Content Warning: This article discusses suicide and suicidal ideation. If you are struggling please reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Five years after Chris Cornell’s death, his widow Vicky is still struggling to come to terms with what happened that night.

Speaking with SiriusXM’s Gayle King on her talk show, Gayle King in the House last week, Vicky said her husband’s decision to take his own life was completely unexpected, likening the tragedy to a tsunami.

“This was like a tsunami,” she told King. “This was nothing. This was not on the radar. This was not like ‘Oh, we have to deal with this’ in any sort of way.”

Cornell was found in his Detroit hotel room on May 18th 2017, with ‘suicide by hanging’ declared as the official cause of death. Vicky has always maintained that her late husband had never had suicidal ideation before.

“Chris did not suffer suicidal ideation, and Chris was not even depressed. Chris was in recovery, and he had been on benzos [benzodiazepine],” she told King. “But again, looking back, nothing even at that very moment felt like – it was impossible. It came from nowhere.”

The original toxicology report found several different prescription drugs in his system, and there were three prescription bottles – prednisone (anti-inflammatory), omeprazole (antacid) and lorazepam (anti-anxiety) – found in his hotel room. But their influence was dismissed as a potential contributor to Chris Cornell’s suicide at the time.

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Vicky still believes the drugs must have had an effect on her late husband, and she recalled their phone conversation after Soundgarden’s performance at Detroit Fox Theatre earlier that night.

“I do know the cause, because I was on the phone with Chris. And he was in some sort of delirium the same night. He called me after the show, and I could just hear he wasn’t right,” she said. “He sounded like he was high, and he was confused, his speech was slurred and there was just something that was extremely off and evidently off. And then just, I don’t know, thirty minutes later that was it.”

Vicky and the couple’s two children, Lily and Toni, settled a malpractice lawsuit with the Soundgard/Audioslave singer’s doctor last year after accusing him of “negligently and repeatedly” prescribing dangerous medication.

Daughter Toni has previously tackled the stigma around addiction, but Vicky now wants to help dispel the stigma around the subject of suicide. “There’s a taboo about it,” she said. “I think that our loved ones, especially when it comes to suicide, it can’t just be ‘Oh, they died by suicide. They look their own life.’ Okay, but why? What happened? How can we prevent it?”

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