Widow shares impact of suicide
September 15, 2011
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- One Fort Carson Family knows firsthand the heartache and pain that accompanies a suicide.
Sheila Olden has battled with the aftermath of her husband's suicide. Sgt. 1st Class Brad Olden took his own life Feb. 1, 2010, just after arriving to the Mountain Post and left a slew of unanswered questions behind.
Brad Olden was a seasoned noncommissioned officer with 19 years of service, two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and on the brink of retirement -- so what happened for him to turn to suicide?
"Slowly and silently it built up over the years and came to a head," Sheila Olden said.
She recalls some of the signs that indicated a problem, but said, at the time, they were hard to notice because she wasn't sure what behavior to watch for.
"In retrospect, I can go back and see mood changes and mood swings. He was not sleeping at night; having anxiety issues and he wasn't putting things into perspective," she said.
Her husband didn't know how to ask to help and bore the burden of his feelings.
"He had a little bit of that mentality -- you are of rank, you've been in the military long enough, deal with it," Sheila Olden said.
Without any notice, Brad Olden left early on a Saturday morning and went to a local sporting goods store to buy a gun and ammunition. After days of worry and searching, his family found him dead in his truck. He drove to Gold Camp Road, an old scenic dirt road that cuts through the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain from Colorado Springs to Victor, where he shot himself.
No note was left behind to explain why.
"The not knowing is excruciatingly painful. The grief and the pain of it never goes away, it just feels better some days," Sheila Olden said.
During the past 18 months, activities such as hiking, reading and staying involved in the local suicide support group, Heartbeat, helps Sheila Olden in her healing process.
"In the beginning I was coping, now I'm healing," she said. "The difference in coping is trying to place it in your mind -- we live with unanswered questions regularly, and until I accept that this is going to be an unanswered question, that's coping. When you start to accept it, that's healing.
"And I think it's a lifelong process."
Sheila Olden tells this story in hopes to pass on a message to others who are contemplating suicide or who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to suicide.
"If anyone is sitting at home in the anguish of a suicide happening -- they are not alone. And to anyone who is thinking about it -- let them know there is nothing wrong with them. Just like cancer, it can be helped," she said.
Sheila Olden emphasizes reaching out to people and support groups for help and encourages everyone who notices someone is struggling to ask the difficult questions and not brush it off.
"The best thing to do is just ask that hard question: 'Are you thinking about committing suicide?'"