I’ve been thinking a lot about hope recently and wrestling with the thought that it’s no longer as prevalent in my life as it used to be. I feel like I have been grasping for things to feel hopeful about but falling flat. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but challenged myself with internal reflection and conversations with my grief therapist to determine where this was all coming from, more than five years after my dad’s death.
I want to be clear that I categorize hope and happiness in very different ways. Hope is also not the same to me as simply “something to look forward to.” I feel happy and blessed in my life and find joy in many things, including my family. I am also not depressed. To me, hope is something very specific. I equate it to a proverbial carrot dangling in front of me. Or a feeling of wonder and magic that fills the spirit. I have found happiness and many things to look forward to, but I’m not sure I have anything to feel hopeful about right now.
Let me explain… I think back to six years ago at this very time of year. I was in my twenties and months away from my wedding day. I felt this energy in my spirit. Every day that passed was one day closer to this new life. I distinctly remember thinking to myself that my life was absolutely perfect and couldn’t believe I had so many things going so well. While my dad died two months after that beautiful wedding day, I still felt hopeful. Eventually, we would be moving into a new home – our home. And, hopefully, children would follow. I was still on this track of building my dream life and living out my vision. We purchased a lovely house and I still enjoy decorating and maintaining it to this day. However, expanding our family took a bit longer than I imagined. But, I carried this beacon of hope every day, praying, wishing and seeing this happening. Hope was really all I could go on. I could picture everything about this family in my mind. When it finally happened, I don’t think there was anything more hopeful in my life than expecting a child. What would he or she be like? What would his or her name be? What would our lives be like? Beyond that, strangers would stop me on the street to say “Congratulations!” and ask questions about the growing baby. It all fueled this notion of hope, including – I hope she comes soon and I hope she is healthy and happy, etc. She arrived and of course my world changed forever in a positive way.
I knew right away I had more love to give, but again this took time. Once again, I lived on a diet of hope. And, we were fortunate to welcome a son late last year. I’m still living in that haze, but also seeing friends who are still trying to build their families publicly sharing about their journeys and similarly using the word hope in their messages.
Concurrently, I have also written before about how the holiday season doesn’t hold the same feeling for me as it did before my dad died. He was the epitome of holiday spirit. There’s something about the hope surrounding Christmastime and the “hope” for the New Year that fills those winter months. That’s just not present for me any more.
There are surely many, many post-pregnancy emotions swirling in my mind, but I can’t help trying to fit all of these pieces together and finding coincidence in the fact that my hope may have piqued and has now descended after experiencing a loss to suicide. I know this may sound like a bummer, but it just is what it is to me. I know I will eventually find my positive hope again. And, as I said earlier, this is different than finding happiness in my every day and wishing the best for our lives ahead – which I have and do. It’s essentially like my hope has temporarily shifted to a more negative place of anxiety and protection. “I hope I don’t ever have to experience this again.” “I hope I don’t ever have to worry about X, Y, Z.” “I hope my children will be understanding when I have to explain how their grandpa died one day.”
Suicide is traumatic and surely leaves an imprint on survivors left behind. It can also affect people differently and at different times. Here I am sharing this nearly six years later and not six days or weeks after it happened. It’s all part of the lifelong journey we lead as survivors. Some say hope is all we have. That’s putting a lot of eggs in one basket. It can certainly help to get one through during a challenge or point in time. Maybe that’s how it’s actually supposed to be and I am overthinking this entirely. Having gone through several “hope intense” years, it could be that my hope was seen through and now I am just not used to having a break from it. Hearing the “it’s all we have” mantra is what got my thinking about this, like wait – I am not feeling it so how do I fix that?
Do you feel like hope is something that you need to live with daily or is it situational? Has losing a loved one to suicide affected your feelings of hope?