by Jan McDaniel
"Why?" This is one of the first and most lingering questions survivors ask. Nothing makes sense without answers to this question, and sometimes there are no answers. The only person who might articulate an answer is gone, and even that person might not know.
Why did this happen? Why did it happen to my loved one? Why couldn't I stop it? Why wasn't help available? Why didn't help work? Why wasn't my love enough?
Each of these questions points to the same issue. Something happens within a person's brain that inhibits the survival mechanism while prompting action to escape the emotions, thoughts or situation that is causing unbearable pain and loss of hope that things could change. It is a "perfect storm" that engages circumstance, time, and place in a moment of desperation.
After my husband died, I went over and over and over the events that led up to his death. I went through every decision I could remember, back through the years. I combed choices and options not taken, words said or unsaid that might have made a difference. Like most survivors, I was obsessed with the stream of what happened, but I could follow this thread only so far. No matter how many times I tried, I always came to a place where there was nothing, an end to the road, a blank space I could not cross and then, his suicide.
Nothing connected that made sense to me. Finally, I realized that was the key. What happened would never make sense because it was not rational. It would never be acceptable to me because I was not where he was on that day. I could still see possibilities. I still had hope. My mind, as fragile as it was from the years of prior attempts he had made, was still capable of seeing the larger picture.
But I could not see what he had endured, how he felt, no matter how close we were. I was exhausted from the years of prior attempts he had made, but my mind did not rail with thoughts that were constant and negative and uncontrollable. I had not used all my strength, as he had.
With that realization, I began my struggle with acceptance. I would never have the "do-over's" I could see in my mind. I believe this constant dwelling on "why" is a protective mechanism, strange as that may sound and painful as the experience can be. I had to come to realizations of all types as I unraveled the experience of profound loss to suicide. Nothing could have prepared me for it. And though I felt like the whole of it was crushing me at the time, I later saw that this pain was dealt out to me in parcels. Over time I would think of new impacts and ways to deal with them.
I would baby-step my way through grief. I could do nothing else. I could not have what I wanted, no matter how I bargained and begged. I had to find one healing moment and then another just to breathe.
Baby steps are possible. Healing is possible. Finding support is crucial. I am on a road now that is different from what I would have expected for my life. But I can breathe. I miss him. I breathe. I try to live in a way that is similar to what we would be doing together. Because he is with me. His love sustains me. Knowing him made me who I am.
I live with loss and with life. Maybe, just maybe, that is what fills the blank space between his life and death.
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: