I am a social worker and my husband was a minister of religion. When we got married, we were ready for the usual end to the fairy tale: “and they lived happily ever after”. We promised to support each other in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Nothing prepared us for the “in sickness” of Andre’s journey with depression that lasted for 35 years of the 37 years that we were married. On the 30th of May 2020 Andre reached his limits and ended his life.
While I hold a qualification in social work from the University of Stellenbosch (1982), and have had training in areas such as transactional analysis, self development, marriage counselling and enrichment, trauma counselling, and emotional logic, my most significant training came from walking alongside and deeply sharing in my husband’s walk with depression, as well as that of his mother and our eldest daughter.
I worked as a social worker in two psychiatric hospitals and two prisons. My calling is to practice the trading floor of Isaiah 61:1-3 “He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. To comfort all who mourn. To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” I supported my husband in building his NGO HospiVision that renders pastoral care and counselling to patients, their families and staff at 13 government hospitals. I have been immersed in the pain as well as the hope, the effects of sickness as well as finding ways to conquer it. After living 35 years with the threat of suicide, I have now come full circle in living through that experience. I am willing to learn how to comfort those who mourn by learning from my own journey with grief.
Any illness or trauma provides a mirror that reflects where we need to adjust our lifestyle or coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, we have become masters at ignoring our emotions and minimising our losses – the death of a dream can be as traumatic as the death of a person. I dreamed of growing old with Andre. That dream has died with him.