One of the most difficult aspects of life after loss to suicide is the idea of “letting go” in order to move forward and heal. As the first months tick by and the year rolls toward completion, pressure often builds within us until survivors feel squeezed between the love they feel for the lost ones, the holding on, and the calendar that is demanding they move forward to pick up their shattered lives and continue living. Others in the world may say, “Get over it.” But that is not what I am talking about.
The year I learned about letting go, I felt like I would be torn in two, quite literally. But that is not what happened.
It happened on a specific night, at a certain moment in the Fall. I was ironing. Probably a shirt to wear to work the next day. Nearby, my young adult daughter sat quietly, reading a textbook for one of her college classes. I had felt the tension growing for some time, not between her and me but between me and what I wanted that I could not have.
It was difficult to accept that my husband was gone from life with me. I had met him when I was just 21, the age my daughter was. My entire adult life had been entwined with his. He was the strongest man I ever met, and there seemed nothing he couldn’t do or take care of. He loved me. I knew that. Yet, now, all these years later, I stood alone, steam from the iron mingling with tears about to be shed. I felt like I was being pulled away from him on a forced march to a future I didn’t want and would not survive and, finally, I could not stand it another moment.
“I can’t let him go,” I called out in a primal scream.
She didn’t move. She didn’t lift her head from her book. Instead, she answered quietly. “You don’t have to.”
Those four words gave me permission to continue to love my husband. They gave me the okay to live. Over the following years, I returned to them as solace, encouragement, hope. Because you see, I had learned that loving him was the same as living. He was and is my heart. All he meant to me, all the love we shared is still there, as alive as it ever was.
Don’t let the one you lost go. Carry that love with you into a new life, one with purpose and hope. The lives our loved ones lived mattered. We matter. And our lives are not over yet.
Don’t let that go. You don’t have to.