I openly discuss death, grief, PTSD, struggles with alcohol and other substances, self harm, suicidal tendencies and ideations, depression and anxiety.
Cop 2 came out and instructed Cop 1 to take me to Scott’s apartment. As we walked up the stairs I remember someone telling me they had trauma counselors on the way and thinking shit just got real.
I was trying so hard not to disassociate, I could feel my lucidity slipping. I wanted to let it go. I wanted the comfort of nothing and the urge was stronger than I’ve ever felt, but I had to stay there for Howard. I had to fight through the pain. I had to stay in limbo.
I sat on a couch in a living room that shared my floor plan. Howard was directly below me. I could hear my dogs barking in fear.
I could hear the engine of the fire truck.
I could hear people talking but couldn’t make out words.
I could hear footsteps in the breezeway.
My stomach would drop every time a front door opened. Mine or Scott’s.
A fireman walked into the apartment.
“Is that the wife?”
Fuck. He’s gone.
I knew it. I felt it. I didn’t feel him anymore. Please just don’t let it be.
He stood in front of me.
“He’s gone; I’m sorry.”
He said while fighting back tears of his own. His voice cracked; he looked away from me and walked out.
I looked at Scott who jumped down next to me and pulled me into him.
I scanned the room. For an out. I can’t feel this. I cannot handle this. I scanned my body for my knife that was usually on me, then looked for anything glass I could grab and run away from the crowd with. I looked at the window, I wanted to run and just jump out. 20 seconds and I wouldn’t feel it anymore, but I’m only on the second floor, and Cop 1 is a lot closer now because he noticed me scanning.
I let it hit me. I lost all control of my body.
I wailed. The grief wail.
Every mammal does it in their own way, but I never understood it until I felt that energy coming from inside of me. It was a release, the only one I had and everything came out. This sound is now my strongest trigger.
Eventually I started verbalizing, and I picked up my phone and called my mom.
“He’s dead. They called it. He’s gone.”
“We’re on our way; we are so close.”
I hung up.
I heard the door open, but I couldn’t even lift my head. My dad grabbed me as hard as he could.
“All of me just fucking hurts!”
I screamed over and over.
“I know, I know I am so sorry.”
My dad said through tears I’ve only seen enough times to count on fingers I wear rings on. The last time I saw them was after Howard put one of those rings on. Which made it so much worse.
I couldnd’t breathe. I had fought a panic attack this long, and I was determined to not to slip into one.
I pushed my dad off and paced around the room.
“His mom needs to know.”
This became an issue my family should never have had to face.
I could not make that phone call, and it should not be a phone call. She needs to be told in person with support ready. I was not allowed to leave the scene, so I could not do this.
They said they would take care of it.
Shortly after this, they said notifying next of kin was up to me because I was aware, and they didn’t want anyone else at the scene so I needed to wait, for how long, no one knew.
“She needs to know.”
My mom followed and was blocked by Cop 1.
I went to throw up again.
“I need to keep eyes on her Ma’am.”
“I’m her mother.”
I needed to hear those words. I need to hear I wasn’t totally alone in all of this. She held my hair. My mom normally can’t handle vomit, and she struggled through with me because I needed her.
I didn’t check the medicine cabinet or under the sink. I wanted to. I thought about it every time I was in the bathroom alone. I knew Cop 1 was right outside, I knew someone would hear it open, and I’ve been asked repeatedly not to turn the fan on. I couldn’t keep it down anyway. I’m puking pretty much constantly. My body is rejecting idea of everything right now and certainly isn’t going to cooperaterporate.
Eventually my dad stepped in. He asked her local PD to go with him, so there would be an officer in uniform when he knocked on her door in the middle of the night. That didn’t happen.
Ten months after hugging her at our wedding, my father notified Howard’s mother of his death. He heard her grief wail.
I will never truly know how hard that was for him, and I will never be able to show him enough gratitude for this sincere act of love for me and the man I loved. He took a big chunk of everlasting pain for me that night.
I returned and asked Cop 1 if I could call my sponsor. I explained I was an alcoholic in early sobriety and that this was clearly going to rattle that.
I sat on the floor of the bedroom against the wall. I tried to convey that in the few short hours since I had last spoken to my sponsor, when I just didn’t feel great and was going to bed early, my entire world had crumbled around me.
A male detective came into the room. Out of everyone that night I was most afraid to talk to him. He was older, so likely experienced. I expected worse from him than I got with Cop 2.
He was the kindest person I spoke to that night.
Sometime later a female coroner came in. She asked me a few questions, but said she knew I’d already told the story many times that night and didn’t push for an encore. I appreciated this.
She handed me Howard’s silicone wedding ring (the one he usually wore because of work) in a baggy.
I put it on my left thumb, close to my rings, and wore it for a long time. I’ve since replaced it with another of significance.
She told me they would be doing an autopsy; I knew this. I expected it. I knew it wasn’t my decision, it was hers, but her telling me, not asking me, rattled me.
She continued and asked if I wanted to see Howard again before they took him to the morgue. I asked if I didn’t tonight, would I have the opportunity to again?
“Then no. I don’t want to see anything. Not him. Not the gurney, not the body bag and not the van.”
My mom took the coroner’s business card from me and suggested we put everyone’s card in the baggy. The baggy his ring was in. I freaked out and snapped at my mom that I didn’t want to ever see that baggy again. She took it, and I never did.
I had to go in alone. I knew I had to and I didnt want to. I didn’t know how my dogs would react. 2 rescues, 2 more bonded to him than me, and 1 who’s a bit senile and aggressive. They know. They can smell it. But only I know them.
I went in and leashed them. I said I was so sorry, I loved them, they are still our kids, and I would make sure they would all be okay.
I sat on my couch with my anxious, leashed dogs, and waited for Howard’s mom and her husband to arrive.
I regret doing this. She wanted to come over. She wanted to see me. I wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. For the past several hours actually. I legitimately thought I was going to spend the night in jail alone with my thoughts. I needed to hide; from everyone and everything. I put her needs over mine, and my mental state took a hit for it.
I sat in the room in which we shared so much together- -love, struggle, life- -as I stared at the circle on the floor where Howard last was.
Surrounded by wrappers from IVs, the backs of leads and the shirt they cut off of him. The shirt I got him for his birthday last month.
Eventually my mother- in-law walked in. Fully dressed, with perfectly curled hair and full makeup.
She lived about 20 minutes from me, and I waited for what seemed like hours.
My parents lived 45 minutes from me and made it in 15 minutes, in pjs.
I told her I was so sorry, I told her I did everything I could, I really tried. I told her I had initially planned to call her when we got to the hospital, that just never happened.
I then stated I was taking all of the dogs. They were mine too, and they know me better. It’s better for them and frankly I’m not losing them tonight too.
I looked at my mom and said I can’t stay here, and I don’t think I should be alone tonight.
My mom replied telling me I was going with my parents, to the house I had sold them just days ago.
That was a really long car ride.
It was still snowing, the roads were covered, and visibility was bad. Silence and snow crunching under the tires.
My mom asked about my sobriety.
I knew she was doing so to access the situation. She had to. She needed to know how bad I was.
I am so grateful I was sober. Had I engaged in my drinking ritual that night I would’ve passed out in bed and never heard that sound. I would’ve found him stiff the next morning knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do. He would’ve died alone and Sweet Pea would’ve been locked in with him.
At least I got a chance to try and save him. My sobriety gave me that. That is what I think about when someone pushes me to do a shot after I make it clear I do not drink, or asks me if there is wine in my coffee cup when they know I’m sober.
As Howard would say, he left this world surrounded by deep chested blondes- -even if one was a golden retriever.
We pulled into the same drive driveway I had texted my now dead husband from just days before during a final walk through, and I began my journey into widowhood.