Home Posts My Partner Committed Suicide, And The Pandemic Played A Role In His Death.
My Partner Committed Suicide, And The Pandemic Played A Role In His Death.
Mental Health

My Partner Committed Suicide, And The Pandemic Played A Role In His Death.


“What is the nature of your emergency?”

“My boyfriend killed himself with a gun.”

It's 2:52 a.m. on Feb. 6, 2021, and I'm petting his thigh and holding his limp hand when three police cars arrive, no ambulance; he's my life.

“Where’s the gun?” It dawned on me that they weren’t going to try to save him, and they hadn’t even looked at his body. “Um, in the truck probably,” I replied. He was 31 years old, and we'd only been in love for 1,564 days.

In 2017, gun suicide accounted for 60% of all gun deaths, making it more common than mass shooters, homicides, or self-defense shootings combined, and the percentage is expected to remain roughly the same in 2020.

When a loved one commits suicide, it is common for mourners to blame others or themselves, and to struggle to understand “why they did it.” I don’t speculate on the “whys” or “hows”: We talked many times about why life was painful for him, and he didn’t believe anything would change to allow for healing. Brian’s death was the most painful thing I’ve ever felt, but it wasn’t shocking.

A mental health crisis existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in 590,000 deaths in the United States thus far, with 29% of those unemployed this spring having been unemployed for at least a year, but the mismanagement of a pandemic compounded stressors that led to many people dying by suicide.

I know what needs to change to prevent more suicides because Brian told me what he needed to try to save his life and feel better: living labor wages and affordable resources to heal his existing trauma, as well as hope for a better world.

Many people's situations deteriorated when the year 2020 arrived.

Brian, like many other Americans, had been abused as a child. Child development experts agree that any amount of physical "discipline" of children often results in cognitive, social, and emotional problems, and he had received more than just spankings.

His journals echoed the same stories, attributing the abuse to his adult experiences of self-loathing and uncontrollable trauma responses in his body and mind.

Brian found community and catharsis in punk music as a lyricist and frontman, as well as as a film photographer and meme-maker, after leaving his parents' homes at the age of 16.

He was 26 when we started dating, and he said he was the happiest he had ever been in his life. The feeling was mutual, and we became best friends, partners, and lovers. He was a friend to my daughter and her father; he was our family. I'd pour coffee in his mug, and he'd quietly doodle in black ink on hardbound notebooks at the kitchen table.

His body and brain were dysregulated, and his life was full of insomnia, nightmares, chronic pains, depression, and anxiety, as it was for many Americans with complex post-traumatic stress disorder from child abuse or wartime violence, domestic instability, or sexual assault.

Brian very specifically and regularly talked to me and his close friends about his untreated trauma history, his inability to find affordable, shame-free help and resources, and his fears about the future of the planet and human suffering on grand scales: pollution, increasing poverty due to inflation, and low livability from our first date on Oct. 26, 2016, until the morning before he died on Feb. 5, 2021.

Throughout our relationship, he told me why being alive hurt and why he was afraid of growing old in America.

By the age of 27, and at my urging, he had finally sought talk therapy, which he seemed to enjoy, until his therapist changed offices and raised his cost. Brian's jobs rarely provided insurance options, and he couldn't afford to pay for it himself. "I guess I'm done with therapy," he said.



Brian tried to self-soothe and get through each day with caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and energy drinks. When he died at 31, he'd suffered chronic pains from years of hard labor; I felt and saw the knots in his back and feet, as well as the twists in his spine, which he tried to manage with stretching, ibuprofen, and the massages I lovingly provided.

He awoke in pain every day and couldn't afford the physical therapy that would have been prescribed to him; he was afraid of getting older and his pain worsening; doctors usually prescribe addicting opiates instead of affordable physical therapy or holistic treatments; and he didn't want to become one of the millions of Americans addicted to pain pills.

Brian lost his bartending and kitchen manager jobs due to closures after COVID struck, and he was unable to qualify for unemployment due to bureaucratic loopholes.

Being poor had always been a source of stress and discomfort for him, but as the pandemic progressed, I saw my lover's mental and physical health deteriorate, and he spoke of being trapped in a capitalist dystopia.

More of our friends stayed in abusive or unsafe living situations because they couldn't afford to move. Others lost family and relatives to the virus. Other countries sent their at-risk citizens funding to survive and mandated cohesive mask and distancing policies; Americans like Brian received $1,800 in six months while elected leaders openly mocked hea.

Survival is stressful; his existing issues worsened, and new ones appeared; our libidos decreased; his insomnia and nightmares worsened; stomach issues, digestion, and keeping food down were difficult, and we both lost weight on our thin frames.

His most recent dated journal entry read, "Eleven months of under-employment, everything lost, nothing gained." Jan. 31, 2021. When he died, he owed $18,000 in college debt and had a few hundred dollars in his checking account.

If hourly wages had increased with inflation, minimum wage workers today would earn $24 an hour and could afford things like food, medicine, and transportation; however, wages did not increase, which is why more Americans are living on the streets each year, or dying from unmet medical needs.

“I need money,” he'd say. “I can't afford to go to the doctor or the dentist. I can't afford to fix my truck. I can't afford therapy or insurance. I can't afford to do any of my hobbies.”

The morning before he died, he told me again that these things would never change: “This pandemic will go on another year, openings and closures, just watch.” Aging appears bleak when you're young and have been told "these are the best years of your life," only to find out that they've been hellish.

We shared a house and I tried to help when he let me. “You have enough to worry about,” he'd say. Like many abused depressed people, he felt like a burden and felt guilty for expressing his emotional pain.

“How was your last day together like?” people have asked. It was very normal; I had no idea he would die that day, and I don't believe he did either.

“Good morning, handsome,” I said as I brought him coffee, as I had done every morning before.



“Good morning, lovely,” he replied, sniffing as a result of allergies.

Brian did dishes and vacuumed, changed a fluorescent bulb, worried about news articles, and asked if I wanted to watch a movie on the couch after we both finished work in the evening, but instead we went to a pandemic-pod friend's house on a whim and shot shots of whiskey for two hours.

Anyone who has worked in bars or grown up with alcoholics knows that heavy drinking can lead to emotional people who cannot be reasoned with.

And on this night, at this time, Brian became paranoid that I was mad at him, that his friends were mad at him; I'd seen this before and assumed it was a result of his low self-esteem as a result of his upbringing.

I told him to sleep it off, that nobody was mad at him, that I loved him, and that we'd talk in the morning, that everything would be fine, but he was slurring his words and repeating himself, and I realized he was the most drunk I'd ever seen him.

When we got home, I remember him patiently and quietly waiting behind me in the garage as I unzipped my boots and kicked them aside. I went to the kitchen and heated up leftover macaroni while I heard him rummaging through our bedroom drawer, which I now believe he was looking for the gun he'd purchased two months prior "for self-defense."

He ambled out the front door, where I assumed he was smoking, at 2:49 a.m., and called the friend we'd been with, asking if anyone was mad at him.

“I love you, man. Everything is fine. See you tomorrow,” he assured him.

But it didn't matter because he hung up, sat in his truck, smoked a cigarette, and shot himself in the left temple at 2:51 a.m.

I heard the shot from the kitchen, ran out to the driveway, and heard him gasping his last breaths, and the 911 operator must have overheard me telling him that he was a good man, that I loved him, that I was sorry, that help was on the way, and that I wasn't mad at him.

I understand the decorum of the cops who processed the scene better now that I've learned that suicide-by-gun is the most common type of gun-related death; I stood in my yard as close to his body as they would allow me for two hours while they photographed, measured, and collected evidence.

“Wow, I've never seen a bullet do that before!” “Are those hops growing in your yard?” I shivered, dry-heaved, and cried softly, trying not to absorb the sounds of chuckling and small talk among the cops, as if it were just another suicide at 3 a.m. or a barbecue.

Two officers offered to call Brian's next of kin and notify them of his death so that I wouldn't have to; I gave them my phone number, their names, and the towns where his parents lived.



“I’ll try to get to it before my shift ends at 6:30,” one said, but they didn’t call, and when I hadn’t heard from his blood relatives by the next afternoon, I picked up my phone and told his mother myself.

Brian, like most chronically depressed people, did not want to die, and he had no idea how his death would traumatize his loved ones: me, my daughter, his friends and coworkers who cared about him; he wanted to get better, but lacked the tools and social support.

After he died, I discovered vintage rings he'd been hiding. "He wanted to marry you so badly," his friends said. He wanted to start playing music again, as well as bartending and photography. We were going to fill his truck bed with plastic bags and make a pool in the summer. He'd repainted his skateboard that week.

Suicides will continue on a massive scale until there is direct action to heal people, help us survive, and fund our rehabilitation. Brian despised it when people offered "thoughts and prayers" to death and destruction: he was a fan of direct action.

Individually and collectively, we must advocate for realistic living wages as well as affordable and accessible trauma-management tools. Trauma researchers know that different types of therapies work for different people: eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy and sensorimotor therapy are recommended for war veterans and survivors of childhood and domestic abuse when medication has failed.

Poverty has been demonized as laziness or a moral failing, and some men are told that suffering in silence is “strength,” until they explode on others or themselves.

Our government could afford to pay advocates to call their patients and remind them to take their medications, stretch, cry, eat, and get some fresh air.

Our government could afford to pay advocates to call their patients and remind them to take their medications, stretch, cry, eat, and get some fresh air..When the pandemic began 15 months ago, our government could have distributed personal protective equipment to low-income housing and high-risk areas.

Our government could afford to pay advocates to call their patients and remind them to take their medications, stretch, cry, eat, and get some fresh air..When the pandemic began 15 months ago, our government could have distributed personal protective equipment to low-income housing and high-risk areas..Our government could fund public service announcements on television and social media, as well as advertising therapy and mediation services in every city.

Our government could afford to pay advocates to call their patients and remind them to take their medications, stretch, cry, eat, and get some fresh air..When the pandemic began 15 months ago, our government could have distributed personal protective equipment to low-income housing and high-risk areas..Our government could fund public service announcements on television and social media, as well as advertising therapy and mediation services in every city..Our police departments could afford to reinvest in their communities if their budgets were more generous.

Our government could afford to pay advocates to call their patients and remind them to take their medications, stretch, cry, eat, and get some fresh air..When the pandemic began 15 months ago, our government could have distributed personal protective equipment to low-income housing and high-risk areas..Our government could fund public service announcements on television and social media, as well as advertising therapy and mediation services in every city..Our police departments could afford to reinvest in their communities if their budgets were more generous..Our government could afford to train social workers to break down generational cycles of violence in the home and to teach accountability to people who are reenacting violence that was normalized to them as children.

Our government could afford to pay advocates to call their patients and remind them to take their medications, stretch, cry, eat, and get some fresh air..When the pandemic began 15 months ago, our government could have distributed personal protective equipment to low-income housing and high-risk areas..Our government could fund public service announcements on television and social media, as well as advertising therapy and mediation services in every city..Our police departments could afford to reinvest in their communities if their budgets were more generous..Our government could afford to train social workers to break down generational cycles of violence in the home and to teach accountability to people who are reenacting violence that was normalized to them as children..

These are still things that our society is capable of.

I couldn't save Brian because he couldn't love himself the way we loved him, and structural and social support were out of reach for either of us; it's too late for him, but it's not too late for everyone else.

Do you have a compelling personal story that you'd like to see published on Stardia? Find out what we're looking for here, and then send us a pitch!

If you or someone you know needs assistance, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. If you live outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a resource database.

0 Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published, Required fields are marked with *.