After my husband died, I was not even sure I existed anymore. We had been married for thirty-three years. My identity was tied closely to his. After some time spent in shock and later feeling numb and disconnected from everything around me, I asked myself what I was supposed to do now.
He had always loved the sky. For a while, I could not bear to watch a sunrise or sunset or look at clouds or the stars. But one day I saw a most beautiful cloud that stretched across the sky in the shape of an angel, with wings outspread. That was the first moment I really looked up and felt close to him instead of stricken with sorrow.
I came back to the beauty of nature that he loved so much. I had to learn how to appreciate it on my own. Every once in a while, I would see something extraordinary and think it might be sent by him. Whether it was or not, I still feel close to him. And now I look for beauty, for messages.
Sometimes, depending on the day, I might also feel the pain of missing him in a bittersweet moment. But as I healed, I began to wonder what I could do with my life. It wasn't hard to see that I needed to live for my children. And myself. And I felt the call to do something to help others. At first, it started with an attack on suicide itself. Take that, Suicide, I would think as I wrote about compassion and hope.
Since I have always been a writer, that became my primary direction though I was teaching English classes at a local technical college as well. At first, I thought I could no longer write because my husband was so much a part of that other life. He was my muse. I wrote about him a lot. But as time went on and I met more and more survivors, I reached out with words. It was all I had.
If you have lost a loved one to suicide, you will walk your own path, but others are around to help you. You don't have to do it alone. And, when it's time, when you have taken care of yourself and those who are left in your life, when you have healed enough, you will probably hear the same call I did. "What will you do now?" it will whisper.
You will continue to grieve until you don't have to anymore. You will feel pain, but eventually this pain will soften. You will take one step at a time and go to work, care for children and pets, shovel snow and fix toilets. In other words, you will live.
By living, you will find a unique way to go beyond just surviving. Where will you find that way, that mark on the world that carries your love? You will hear and begin to define that call, in your work, your interaction with family, in still moments or when you are inspired. You will hear it in conversations with other survivors and after reading about suicide and grief and healing. You will rebuild.
Something will call you. And you will hear it. And then you will figure out how to answer in the way that only you can. It need not be anything huge though it might be. But your life has changed. Until that call comes, continue to work toward healing, to take care of yourself and those you love. Continue to think of your loved one who cannot be with you in the way you want.
Talk to him. Listen. Share good memories with her. Pray. For they are on your healing journey with you. And they will help guide you to what you will do now.
Way for Hope
Losing someone you love is difficult, but it can mean a lot to hear from others traveling similar paths.
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Links of Value:
Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Word of God
"My Story" Big Daddy Weave
"Hope in Front of Me"
The Joy FM
Traumatic loss or preexisting conditions can worsen mental health. Use this info graphic to find help.
"Take Charge of Your Mental Health" - a free download from www.nami.org: