Questions flooded my mind after my husband ended his life. They started almost immediately, even though I knew he was battling major depressive disorders. His death should have been no surprise, but it was. The pain of losing him was compounded by these questions and their elusive answers.
I was his primary caregiver, yet I could not keep him safe. As exhausted as I was before his death, the state I was in then was nothing compared to what I had to face in the aftermath. However, I eventually came to a place where I wondered what my life in the future would be like. Would I ever feel happiness or even normalcy? Another way to ask this question is “Does Grief Ever End?”
I think the answers depend on how one defines “grief.” We are all unique individuals; each person’s grief journey is specific to that person and the relationship with the one who died. We can share similar “symptoms” or thought patterns. We experience some of the same emotions – which is what enables us to support each other – but there is not a definitive timetable or list that describes what will happen for everyone.
In my experience, healing happened a little at a time, almost unnoticed at first. I still have regrets and miss Ron deeply, but I am no longer hostage to the deep anguish that consumed me in the early months and years of my grief journey. During that time, I was actively grieving. Later, I could feel a difference.
What does that mean? I can go about my day without crying. I can think of Ron with love and remember the life we had together. I can feel happiness and experience joy. There is a different kind of normalcy in my life and a deeper appreciation for living. Ron is still an important part of me. Knowing him made me who I am in many ways. Losing him changed me, but those changes were not all bad.
This kind of distinction is important because in some cultures, the prevailing thought is that grief is all there is after significant loss. From my perspective, sixteen years after Ron’s death, I can say that was not my experience. “You will never get over this” became “I can create a new life that honors the one I love.”
We can find support and grow stronger. We can love the people around us and build new lives. Easy? No, not at all. Quick? No, I’m afraid not. Possible? Yes. I have seen similar transformations in many other survivors of suicide loss over the years and watched broken people become strong. One of those survivors said something that stuck with me. “The future is unwritten.”
Your future is unwritten. You are not alone.