themighty logo

What Suicide Loss 'Looks' Like

My husband died by suicide in 2015. I have now been a widow and a suicide survivor for over two years.

Do I still remember that day? That day I got a knock on my door that he had killed himself while our children and I were on the playground near our home playing? Yes. Yes, I still remember that day. I have filed it away into the back of my mind, but if I pull out that file? I can see it in full color. I can hear all the sounds of that day. Smell all the smells. Feel all the emotions. And yes, it still can make my stomach turn, my heart burn and my soul hurt.

Two years of surviving.

What does surviving a suicide look like?

It looks like hiding away in your basement crying — no scratch that — wailing and screaming in the middle of the night just to get the emotions out and not scare your small children.

It looks like taking out all my late husband’s clothes, laying them on the floor and screaming.

It looks like driving in the car and a song comes on the radio from your wedding and you start crying so uncontrollably that you have to pull the car over while your small children say, “Mama? What’s wrong Mama?”

It looks like minutes passing that feel like months. Hours passing that feel like years.

It feels like my head is under water and I’m stuck behind glass. On the other side of that glass, the entire world is still happening and moving on as if nothing ever happened and I am banging on that glass and screaming… “Stop! Don’t you know he’s dead? Please stop!” And no one hears me.

Eventually the glass shatters and you step back into life.

Eventually your mind clears and you aren’t under water anymore and the fog lifts.

What does being a suicide survivor feel like?

It feels like terror.

It feels like shame.

It feels like loneliness.

It feels like anger.

It feels like he dropped me off one day at the grocery store and never came round to pick me back up.

It feels like an apology that I will never get and acceptance that has taken me months and months to come to.

It feels like being an outsider because you know things other people don’t know. You know you can be married, in love, have a wonderful life, have a husband who on Tuesday night is sitting at the dinner table eating tacos and cracking jokes with your 4-year-old and on Thursday, he’s dead.

I don’t know what it’s like to survive any other type of trauma. But, I do know a suicide death is one of the most traumatic things a family can endure. I do know I experienced my own depression, anxiety and PSTD after my husband died.

Surviving suicide is possible. How have I done it? I’ve crawled my way out of my own dirt hole of grief slowly and with buckets and buckets of self-love. I have screamed in my basement. I have sat on top of where my husband is buried and I have argued with him about why he should have stayed. I have accepted an apology I will never get and I have heard him tell me in my dreams and in my thoughts there’s nothing I did wrong and it’s not my fault.

Surviving suicide is rough.

Surviving suicide is painful.

Surviving suicide is emotional.

Surviving suicide is in some ways like surviving any other death of a loved one. It’s not easy, but you learn how to handle your grief better day by day by day.

I will be a suicide survivor for the rest of my life. What does it mean to be a suicide survivor? It means someone I loved took his own life. It means after he took his life I entertained the thought of taking my own. But I survived and now I am thriving, living and finding happiness and joy again.

Does it still hurt? Yes. Time doesn’t erase the wounds. Newfound happiness doesn’t erase the wounds.

I carry the wounds with me in my broken heart and I choose every single day to get out there and live again and carry out my purpose in my life. I choose forgiveness even if I don’t fully understand why he died this way. I choose compassion for my truest friend because he would do the same for me if the roles were reversed.

Surviving suicide looks and feels like a whole lot of self-love, compassion and waking up each and every day and deciding to strap on your boots and walk back out into your life.

Photo via contributor