It has been three years since I lost my dear husband to suicide. We were happily married for 21 years. I write now, for the benefit of those newer in loss, with the hope of offering some perspective on the arduous, but not impossible task, of finding one’s way in this new territory. Losing a spouse to suicide is extraordinarily complicated.
Our life together changed dramatically when my husband was hit by a car while riding his bike. It was then that he sustained the traumatic brain injury that led to his tragic end.
After he died, it took a long time for the shock to wear off. When it did, I found myself sorting through many complicated thoughts and emotions like grief, anger, fear, and what-ifs. Then came the practical questions. Do I move? Where do I want to be now? Endless decisions had to be considered.
Finding a way to continue to live after the fire-storm of this type of loss is no easy task. One must endure the dismantling of their previous life – on their own – while navigating the many choices and decisions needed to create a new and different life.
His death shattered our existing life and my foundational way of being in the world, yet, little by little with hand-holding and heart-holding from others before me, I made choices that helped me move forward. I lived through feelings of not wanting to be here without my beloved husband and fearing the future. I made the decision to settle a lawsuit that was just, but far too stressful. I put my beloved home on the market and moved, a year ago, across the country to be closer to my daughter and her family. I’ve returned to my art, hiking, and to loving those who stood beside me. I have been creating a new life from the ashes of my old life. Some pieces returned from old passions. Others are surprising new directions.
I want those of you who are newly bereaved to know it is possible to survive and find joy again even after such an impossible tragedy. The devastating suicide of a spouse should not be underestimated but doesn’t have to break you.
The Alliance of Hope was one of the many tools that helped me to survive and heal. It was a lifeline provided by other survivors who understood the devastating nature and vulnerability one feels after experiencing this type of sudden and shocking loss. The forum community provided compassionate wisdom born of experience and a nonjudgmental witnessing by others of the horror of my first days, weeks, and months. It was the heart medicine I needed.
Other things have helped as well:
Time helped soften the pain. It is not everything, but it is an important aspect of healing our wounded hearts.
A Circle of Support from friends, family, and a counselor also helped. Again, it is not everything, but being with others who listened without judgment allowed my grief to share its voice and paved the way for rebuilding.
Learning Self-Care helped me build true inner strength. Decision by decision, navigating this loss has taught me to choose what will nurture and support me as well as to guard my precious time.
My life is very different today than it was before my husband died. I would still prefer he was here with me, but – and this is crucial – I accept my life now and in honor of him and our love, live my life fully. These days I realize it is possible to grieve, survive, and even thrive after such a devastating loss. Unexpected waves of grief still hit me from time to time, but I know how to sail – or at least float – through those moments and days.
I think it’s important to remember that we are still here. I don’t have a step-by-step map but I can offer a ray of hope. It is possible to survive. You will find your way and we are here for you. Honoring the tasks of grief will bring you to new ground. Possibly even higher ground after integration of all that is lost. None of us can change what happened but we can choose to gather the pieces of our shattered hearts and find a way back to beauty and joy.
For now, find those with big enough hearts to hold you. Trust that the devastating initial pain will soften with time, and you will grow stronger.
May we all honor ourselves and our loved ones by finding a way to hold all our shattered hearts with compassion.