“He’d begun to wake up in the morning with something besides dread in his heart. Not happiness exactly, not eagerness for the new day, but a kind of urge to be eager, a longing to be happy.” -Jon Hassier
It happens without warning or without much notice. We go from waking up each morning and maybe having a few seconds of peace before IT slams into us again; the realization that someone we loved died by suicide. We experience, yet again, that overall feeling of dread, sickness, and fear.
That first year is one I can remember as being foggy. On some days, I felt like my feet were in such deep mud that I couldn’t pull them out. On other days, I felt as if I were floating. There were times I’d look in the mirror and wonder who that sad woman was staring back at me. My eyes looked back, and they seemed vacant. I can remember being out in public and wondering why I was there and if I looked “normal.”
I clearly remember listening to people chatter about what I considered to be nonsense and wanting to shout at them that what they were worrying about was foolish and petty. MY life had turned on a dime. My life was different. I was different. I wondered why people were laughing and moving about in what appeared to be a happy life. I had a husband, 4 children, and a routine. I can remember going to the grocery store alone for the first time after Mom died. The list in my hand had words that swam before my eyes. I felt a sense of fear and dread as I moved the cart through the aisles.
Each morning, I’d wake up and have just a few seconds of not remembering the horror that then overtook me. I wanted to just stay in bed and sleep my life away; but there were children who needed attention. I moved through each day as a gloomy being even as I thought I appeared as my old self. But I wasn’t, was I? The kids knew it or at least felt it.
What helped me was my friend, Berta, who was dying of ovarian cancer. She wasn’t bedridden until January (Mom died in September) and she was still able to drive, and visit people, carry on as if all was well. I saw her every weekday and we simply talked and talked and talked. With Berta, I felt like I had an anchor. I believe I was also that anchor to her. She died 5 months after Mom.
Grief calls to grief. I was thrown even further back. I can’t tell you the date that I awakened one day and had a pleasant anticipation of that day. I felt different and…somewhat free. I was free of the deep, deep heaviness. I sat on the edge of my bed and realized that the day felt different. I felt different. I remember recalling the event of the death, the following few days, and thinking, “Yep, that happened. It was horrible. I have suffered. Today I feel sort of like my old self.” I was in awe of it because I didn’t think I’d ever have that feeling again.
Gratitude is what I felt as my grief lightened. I was grateful that I made it. I started grief counseling 2 weeks after Mom died. I came back to IL every weekend to work with my sister on cleaning out her house. When I returned to Indiana, when I went back to the place where I’d received the phone call, the heaviness was worse for quite a while. Until it wasn’t.
If you are a farther-down-the-road survivor, you know of what I speak. If you are fresh in this journey, with time and work, the day you awaken and feel different will come. Grief work is work. It’s work that must be done.
Time is on your side. One some days I felt that time was a curse. Then came the day when it didn’t feel like that anymore. Reach out when you need to talk. Reach out to other survivors on this journey you didn’t even want to be a part of. You didn’t pack a suitcase for a journey you didn’t know you were taking but now you are building a toolkit to help you navigate this new course. Survivors helping survivors…