Navigating Dual Grief – Dezarae’s Story
Dezarae: [00:00:00] I definitely wish more people would talk about what it’s like to be left with that. Mark on you cuz I’m not only the widow, I’m the widow by suicide.
Carling: Welcome to the, I did not Sign Up for this podcast, a weekly show dedicated to highlighting the incredible stories of everyday people. No topic is off limits. Join me as we explore the lives and experiences of guests through thought-provoking, unscripted conversations. I’m your host Carling, a Canadian queer identifying 30 something year old, providing a platform for the stories that need to be heard Hello, Desiree.
Dezarae: Hi. How are you
Carling: I’m good. How are you?
Dezarae: doing? Good.
Carling: Good. We just off air discovered that you’re so much farther away from me than I thought by a whole day’s drive.
Dezarae: I’m in the middle of nowhere, that’s for
Carling: Yeah, it really is it really is really high up there, . It is so nice to meet you.
Carling: Awesome. I would love to jump right in. Can you introduce yourself? Tell me who you are, where are you from, what you [00:01:00] do, and then we’ll get into your.
Dezarae: My name is Desiree. I am from high level Alberta, so way at the top of Alberta. I work in accounting and it’s been interesting and my story is that I’m a. Widow of suicide. And that’s been a really complicated process.
Carling: Yeah. When did your husband pass away?
Dezarae: November of 2020 and he’s not my legit husband, I guess you would say.
Carling: Do you prefer partner or,
Dezarae: I usually choose spouse
Carling: Oh yeah. There are so many like names now we can give. Wow. So November, 2020.
And so maybe can you introduce us to your spouse? Who was he? Where was he from? How’d you meet?
Dezarae: so his name was Neil we actually met here through online dating. But it was funny cuz like we only had one person in common. they never ever would’ve thought of us together.
So when we started being coupled, they’re like, I guess we could [00:02:00] introduced you guys, but we just never, ever thought that it would be thing.
Carling: had to go the online dating route. You could have just introduced us.
Dezarae: and ironically, he had messaged me pretty much a year prior, but I thought he was somebody else. Like I thought he was somebody that I knew and I was like,
Dezarae: No, I would never date that first.
Carling: Oh my God. That’s really funny.
Dezarae: So it was a little bit of a delay in our love story for sure. And then we met at the dog park in person. And he messaged me just before, like I had said, Hey, I’m at the dog park if you wanna come meet. And he’s like, so I have to let you know right now that I. Two kids that I have shared custody of and they’re with me, but if you’re okay with that, we’ll come meet you. And I was like, yeah, I’m fine with that.
so then him and the two kids came and met me and my dog,
Carling: Wow. That’s amazing. And how old were his kids when you met?
Dezarae: Three and eight.
Carling: Oh, they’re just [00:03:00] little,
Dezarae: Yeah, they were
Dezarae: little we moved in with each other two weeks later.
Carling: Did you just know? You were like, this is my person?
Dezarae: Yeah, we were just like, okay, this seems like a thing. We originally had no intentions of being like, serious or anything like that. Cuz I had my house up for sale. I was moving back to Calgary.
And then, yeah, two weeks later we started living together.
Carling: That’s amazing. Is it because your house sold?
Dezarae: No, it just happened so the weeks we had the kids, we’d live at his house cuz he did have a rental. And then the weeks we didn’t have the kids. We’d live at my house for the entire week.
Carling: And so what kind of person was he? What kind of drew you to him and made you fall in love with him?
Dezarae: He was a class clown for sure, he was a millwright so he was very like tinkery and had to do all of. All the projects and all the things , so he’d send me pictures of what he was doing at work all the time and I’m like, I have no idea what that [00:04:00] is. And he’s like, that’s okay.
So then he’d sit like he’d went supper time or whatever, and he’s explaining his day. It was nothing for him to draw diagrams of what he was doing. I had worked from home for 10 years and then when he met me, I was still working from home and he is like, you know, so-and-so, and I’m like, no.
He’s like, do you leave your house? I was like, yeah, I leave my house, but I stick with the people I know and that’s about it. I didn’t even know what our mayor looked like in person or anything like that.
Carling: How small is high level?
Dezarae: I don’t even.
Carling: ish? Is it like under 2000 people?
Dezarae: I’ll Google it cuz we have a lot of different there’s lots of surrounding communities.
The town serves a trading area, so like with everybody included about 20,000 people, but the town itself is like 4,000.
Carling: Okay. Yeah, that’s like a, yeah, that’s pretty small.
Dezarae: We don’t have a set of lights. We only have a few stop signs and a few yield signs, especially like working from home and working. My [00:05:00] people I worked with were in Rainbow Lake, which is an even tin town just east of, or west of high level. And so I just never knew people in town.
So then he always bring me to like his functions and or his friend’s house, and he’d be like, this is my girlfriend. And they’d be, Oh, did you just move here? And I’m like, I grew up here. I’m just not social.
Carling: Yeah, that’s fair.
Dezarae: So he was the social butterfly. He definitely, it was good that we were both like project E people.
we did all the projects in the yard and all the things and so we always were busy.
Carling: And I can’t remember if you said, how long ago did you meet him?
Dezarae: We met in 2018,
not long, but like you said, fast,
Dezarae: everything was very fast.
Carling: Yeah. I think sometimes when you know, you just know.
Carling: Like when it’s right. It’s just right.
Dezarae: And that’s why like when I sold my house, I bought a different house and then we just moved everybody into it.
Carling: Wow. Were you a big part of the kids’ lives? Like pretty much right from the get-go.[00:06:00]
Dezarae: Yeah, like I put them to bed, did their bath time, did stories, taken them to school, everything like that. He was like, it’s all or none. There’s no in between. This is my life. If you wanna be in it, this is what it is.
Dezarae: was like, yeah, I’m fine with that.
Carling: And how was he as a dad?
Dezarae: An amazing dad he was just an amazing dad. , his kids were first as a family unit, we always had discussions of What are we gonna do with the kids? Like the kids were the first part of anything we were planning in our lives.
it was like, how is this gonna affect the kids? What is the best way to do this with the kids? We were a family unit. There was another like, oh, this is a Coupy thing and this is a, it was like, okay, we’re a family and this is how we need to do our lives.
Dezarae: So it was
Carling: And was there a pretty decent co-parenting relationship with their other parent?
Dezarae: No, that was That’s always been a bad thing. we made a verbal agreement. This is just to set the scene. We made a [00:07:00] verbal agreement with her. could take the kids to the kids’ Christmas party for his company, and we would take the kids a day or too early for her so she could go on her trip to Mexico or out of city.
Neil ended up staying home that day because he was sick and I guess she I know she had texted him and called him. And he ignored it cuz like she doesn’t need to know why I’m home. So when we went to go get the kids that night because he hadn’t answered her messages and that was disrespectful.
She called the cops on us.
Carling: like for what?
Dezarae: She called the cops on us. I don’t know what she said that we were doing, but there was four cop vehicles there. and it was like, we’re just trying to pick up our kids to go to the Christmas party. And they’re like, but she has, and she was waving the parenting order and she’s he doesn’t have access to them till Sundays, so he can’t have them.
And so the cops were, As much as your kids are crying to come with you
[00:08:00] you really want your kids to come with you we can’t let you take them because you’ll probably end up in jail and we’re like, okay. we just gave up because the cops were like, there, there’s no re there. We can’t force anything.
So that was like my first drastic event with her and there’s many more. So it was never, the co-parenting was never a good thing,
Carling: Yeah. It’s hard. It’s like you, you think when people have kids together, you hope that even if things don’t work out, it takes a lot of work from both parties to have, I think, a good co-parenting relationship.
Dezarae: Yeah, we’d always end up with , the first two days of having them back was always an adjustment.
It was never a smooth transition. It was always an adjustment. And then we’d finally get them back to the way they normally were with us, and then they’d have to go back.
And we deal with that trauma process every week.
Carling: Oh, that’s so [00:09:00] hard.
So Neil died by suicide, where did the downward part start for him with his mental health and some of the struggles he had?
Dezarae: So we had been dealing with court with her to get the divorce finalized for three years. And we had a lawyer who wasn’t at this point, like in hindsight, we should have fired her way earlier than we did. So then we met with other lawyers. started looking around and shopping for other lawyers and when we met the lawyer that we chose to go with, how he had said things and pretty much told us like everything your other lawyer has said is not gonna happen where you thought you were okay and it wasn’t risked. , she’s wrong. So then it became a lot of struggling with learning that we were screwed either way. , we weren’t gonna get out of this in a good situation
Carling: Was it [00:10:00] mostly for the divorce or was it more custody
Dezarae: Custody wise, cuz she wanted to up and uproot the kids and move to drum heller
And thought that she was pushing for full custody so she could do that. And we said we’ll quit our jobs and go work at McDonald’s before we ever give up 50 50 custody.
But with our process and how we were dealing with all the court stuff she was getting away with, shit she was getting. Things that no normal human should get away with. so we had that reality check with the lawyer and we were gonna end up in bankruptcy have to deal with not losing our kids cuz we would’ve moved, we would’ve moved and worked at McDonald’s. But that like having to. Break down our entire situation just because the courts would favor her.
Real, really got to him. And the idea of having bankruptcy it just destroyed him mentally. And I knew he was [00:11:00] struggling cuz we were both struggling with that whole situation. But when I asked questions about it, he’d never go further.
then she was fighting us on a divorce because if she couldn’t be happy, she wasn’t gonna let us be happy. And they kept telling us let’s deal with the divorce, the custody thing first, and deal with the divorce later. And to make her happy. The first lawyer said we’re not gonna push for Desiree to be on the parenting stuff or anything like that because we know it’s just gonna piss her off.
So I wasn’t on any of the paperwork, even though it was us in court and we had a meeting with social services here cuz we had to take her to social services and she had such a fit that I was in the room, that the social worker asked me to leave the room just so that they could actually start the meeting.
Carling: Oh God, and you were so involved in their lives.
Dezarae: oh yeah. So I sat out in the hall because she wouldn’t calm down either way.[00:12:00]
Dezarae: so it got complicated, And he just couldn’t see an end where we would be free of her. and his thing he always said was, we’ve got this many years till 18. And I think it just got to him he just couldn’t, he didn’t see us being able to ever have a positive interaction with her.
Dezarae: And for 14 more years of it I don’t think, he thought we could survive 14 more years of her
Carling: Did he have a history of depression or mental health issues?
Dezarae: He never had said that he did, but when he, when I talked to his mom after, it was more of a, we thought it would happen sooner, kind of thing.
Dezarae: So it was a little hard
Dezarae: cuz he had never been like that the entire time we had been.
I guess there had been at some point in his teenage years that it had been a concern before.
This is hard.
Carling: Yeah. I’m so [00:13:00] sorry there’s nothing to be said to, to make it Okay.
Dezarae: Oh no. Just putting that awareness out and having people willing to talk about it. Cuz it is one of those, oh, he died by that. Oh, let’s not talk about, it’s not like when you’re like, oh, he died by cancer. Oh, okay. There’s really good research out in it. It’s never that.
Carling: yeah. We need to strip away the shame and secrecy around it because, you know it, it’s never gonna get better for people and we’re never gonna get, Better as a society if we don’t talk about it.
Dezarae: Yeah, and that’s how I feel about it too.
Carling: Yeah. Can you talk a little bit and give like any detail or not that you want, about what happened the day that he died
Dezarae: yeah, so I’m in EMDR therapy cuz my mind has literally blocked out a lot of that. But I did come home , I had found him and my friend was with me and she called 9 1 1. the only thing I remember is that the cops dragging me. [00:14:00] From him and then , my dad and mom came and they shoved me in the vehicle and took me away to their house, and at that time I wasn’t on good terms with my family.
I’m still really not on good terms with my family, and they pretty much trapped me at their house for two weeks.
Carling: Was their intention to protect you or.
Dezarae: I don’t know. Their intentions definitely came across skewed. I think it was a protection thing, but at the same point, like I. The day after my mom was watching a soap where they in soaps when they die and come back and die and come back, it’s a thing in soaps. She’s watching that and come watch the soap with me.
And I’m like, no.
Carling: Yeah, read the room.
Dezarae: Yeah. And my dad definitely took the, I can’t believe he’s so selfish roots. So like it wasn’t a good scenario to.
Carling: And had you talked to him that day? Like why were
Dezarae: yeah I just had, I went and handed [00:15:00] candy out at my friend’s house because for Halloween, because we don’t get trick or changes where we’re at.
And I was just coming home.
Dezarae: coming and so I didn’t know what I was coming home to. That’s for sure.
Carling: Yeah. Like you weren’t expecting it obviously.
Dezarae: No. And uh, doing c P R and stuff like that was hard.
Dezarae: and then I had to renew my first aid, maybe within the first four months.
Carling: Oh, wow.
Dezarae: Yeah. So that was a little bit,
Carling: trauma and trigger. Yeah,
Dezarae: That was a little bit hard, was doing the first aid course.
was a small class, so I told, like the instructor knew, so he was like, you just need to leave, just, it’s okay. So, It is interesting. It’s, it’s It’s funny where trauma’s stored in your body.
Carling: Yeah. And have you found the EMDR helpful? I’ve heard amazing things about it.
Dezarae: Yeah, I’ve been in it for two years now, or over a year now. And I find it very helpful. I use it more for [00:16:00] my childhood trauma stuff,
Because we had to s because everything’s connected, we had to start at the. And work our way through.
So it’s been a long process, but it’s so helpful. And all my widow pages, if somebody says something about that, I’m like, emdr, a hundred percent I said, and if the first couple don’t feel. Tell them to try something else.
Because the EMDR pretty much what saved my life.
Carling: Wow. You said you were at your family’s house for two weeks, so did you plan the funeral? Did you, and what was it like going back home?
Dezarae: It was a little bit complicated with the funeral because his parents. Were in the states when it happened, so that, and it was covid times, so they still had to get home. And his ex-wife was forcing herself in there.
So there’s four different sets of government rules that you have to listen to.
And because they [00:17:00] hadn’t been separated for more than six years, she was able to get the death certificates rewritten with her as the next of kin.
Carling: That’s awful. Why would she want that? Just as like a power play.
Dezarae: Yep. because she did that, my in-laws couldn’t even pick up his ashes without written consent from her. But she wasn’t gonna drive to Edmonton and get them cuz that is too inconvenient.
so she made that a living hell. she was convinced that she should talk at the funeral. And my father-in-law was like, no, not happening.
Up until the day of the funeral, she was convinced that she needed to be involved on talking at the funeral. , and all of us were like no, not happening. So it was a lot of trying to keep her happy cuz she could stonewall everything. So it ended up being very stress.
And it was three weeks after because my in-laws had to get back in the country [00:18:00] and then do their quarantine and all that. and then like his parents had to drive up from Calgary. that, ironically, his funeral is the last day I actually seen the kids.
Carling: Oh, so they were at the funeral.
Dezarae: Yeah, but that was literally the last time I seen this, seen our kids.
Carling: And was there like you have no legal rights to them, even though you had been in their life for two years as an integral part of
Dezarae: Yeah, because I was not any of the paperwork.
Carling: Did you try to communicate with their mom?
Dezarae: It got to the point where she just kept attacking me. So my father-in-law stepped in and said, if you need any information from Desiree, you come to me. So he stepped in and he made sure that he was the in between us I was sending them cards and presents in the mail for their things that we always celebrated.
And then soon as court was over, cuz court was a long process everything [00:19:00] cut returned to sender,
Carling: So she wasn’t even giving them to the kids.
Dezarae: no. So I’ve stopped sending things in the. But I still do it. I just put it to the side and wait for the day that I actually can talk to them without their mother being involved.
Carling: How old are they? Both today.
Dezarae: Seven and 13
Carling: Wow. And that’s such a heartbreaking, like the kids have already suffered such a trauma by losing a parent, and then the secondary trauma of now losing access to the other adult that was
so involved in their
Dezarae: Like I always say, they didn’t just lose one parent that day. They lost two.
Dezarae: And I deal with it like where I’m grieving someone who’s not actually dead
they’re probably dealing with the same thing where they’re grieving this loss and this person’s not dead, right?
So it’s its own weird scenario
Carling: And do they still live in town, like within the area?
Dezarae: Yeah. Yeah. They still live in [00:20:00] town, I’ve run into them once. I don’t try to run into her, so I like am very conscious of who’s in the parking lot, who’s where when I go into a store, cuz. I just don’t wanna deal with that scenario for the longest time, she was stalking my house and stuff like that. So
Carling: What was like, why?
Dezarae: To see if I had moved anything while court was being dealt with and stuff like that. Her first question out of her mouth was whose name’s on the, on our house.
Carling: Oh, like she wanted something.
Dezarae: Oh, yeah. Her going through court, she was suing me for every cent of the estate and everything. it was complicated.
Court took a long
Carling: death is already complicated. To add in that layer feels impossible.
Dezarae: Yeah, so court’s done with now. I feel a little bit more comfortable talking about it,
Carling: so it’s been two and a half [00:21:00] years. And what does healing look like for you? You’re doing emdr, how do you move on from that?
Dezarae: The one thing that we always say in the widow groups and stuff like that is move forward instead of moving on. But the person I am today is very different from the person I was before he died. It’s not better or worse or what? It’s just very different. And so I’ve gotten more involved in community. So I’m the vice president of our Humane Society here.
Carling: Oh, amazing. Is that how you ended up with two kittens?
Dezarae: Yeah and I usually have one or two fosters here as well, but because my kittens were recovering from surgery I haven’t taken any fosters quite yet again. And then so I’ve got that and then I’m on a couple other boards in the town , so that I could force myself to leave my house kind. Because I definitely became more of a shut in. And [00:22:00] so I do a lot of community involvement stuff now, and I got really sick. So I’ve been dealing with some health problems, but I’m on the mend with that, I ended up on bedrest all summer.
Carling: Oh God, that’s the worst in the summer.
Dezarae: Yeah. From June till. Mid-November, I was on bedrest,
Dezarae: so I missed all of summer. I missed my gardening and everything,
but I’m definitely, my house is more messy, a little bit more chaotic. He was more of the meticulous dishes have to be done right after supper Some of that’s gotten worse than I was before I met him. But I’m slowly getting there with lowering the amount of chaos that I ensue in my life. And because it was a death by suicide. I didn’t really have Like through our friends and that I have dissipated when he died because they were families.
he [00:23:00] was friends with the dad. I was friends with the mom. Our kids are the same age. I don’t know if it was because they didn’t wanna have to explain to the kids what, I didn’t have the kids,
But I found a lot of them dissipated. Are just not available anymore. So I found an online widow community.
That’s how I found you was through, when you were on widow. We do now. I was like, oh my God, they’re in Alberta.
Carling: Yeah. That’s such a great podcast. For anybody but for the widow community, they do some phenomenal work.
Dezarae: Yeah, so I found my online community, so it’s been great. And then a small group of us just started some peer support. So we created a new Facebook page and we do weekly peer run zoom
Carling: Amazing. Yeah.
Dezarae: There was some ladies that did it before, but they passed the baton, a few new, they’re further out than us, but we’re further out than fresh widows, so we’re taking it on now as a resource for other widows in the community.
Carling: What an [00:24:00] amazing service or act of love. You can, connect with people who have similar experiences because I imagine it’s a really lonely place.
Dezarae: Oh, yes it is. And then when you put that specific stuff on it, it can be extra lonely so we’ve created a space that’s good for everybody and anyone that needs it.
Carling: that’s amazing. And like we said at the beginning, I think the more that we talk about these really hard things, the less in the shadows it feels. And more people maybe, hopefully will feel comfortable talking about it. And even if they haven’t experienced it, having conversations with their friends that have. Is there anything you wish people would have said to you or would say to you is there anything you wish more people talked about or knew about?
Dezarae: I definitely wish more people would talk about what it’s like to be left with that. Mark on you cuz I’m not only the widow, I’m the [00:25:00] widow by suicide. It was his choice, but it wasn’t mine.
Dezarae: bad as that sounds, so why are you putting that on me? And I wish people wouldn’t say, how did he do it?
Dezarae: You obviously dot need to know.
Dezarae: and I definitely have pushed for, there’s a program called. Heads up guys or guys something. It’s, I think it’s Canadian, but it’s all about guys in mental health and it gives resources for men specifically in regards to that.
So I’ve definitely been pushing for like that because it is, there’s such a societal. Structure of a man cannot show weakness
Dezarae: Mental health is mental health, and so I’ve been definitely trying to be more of an advocate for that and just trying to be more involved in everything.
Carling: That’s amazing. I’m so thankful that you felt comfortable reaching out and sharing your story and Neil’s story because we [00:26:00] don’t talk about it enough.
Dezarae: It’s not one of those things that people want to talk about per se. Because there is a lot of judgment that comes along with it. He was your spouse. How did you not know he was your spouse? What did you do? And you’re just like, where are these coming from?
Carling: Yeah. Like where did people get these notions?
Dezarae: It’s like, oh, your husband died from cancer. What did you do to give him cancer?
Carling: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Dezarae: What did you feed him? but it sounds ridiculous when you talk about it from another death perspective
Carling: yeah. Thank you so much. I
know these conversations aren’t easy, and I appreciate when somebody’s open to being vulnerable and talking about it. I can’t say it enough.
Dezarae: Oh, for sure. I greatly appreciate the time and the space
Carling: And now you’ve got two ninja kittens that you’ve gotta
Carling: Yeah. Wrangle up.
Dezarae: with my other cat and my two dogs.
Carling: Oh my God.
Dezarae: I’ve definitely went the animal route in healing.
I’m gonna make sure all the [00:27:00] animals that can’t talk for themselves are taken care of.
Carling: no, that’s perfect. Like what a great cause to pour effort into. That’s beautiful.
Dezarae: Yes, for sure. I greatly appreciate your time.
Carling: Oh, thank you so much and I hope you have a good rest of your day.
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