I just replied to a post here from someone whose family had just left and they were now alone. This really got my mind spinning, so I’ve decided to write this post.
On the day that my husband Tom took his life, the first person I called was my nephew. He’s 34 years old and a pastor. A year earlier his own father-in-law had taken his life. Jeff made calls to the rest of the family for me and then headed up here -a 500 mile drive -early the next morning.
That first night I was alone. I had told my neighbors I was just fine and needed to be alone. Wrong. I ended up calling the chaplain’s 24-hour hotline with a lot of worry about whether to call 911 for myself. I couldn’t stop shaking -my legs just continued to kick, my head was pounding, I was crying so hard I felt like I couldn’t get a full breath. That wonderful woman explained what was happening to me physically and the hormonal flush that was happening to my body due to stress. She talked to me from 11:00 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. I finally had calmed down. She told me I had to lay down, I didn’t have to sleep, but I had to rest. I never did sleep that first night, but I did finally calm down a bit and rest.
I don’t even remember my nephew Jeff actually arriving that next morning -lots of memory gaps in those first few weeks -but I clearly remember us sitting on the deck and him talking to me. I listened intently because I knew he’d been through this situation only a year earlier and I knew he loved me very much.
I clearly remember him very seriously saying: “You are a strong person, but you cannot do this on your own. You have to accept help from your family and friends. We’re all here for you. Don’t tell them you’re fine, you’re not, and it’s going to be a while before you are.”
The first time I laughed was that day when he so very gently said, “I mean nothing by this, just asking. Have you showered?” I told him I actually had showered that morning. He told me, all anyone can ask of you right now is to eat, drink, and sleep. If you shower, that’s a bonus. No one can expect anything more, including yourself.
His analogy of this grief was like walking into the ocean. In the beginning, every wave is huge and will take you down. Eventually smaller waves will hit you and you’ll stumble through them, then another huge wave will take you down. He said the waves will get smaller and there will be more time in between, but there will be times a monster wave will come out of nowhere and take you down again, but you will get back up, you will not drown.
He urged me to seek grief counseling, offered to take me to my doctor for medication, he cooked my meals, he offered to do ANYTHING, including clean my house. He sat in the living room and read while I talked with Tom’s sister in the kitchen. He wanted to give us space, but wanted me to know he was there for me if I needed him. He was my perfect first angel. He was calm and loving and he truly understood how I was feeling.
A week and a half later I saw a grief counselor for the first time. She urged me to call my doctor asap for some medication. I went home, called the doc, and saw him that afternoon. He did prescribe anti-anxiety meds for me for a short period of time to just help me breathe/sleep/calm down.
I had family and friends visit over the next few weeks, some staying for three days, one for ten days. I don’t know how I would have made it without all of them. They overlapped each other -as one left, another would arrive. I needed company, but I need peace, so one at a time was perfect for me.
I am extremely fortunate to have a couple next door that I’m very close to. They were here “that day” and have remained my guardian angels. In the beginning we had a code -once I was up, I opened the garage door. She would appear in her robe with her coffee within minutes. She and I would sit on the deck and just drink coffee and chat for a little while. I had dinner at their house numerous times. Sometimes one of them would just bring me a plate of food. She drove me to counseling since I couldn’t possibly drive myself -I had no focus whatsoever.
It’s been just shy of six months now. Of course I’m still not “okay,” but I realize I am going to survive this. In the beginning I couldn’t even function. Everything was difficult. I clearly recall having to purposely breathe. I’d get dizzy and realize I’d just stopped breathing. The first 10 pounds just fell off, then another 7 over time, but my weight has stabilized. I will survive.
I would just urge all of you to accept the help that’s offered to you. This is too huge to get through alone -at least it was/is for me. Whether it’s the county chaplain, your religious leader, doctor, counselor, family, friends, neighbors, accept the help. The people that care about you want to help you too. They can’t fix the situation, but I know that just cooking a meal for me helped them feel that they were doing something.
Sorry to have rambled on so long, but today I’m looking back and realizing how much help I was offered and accepted and how extremely grateful I am to all those people for the love and support they’ve shown me. I hope all of you have good people to help you through this time also. I also include all of you in my prayers regularly. I hope you feel the love of everyone on this forum. This forum has always been here for me too, 24/7, and it’s been a tremendous support.