Lived Through This

He Thought We’d Be ‘Better Off’

Two years ago, my husband of 18 years took his life. I’m still coming to terms with why.

Jennifer B. Calder
Human Parts
Published in
19 min readSep 28, 2020
Photo courtesy of the author.

My charming, brilliant, handsomely dimpled, fun-loving husband of 18 years and father of our three sons, ages 12, 13, and 16, killed himself on July 2, 2018.

He was 46.

Was it situational depression after nearly a year of unemployment following previous decades of professional ups and downs? Was it undiagnosed mental illness? Was it noble devotion? Sacrificial, as his letters suggested? Was it desperation?

Or was it, as our oldest son, Logan, said, “A lapse in judgment?”

Or, as our middle son, Grady, asked, “Did Dad love us too much?”

I think it was some combination of all of these.

How much is the life of a father of three boys and a husband worth? Is there a number that makes sacrificing oneself an acceptable, “viable” idea?

Of course not. It’s absurd.

But this is the scenario in which we find ourselves. Trying to make sense of the nonsensical.

On that terrible day, our family became part of a grim national statistic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2018, suicides not linked to a known mental condition comprised 54% of those who take their lives. Suicide rates, overall, are up 30% since 1999, with the highest increase and greatest number among those in middle age — a demographic my husband had just entered.

My husband now occupies a sliver of the pie you see on those impersonal fact sheets, the 16% who take their lives due to financial or job problems. We are now a family reduced to a mom and three sons desperately absent a husband and devoted father, trying to untangle this messy knot.

I watched my blue dot move closer to his on the Find My Friends app as I made my way through Watchung Reservation outside our hometown of Westfield, New Jersey.

His dot — the icon a tiny photo of him laughing, taken years ago on a “date night” — had been stationary for nearly an hour. I’d first activated the app around 3:45 p.m.



Jennifer B. Calder
Human Parts

Jennifer B. Calder is an award-winning longform profile and feature writer and lives in Westfield, NJ.