I survived the first year after the suicide of my spouse. The statistics tell you that there is the highest likelihood of a “copycat” suicide within the first six months to a year after a suicide death, so you hit that one year mark still breathing and you think you’ve beaten the odds. Sadly, the reality is that the likelihood just drops. There is no parade, no pat on the back, no prize, no finish line and no miracle lifting of the pain you’ve just endured. Your race still goes on, your loneliness and grief are still there, you have to try to keep pushing through trying to hold onto the belief that at some point it just gets easier.
I’m in my second year without him. I still feel incomplete. I still struggle with being lonely but wanting to be left alone. The sleepless nights still come, the thoughts that he’s somehow still alive somewhere else in the world still invade the harsh reality and my brain still cannot accept his absence.
I want the handbook. I want to flip through to the section that tells me how to reclaim me, how to reclaim a life when the two things that gave this life any meaning have been ripped from me.
I lost my job and my livelihood to PTSD; in that I also lost the person I knew I was and struggled to find her purpose in this life. In the end I settled for being a wife/housekeeper, despite the hit my self-esteem took, I was determined to be the best damned domestic on the face of this earth. I was just starting to accept this new role when I lost my husband…but I didn’t just lose him, I lost him to suicide.
Trauma. Again. Not the same type but a trauma nonetheless. My entire deck of cards was once again tossed up in the air and scattered to the wind. I’m trying to pick up pieces but more are gone than I had to work with after the first hit.
The second year is not miraculously easier. This should be the disclaimer on any spousal suicide loss pamphlet. You just have to keep surviving.
An average day for me revolves around the dog – let him out, feed him, walk him, wonder why he’s still whining, get lost in the PTSD induced hell that is a mind wondering what I did wrong or what I missed and can I keep him alive. After all, I let my husband die…
I know the reality is that it was not my fault, I can say it and hear it from people repeatedly but such is survivors guilt – you and everyone else are to blame except the person who actually performed the suicide. There is no blame. There is no answer to be found. These are hollow words to a heart that thrives upon reason. To a brain that needs resolution.
Nope, the game I’m playing now is a survival game. The reason I’m doggedly taking myself out on marathon hikes? It’s easier to have something real to survive than it is to face and survive what is in your own head.
I need to stop moving. I need to stop running. I need to sit still in silence and get comfortable with my internal self again. I’ve lost touch with my internal state because it was too much for me to face.
The grief, the depth of loss after suicide it is so great that we often run from it, deny it and try to bury it. We think that if we smile, laugh and forge on pretending everything is fine, if we tell only good stories or avoid using their name, that somehow it will just skip over us. It doesn’t. It worms it’s way in deeper and infects our bodies, poisons our minds and keeps us stuck.
Last week I received an envelope in the mail for my husband from his workplace. It was addressed to him as though he were still alive. It’s not like they’re some big multinational company, he died 13 months ago, perhaps a little more compassion or empathy could have been employed, but regardless, it shook me to my core. Retraumatized. The intensity of the depression I’ve been struggling with since is frankly quite frightening. I tried to bury it before I realized what I was doing.
It must be faced. It has to be allowed to exist. It cannot be put off for another day.
I’m having a “nothing”day today. This means there will be nothing going on other than basic self care, no walks, no outings, no chores, no distraction. If the pain sees fit to pour from me today, I won’t stop it. Today is about dealing directly with my inner state and confronting the pain of my loss.
I will allow myself enough time as it takes, a day, a week, a month, a year or years. As in previous trauma, recovery is accomplished in the most minute of steps, at the pace of snails and only in gazing back at the years will we see the progress made.
So sets the stage for Year Two.