? For the worse? I don’t know, I only know that I am different now. There is such a hole in my heart that can never be filled. Still, to this day, before I go to sleep every night, I wistfully look at the empty half of the bed and the pillow we were going to share when we grew old together and I do the same when I wake up in the morning. Like an unrelenting “groundhog day”, reality sets in. It is not all a bad dream. You are really no longer here. As such, I try to hang on to all the good memories and times we shared together.
In the early days after you passed I was so traumatized and walked through life in a fog of tears. I tried to reconcile why you never wrote me a letter to say goodbye. You were such a prolific writer, having written me so many love letters and notes over the years and you were such a thoughtful, and kind person who would never intentionally hurt anyone. Now, it just makes me realize how much you must have been suffering and how much pain you were in at the end.
I do have one regret, although I will never know if my actions would have made a difference. That was not sitting you down and talking face to face about your first failed attempt at taking your own life in late 2014. Perhaps I was in such denial over the severity of what you were experiencing or I was like most of society that places such a stigma on mental illness and suicide and prefer to put our collective heads in the sand and just hope the mental illness will go away. Sadly, only now, since you are gone, I come to find out that one of the biggest risk factors for suicide is a previously failed attempt
I only wish you could have realized that as long as there is life, there is hope. It is such a tragedy you were hurting so much that you could not see this. Steve, you are still loved and missed so deeply by so many.
Love Always and Forever