Catherine Bach had the perfect life. And then, the unthinkable happened. On April 30, 2010, her beloved husband of 20 years, entertainment lawyer Peter Lopez, committed suicide, and life, as she knew it, changed forever.
Bach, who played the sexy, sassy Daisy Duke on the CBS action adventure TV show The Dukes of Hazzard from 1979 to 1985, spends her time these days portraying Chelsea's mother, Anita Lawson, on The Young and the Restless as well as overseeing her Catherine Bach Signature Line of jewelry and participating in Dukes Fan Fairs where she signs autographs for thousands of fans with fellow castmates John Schneider, Tom Wopat, Rick Hurst, Sonny Shroyer, James Best and Ben Jones -- and, most importantly, she takes great care of her precious teenage daughters, Laura and Sophia.
Bach has not spoken of her husband's suicide in depth until now. She graciously sat down with The Huffington Post to talk about the heart-breaking circumstances that took place before and after the day Lopez took his own life, leaving her with more questions than answers three years later. She has a therapeutic message for those who have had to deal with suicide or the sudden death of a loved one.
Thank you for talking with us about your husband's suicide. Suicide is such a very delicate subject. I'm sure you will help a lot of people by sharing your story because it affects so many lives. I read that Peter took his life on April 30, 2010 so walk us through that day. What happened?
Let me preface this suicide by saying that every suicide is different and unique in its own way because every person is unique in their own way. You never know where it's coming from or how it's going to manifest... or how somebody could actually do that. My oldest daughter and I read so many books right after my husband died trying to figure out why, why, why would this happen? He didn't take drugs, he rarely drank, we were financially stable so... why? I'm actually going to go take a course on suicide because now I'm at a point where I want to understand it better. I've read a lot of research about it, some research coming out of Harvard. It was just in the New York Times Magazine Sunday supplement talking about unexplained suicides could be traced to childhood abuse. So that sort of made some sense to me about my husband. I think he had a great deal of abuse when he was a child that he never really got over. So that sort of put something to bed in me. That made me a little bit calmer so that I could understand how somebody so successful, so smart, so popular, so untouched by addiction could possibly have this happen.
The day that it happened with Peter was a day like any other day. We were really busy. I was getting ready to shoot a commercial in two weeks -- an endorsement that I was doing. I also had my line of denim jeans and t-shirts that I was getting ready to launch so I was super, super busy. But our breakfast time was more like a dinnertime with other families because Peter worked crazy hours. He would go to work all day and he would go to studios at night to visit the different artists and the people that were making music and doing things... or movie sets, whatever he had going on. He would come home, maybe do homework with the girls and then run out again. So breakfast was our time where I'd make a big breakfast and we'd sit and talk about everything and have a lot of fun, even though it was hectic.
This particular morning, I was making breakfast, and I was racing around the kitchen like a crazy woman and he came and stood behind me at the stove, and he said, "Hey, aren't you forgetting something?" And I said, "No, I think I've got everything in line here." And he said, "Honey, you're forgetting something." And I said, "Oh my gosh, yes I am." So I dropped everything and I turned around and I went into his arms and wrapped myself around him and I gave him a big kiss, and we looked at each other in the eyes and I said, "I love you." We did that every single day that we were together if he wasn't traveling or out of town. We did that from the day we got married because we thought that was a powerful affirmation of our feelings and what was important. Right after I said I love you, I said, "Honey, can you drive the kids to school today because I'm never going to make my meetings." So, he said, "Sure, I'll drive them." And then as I was looking at him -- you know how you look at somebody that you love so much? He always looked good to me. He always looked good, period. I was watching his back as he left, and he kind of shrugged his shoulders and turned half way around.
And he wanted to say something to me but everything was so hectic so I assume he made the decision not to tell me and he kept walking down the hallway. I think he wanted to say something to me then, [but] we didn't have time to say. The girls went off with him, and when they got out of the car, he said, "Bye, I love you." They said, "Bye, dad," and that was it. We never saw him again.
You didn't see any signs of depression prior to that day?
I saw anxiety but a lot of people that have big careers, which he certainly had, have anxiety when they're making a big deal. He represented Michael Jackson, and you know how crazy that was. He's the man responsible for putting the "This Is It" tour together. He brought AEG into the picture which I'm sure now he wishes he didn't. So I think that he felt very responsible for what happened to Michael. And I think that that gave him a lot of grief. He had a lot of clients that he was making big deals for and I think that there was a certain anxiety that came about with that.
Did he shoot himself?
Yes, yes he did...
Did he come home from taking the girls to school?
Yes, but I didn't know where he was. I was calling for him after I got home because Fridays were our day to be together, hang out and maybe go for lunch before he went to the office. He'd go to the office around noon or 1 or 2 o'clock on Fridays.
So he was at home when he shot himself?
Yeah, we have a couple of acres at home behind gates. He walked to the top of the property, and that's where he was.
Did you hear the gunshot?
I heard the gunshot. I went running up the hill to see what the hell happened and then something in me said, "Hey, turn around, you have two children, you can't be going in the middle of any kind of violent situation. You're responsible for two little girls, what are you doing? You can take your life in your hands now."
Who found your husband?
One of the ladies that works at our home, I think. We called 911 and the police came over immediately. They swarmed our house.
What could have triggered your husband to shoot himself in your mind?
I think that there was pressure on my husband that caused him to do that. I think a lot of things that were going on in his life, and problems that were overwhelming to him.
How devastated were you?
We were so devastated. When you are part of a happy family unit, you lose part of that... I mean, we were completely insulated and happy with our family. Peter and I really knew what was important in life and I think we instilled that in our daughters. Their dad was everything to them, and that will always be a loss no matter what happens in our lives, no matter how great it is. It is always going to be bittersweet because our little circle of light and family was everything to us.
So how did you tell your daughters? They were so young, 11 and 14. That must have been the hardest conversation you ever had to have.
You know my house was overrun with reporters and the coroner's office and all sorts of people so I actually went down to some friends' home. It was actually their 20th wedding anniversary, and they had a big cake there, I'll never forget it. [Laura and Sophia's] nanny, who has continued to stay with us -- who was their nanny when they were little -- went to get them at school.
I was waiting for them at [my] friends' house. They thought the nanny was crying because maybe something had happened to one of their friends. I drove their dad's car over to [my friends'] home, so they said, "Oh, good, dad's here. Mom must be here too." When I told them [about] their dad, they... you can imagine what happened.
They must have fallen apart.
We all fell apart. I didn't fall apart [completely]. I didn't have that luxury of falling apart because I had to stay strong.
How did you deal with depression that first year?
It's sad. (Bach begins to tear up.) I'll tell you something. I was in a state of shock for a year. So that kind of helps with the pain, but you have to be careful because you're walking around in shock. Things aren't the same. Nothing's the same. (Pause) I wouldn't sleep for weeks at a time, maybe a couple of hours. And then, all of a sudden I would be picking up my daughters -- maybe from a party or something -- I'd realize that the engine would be going, I'd be waiting for them and I would be like a baby. You know when a baby gets in the car and they go to sleep. I would not be able to keep my eyes open. Things like that would happen. I'd forget to breathe. I would gasp for air sometimes.
And you have to carry the load because you have your two daughters.
The person that wants to keep their family intact, that's just a natural response. You have no other choice but to be strong. If your loved ones are strong and good... I realize that these girls are my legacy, they are Peter's legacy. They are a testament to our love and what we thought of family, and there's no way that I could ever slack off on that and just think about myself.
How long before your life was back to normal or is it ever back to normal?
Here's what happens. The first year it's all about just getting through the year. I had a lot of things happen that were surprising. The law firm is still open because of certain people wanting to settle situations in their favor so I'm dealing with that right now. I really feel like I should talk about all this in book form because I think people need to know how to protect themselves in a situation where you have a sudden death because none of us ever expect it. And I was the most prepared person. I like to think that Peter and I were the most prepared people ever because we took our responsibilities as parents so seriously and we wanted to make sure in case something would happen that we were all going to be okay.
How are your daughters, Laura and Sophia, doing now?
I think the girls are good. We've stayed very, very close to our priest. In fact, in the beginning year, he came over to dinner at least once a week to once a month. We stayed really on top of that. Oh my gosh, our friends surrounded us with love and wouldn't let me fall. It was like being in a pack. They just wouldn't let me fall. My friend Alma (Ben "Cooter" Jones' wife) came out here once a month for a year.
It's such a blessing to have close friends.
Yes! They went through so much with me. And [as time goes on], you're more awake. You hurt more. It's like having a bad accident. The first part, you're in shock, and then you have to do some very hard work on yourself to go on because you don't feel like moving after you've been in a situation like this. You don't feel like doing anything.
I worked for CBS for years doing Dukes of Hazzard, and they called immediately, saying, "If there's anything you need, we want to help you." That's the kind of people they were. They all knew Peter. Then this last year, they said, "Hey, what about going back to work?" And I did it. I just sort of said alright, let's go have a meeting and we created this character (Anita Lawson on The Young and the Restless) and it has been so much fun. It's a challenge. It's like getting back up and going.
You know, I've done three films this last year too. This wasn't my plan at all. Peter and I had plans and I was just following along with that; I thought my career was not behind me, but not the first thing I was thinking about because we both realized that one big career in a family is enough. The other person has to take care of the kids and keep the home fires burning, and that was sort of my position. I enjoyed every single minute of watching my girls walk, run and go to school.
What's your message to people who have had to deal with a sudden death?
I have to say that there's just certain things that people have to pay attention to and that's pray a lot, go to church a lot, get therapy, be with your friends, read about it and really, really take care of yourself. [For] people who have a friend who this happens to, I would just say, with any loss, it doesn't have to be suicide, just be there as a shoulder for that person to lean on. I can't tell you how many of my friends and my busy friends -- everybody's busy with their lives -- would drop everything when I called or were here bringing me something to eat or whatever, coming by. It's the most important thing.
What would you advise people to say or not to say to someone who has had to deal with a suicide in the family?
I think that you can say anything because I think that people understand that [their friends] are trying to connect with you and are trying to make you feel better or let you know that they love you just [by] being there. So I don't think there is a wrong thing to say. I think just the fact that somebody shows up and is there for you, means everything.
I also went to a grief group. People lost their husbands or their children to cancer or loved ones to heart attacks, to all sorts of things, but suicide is so overwhelming because people just don't do this! Not when they're part of a happy family. And I also think people should realize when they have children and they have a family, you don't belong to yourself anymore. You belong to that family unit, and you're not allowed to do this. You can't do this. You don't have that option anymore. It's just not right.
Follow Catherine Bach on Twitter: www.twitter.com/_CatherineBach
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Follow Pat Gallagher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@pat_gallagher