This week we welcome Marjorie, a survivor who lost her husband to suicide almost ten years ago. Marjorie wrote to us with highlights of her grief journey as a widow following her tragic loss. With her permission, we adapted her email into a post as both Becky and myself were touched by her words. We feel that many of our readers can benefit from what she has learned about herself along the way.
I lost my husband to suicide in 2006, after he lost his job, and have struggled to understand, accept, and move on. I attended an 8 week Suicide Support Group hosted by Hospice (I believe they saved my life!), went to an outstanding therapist for approximately two years, read several books, read articles on the internet – you name it – anything to help satisfy my desperate need to understand. I probably spent the first eight years worrying about my children’s mental well being, putting my efforts into getting them through college, and then married; and trying to tend to my needs at the same time.
I was one of those people that couldn’t wait to be finished grieving (I wanted happiness) and often fooled myself into believing “I’m done – I made it”. When I retired in June 2014, I was hit with a very unexpected round of grief again. All the plans and dreams my husband and I had for retirement went down the drain. Once again I was faced with “reinventing my life”; this time was the most challenging. I continued to fight the grieving process and hated giving into it. It has taken me almost 10 years to accept I will never complete this process and it’s “ok”. My life has a few more phases. I now expect I will grieve with each new phase.
Things I have learned:
1. I will always be very grateful for my strength. I don’t know where it came from. Half the time I was on auto-pilot with no memory of how I got from point A to point B – but I made it this far! On the other hand, I think I have developed a love-hate relationship with the word “strong”. Sometimes I feel I’ll scream if I hear one more person say “you are such a strong person”. I guess it reminds me of where I’ve been.
2. The people you thought were your best friends sometimes just can’t be there for you in a time of need. People you least expect can become the most supportive. I now believe in “Angels” on Earth!
3. Shame ruled my life for several years and I allowed it to isolate me. I learned I needed people. Preferably positive, non-judgmental people.
4. Under these circumstances, simple is best. I want to believe people, trying to be supportive, have no idea how hurtful they can be. “You are so lucky he didn’t kill you and the kids, too.” It has made me think very carefully before I open my mouth.
5. There really are no guarantees in life. I want to continue to learn to appreciate all the good things in my life and never take them for granted.
6. I learned to believe in what my mind and body are telling me and to do what was best for me. Not what people thought I should do. “You’re grieving too long.”, “You need to get out and date.”,
“You need to move on – it’s been five years.”
7. It was good for me to have people who needed me. I was determined to do the best I could for my kids and be sure they knew I would always be there for them. As they moved on with their lives, my dogs got me through the next years! It was so important for me to feel loved.
8. I’ve learned who I am and who I want to be. If I had to go through such a dreadful experience,
Then shame on me if I don’t learn something from it.
This May will be the 10th anniversary. I want to give the hope that time does help. It doesn’t make you forget but, the intensity lessens. I can say his name with fond memories instead of intense pain. I can feel relief that he is in peace. Sometimes I am hopeful that there will be another chapter in my life. I am trying to accept the belief that he wasn’t “mine” but he was a wonderful part of my life for 29 years.