This autumn is the tenth one without my husband. I have entered a new kind of “after.” The seasons seem to insist on moving on; the protective shock, pain and active grieving I experienced for a decade are different now, too. This new path is leading me to new places.
I feel like an old oak tree. My gnarled branches reach out further than I ever expected. My leaves that sheltered growing children have turned different colors and fallen to the ground though grandchildren still adore those interesting, crackly playthings.
The many layers of grief I’ve moved through once compelled me to focus on suicide, the causes, the effects, the questions with no answers, and the most difficult work of manufacturing hope. I felt like my life was the “suicide channel,” all suicide, all the time. After that, I found the place on the map where I had to confront the depths of the loss itself and grieve the many parts of that.
I’ve passed through periods of numbness, forgetfulness, and uncertainty when making decisions – even big, life-altering decisions that came to be filed under the category of “had to be done, ready or not.”
Through all of it, for better or for worse, I found my husband’s memory and his love were still there. They traveled with me. The love we shared was still alive in my heart, even when I came to a place called Acceptance. I danced around the edges of that spot a great deal before making some kind of peace with the entire situation.
Now, I no longer feel the need to talk about suicide with friends new or old. I drift on the sea of new life, aware that the opportunity to comfort someone, somewhere will come again. And I do consider it an opportunity now, an honor.
Meanwhile, I live. Not like I would have lived if suicide had not entered my life. No. Not like I would have grieved another kind of loss. But with hope that has taken root and grown up all around me, supporting me in the darkness of night, celebrating with me in the coolness of the morning.
I have unpacked some of the things I used to hold onto and cast them aside. I’ve made new priorities. That doesn’t mean I love my husband any less than I did on the day he died. What it does mean is that I’m healing from the terrible hurt and trauma of losing him to suicide or at all.
When I remember my husband, it is with a comforting closeness. Sometimes that’s not enough, but his death has given me a new awareness of life, its precious nature, and its gifts. We still walk along side by side, he on his side of the universe and I on mine. There is contentment there…and sometimes pain. If I am the only one carrying that love, that’s okay; that’s an honor and an opportunity for me to share what he meant to me.
Life – anyone’s life – is like that, full of opposites. Loss – anyone’s loss – is a challenging path through the wide unknown. Sometimes, we have to watch the seasons turn before we are ready, and sometimes the day feels like it will never get done. Sometimes, we don’t even have anywhere to live, anyone to hold onto.
I’ve been in all those places. And beyond. I don’t know what other layers there are yet to find and work through, but I can only try to meet their challenges, one day at a time. Just as I did at the beginning.