With Independence Day upon us, it feels appropriate to crack the hatch wide open. Giving myself permission and the freedom to start revealing my thoughts and feelings as a suicide survivor and beginning to tell a more detailed account of my story relating to Claude’s death. I see this taking place over several blog posts; there is far too much to talk about in one or even two posts. I am not sure if it will be in consecutive order or scattered posts. I have no plan, just going with the flow for now.
Truthfully, one of the things that has kept me from writing publicly about this until now aside from considerable resistance and the emotions it brings to the surface, I find it difficult to know where to begin. It feels overwhelming. My mind becomes flooded with traumatic memories, my heart aches, I find it hard to breath and I start to feel nauseous. In response, I simply want to shut down. I can indulge in this desire to shut down for a time, and have been for the past week honoring that this is the natural response. However, I am on a mission, so here I am showing up as best as I can.
Another reason I have been feeling hesitant is that bringing suicide out of the shadows feels somewhat frightening and risky. As a society we tend to want to keep such things very “hush-hush”. Yet, I feel it is important to share what happened; it is after all part of my life story. I shouldn’t have to worry about judgement, feeling shame or embarrassment around this. I imagine there are many others out there suffering in silence who are too afraid to reach out, carrying one of the heaviest of loads: that of surviving a suicide.
The first year I found myself longing for the opportunity to talk to people who had this same experience. Yes, of course there were others around me who had lost Claude but at that point I felt protective of them and what they might be going through. I didn’t want to burden them. Actually, it seemed on the surface that most people didn’t want to talk about it at all. I thought if I could connect with others who had a loss by suicide somehow I would not feel so alone, enduring that weight in utter isolation. I believed that I would feel a sense of liberation, revealing how he died without watering it down or shielding anyone from the truth. I had been in grief support groups, but nobody had lost a loved one to suicide. I felt inhibited with this unmet desire. Although the groups and private sessions were helpful they were not meeting those needs at my core.
When I finally had the opportunity to be with others in a suicide support group, I discovered that what I really needed was to be with others who had lost a spouse to suicide. That became a definitive factor for me. The loss of my beloved whose soul I had built my life around was devastating in a way that was specific to the role he played in my life.
The other thing I realized was that I needed to talk about the traumatic experience of finding him. Coming face to face with his disfigured body, what that felt like and the impact it has had on me. I wanted to talk about what I saw, how his body looked. I longed to be with others who knew what that was like. This piece for me has been one of the most challenging aspects of my journey, the part that has made me feel so isolated. At this point I have shared some of those details with others many times but specifically back in the first year or so I yearned for that opportunity to be with others who really “got it”.
Just as grieving a loss through suicide is far more complicated, how, when, and what to tell others for me has been just as tricky. It has gotten easier but I still find myself not sure what to say at times. What do I lead with? “My husband died by suicide”? “My husband hung himself”? There have been circumstances when it has been easier to simply say he died and leave it at that. I find myself wanting to insulate others from the horror of it. But on the other hand, it is what it is; it’s all part of life.
I have discovered, sadly, that far too many of us are touched by suicide, some multiple times. I had no idea it was so prevalent until this happened in our family. It’s as if we have all unwillingly been enrolled into this distinctive club of suicide survivors, that we would prefer not to be members of.
The moment I found Claude hanging in our attic motionless looking utterly defeated, my heart broke into thousands of pieces. I have spent the last four years slowly splicing it back together. Although my newly reconstructed heart still feels the pain and that pain engulfs me at times, it is dim in comparison to what it once was.
Thankfully, over time we can free ourselves from the depths of grief, hearts can heal and resonate once again with hope, joy, love, gratitude and a renewed sense of purpose. I am grateful to know that this is not only possible, it’s ever-present, infusing my newly transformed life with divine guidance and inspiration.
Honoring you on your own journey,
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