On TV tonight I was watching a show where a woman was told that her husband had died. It was ten years ago that my husband took his life, but tonight, I was right there again – feeling the shock, the loss, the anguish. I sobbed as I felt us both absorb the words. Sigh. It happens. I won’t lie-I imagine it always will. Triggers or memories will always take us back and we relive it all over again. While we will always be transported to those dark places occasionally, at least we won’t live there all of the time, the way we did at the beginning.
After Jim took his life, and those first few blurry days … or was it weeks … had passed, I began reading, EVERYTHING I could, trying to understand, trying to unlock the why. I found a wonderful book: No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One (by Carla Fine), that resonated with me. It might not speak to everyone, but it did to me, and even after I finished reading it, I carried it in my briefcase or purse with me everywhere, for months! I didn’t let it out of reach. It sounds kind of silly now, but it was like a security blanket! Probably because it was the first thing I read that gave me hope, that helped me begin, just begin to understand that I would never actually unlock the why. The way it resonated helped me begin to heal. Now, it’s been ten years, and I would not kid anyone, I’m not healed, I don’t know if I ever will be. I am resolved though, I have survived, and I have been able to move on.
My sons have been able to move on too, though I doubt they would say that they are healed. They missed their dad when they graduated from college and he wasn’t there, and they missed their dad when they married and he wasn’t beside them. When they have children of their own, they will feel the loss yet again, still. Nobody would ever, ever want this for their children. They were 20 when their dad passed – and as I have stood at their graduations, and weddings–unbidden–this thought “Jimmy, you should be here for this – you’re missing the good stuff!” just kept rolling through my mind. This was when I felt a touch of that anger that everyone told me I should be feeling.
In the course of my journey towards healing, I have learned a few things. The first thing I learned was that you have to walk right through the deepest, darkest, most painful places to get to the other side. Shortcuts don’t work. Neither do detours or skirting the edges – you must go right through the middle. Embrace the pain, cry and keep moving. It’s ok to say out loud that he/she ‘broke our contract.’ They were supposed to be here, to share our lives, the good and the bad, but they ditched, and in abandoning us, they let us down. After a time, when you are ready, set aside a specific period of time daily, or weekly to grieve. Make yourself remember, let yourself cry, listen to that favorite song or read old letters and acknowledge how much it still hurts. When the time is up (15 or 30 minutes), put it away and do something else. There will be time tomorrow.
Your friends and acquaintances will re-arrange themselves. Some people you least expect will become true champions, and some friends you may never hear from again. This hurt, and was hard for me to learn and accept, but I expect it relates to the final ‘lesson’ that I will share. I’ve learned that most people simply don’t have the ‘tools’ in their ‘emotional toolboxes’ to know how to react to you. Give them a break and a little help. Accept what they offer whether it’s a casserole with an awkward “gotta go,” or an authentic coffee and shoulder to lean on. If they ask, tell them what you need. They truly don’t know and they’re afraid, they say, to do the wrong thing. Be gentle with them, and with yourself. This is a truly life-altering event in every imaginable way. You, my friends, have survived. Wishing you peace.