Dear fellow survivors:
We are beginning a new year, and I hope you will find many moments of peace and healing in the coming days.
Reading through the Alliance of Hope Forum this morning, I came across the post of a mother who wrote that this month marked 16 months since the death of her son. Many survivors find that calendar events take on new meaning following the death of a loved one. For example, Christmas is no longer “just Christmas,” but the first … or second … or third Christmas since their loved one died. Similarly, survivors encounter the first Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and so forth. Anyone who has gone through traumatic loss will understand the calendar perspective of one who is bereaved.
Survivors frequently report that some people don’t understand the length of their grief. “It’s been a month … it’s been a year … it’s been two years.” “Move on.” “Don’t look back.” There always seems to be someone – often well-intentioned – who recites something in this vein.
Sometimes survivors ask, “How long will I feel this way?” There is no right answer. There is no timetable that can be or should be imposed on grief. The most important thing to know is that the general thrust of the journey that follows loss from suicide is toward healing. As Iris Bolton said, “You may never stop missing your loved one, but you can and will survive, and eventually go beyond just surviving.”
As we enter the New Year, I want to share a poem that captures this essence of the survivor journey:
The Year before Last
The holiday season is approaching,
and with it comes the New Year.
Although for me time passes slowly,
New Year’s Day will ring in quickly.
I dread this New Year’s Day
because they will look at me
in a terribly strange way
when I get misty-eyed,
and talk about something you had done.
After you first left me,
they reasoned when I cried,
“He’s only been gone a few months.”
And I would catch that look of
understanding in their eyes,
and found some comfort that they knew.
But on last New Year’s Day,
my first thought upon awakening was,
Oh God, my son died last year,
not just a few months ago, not even this year,
but last year.
He will never live in this year.
They didn’t understand, they didn’t reason
that last year, for me, the loss was still new.
They thought, “It happened last year,
so long ago, why does she still cry?”
I could see it in their eyes.
This New Year’s Day, will it be different?
Will my first thought upon awakening be,
Oh God, my son died the year before last,
not a few months ago, not this year or even last year,
but the year before last?
He will never live in this year.
Will they even listen, should I not look them
in the eyes, for fear that I shall see,
“Why is she still crying? It happened so long ago,
It was the year before last.”
Those words that we use
to describe the passage of time,
a few months, this year,
last year, the year before last.
They don’t know that time stands still for me.
Will they understand why I cry?
Don’t they know
my son just died…
the year before last?
As this new year unfolds, please know that support is always available in the Alliance of Hope Forum. Whether your loss is new — or dates back many years — you are welcome to join in the discussion and reach out to give or receive support to others who understand.