A Year Without You: The Destructive Grief of Suicide Loss
It has been a year since you left, my lifelong friend and sister, one of the best parts of my soul. I want you to know some of the things I have learned since you departed so I write this open letter for anyone to read in hopes that wherever you may be, at least some of it will get back to you. This will also serve as a glimmer of hope for those forced into the kind of destructive grief that follows losing someone — a sibling, a friend, a family member — to suicide.
The last year was one of the hardest emotionally in my entire life. When you left and I fell, I didn’t know if I was strong enough to get back up. I didn’t know if I would ever stop sobbing or if I’d ever feel like me again. I didn’t know if I had it in me to survive this world without my big sister beside me. I didn’t know if I could parent my children in a way that was still wholesome and true. I really didn’t know if I would ever find my way back.
I have found in the last 12 months that I am allowed to be destroyed over this type of loss. That it is absolutely OK to lose my mind for a minute, get a hotel room, drink a 12-pack of beer and sit up all night crying while binging “Anne with an E.” It is not the best coping skill, so I also now know not to stay there. I have tried to be patient with myself even if somewhere deep inside of me there is a terrible sense of guilt for those who have had to carry me or my weight as a byproduct of my grief. Through this experience, I have learned what it is like to be loved in a very raw sense by those people.
I have also learned that nothing I could have said or done would have changed things for you and that this terrible sense of guilt for being angry with you when you died will one day dissipate. It may take the rest of my life, but I can slowly feel that part of me healing. You were at rock bottom and I refused to see it. I am sorry. I took your strength for granted and thought you would pull out of it just as you had many times before. Turns out, I was wrong.
I have learned that my mental illness is real and can be dangerous, so I decided the repetitive thoughts about suicide that have ravaged my brain and my heart for most of my life are not allowed to live there anymore. These thoughts are not invited to the party. I’ve mostly determined this in my decision to live mostly for myself but also for the part of me that houses you.
I have decided to start living again, to seek out comforts in our happiest memories. When I take a breath, I do it with the intention of not only myself feeling the crisp cool autumn energy that fills my lungs, but also for you to feel it in the space you keep in my heart. I know you are with every step I take and the things you could not see or love about this life, I will see or love for the both of us. My hope is that wherever your full spirit resides, it sees and feels the love and appreciation I have for this life. I hope that you feel my joy, laughter, nostalgia, and appreciation for having the chance to show you what this life should have given you in yours. I hope to show you that you deserved so much from this life and it’s not fair that you weren’t given the chance to feel that.
It was hard to get back up after you left, but I tried every day. I hope you are proud of me. I hope you know that the only anger I hold comes from the knowledge that I will never get you back. I have lost one of my greatest friends and protectors, but I also hope you know that I know you are with me, carrying me through the rough stuff because you know that only on the other side of said rough stuff is the reason I still belong in this body, on this earth, in this lifetime with these people I so love and adore.
In closing, I will say that I have also learned that I will not stop grieving your loss and that I miss you more that I can put into words, but with that comes the knowledge that it is time for the best part of this life to begin for me. Though I am sad that you are not here to live it with me, you are walking beside me taking it all in as I walk my path. Thank you for filling me with strength and love and intention. I promise, I’ll do my best.
Getty image by Liusia Voloshka