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Why I'm Grateful for 'Shock' After My Husband's Suicide

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

On that first day, in the surrounding moments of finding him, there was this inexplicable inability to comprehend. I called to him, I saw him, I touched him — there was an immediate overwhelming sensation of emotions.

And then everything started to go numb.

The numbness engulfed me without me realizing it. It became all-consuming in its nature. It took over everything about me. And that was the beginning of it. That was the beginning of my shock.

Everything was viewed through tunnel vision, every sound echoed in my head. For an eternally brief amount of time, my level of awareness of all that mattered became matter-of-fact, self-directed from a place deep inside of me. I wasn’t grieving, I was “shocking.” I was under “shock’s spell.” I was “having a shocker.” I “went into shock.” I was “shocked.”

Plain and simple, I was “in shock” and it was protecting me.

The protective numbing nature of shock is what enabled me to move forward with the events for the rest of that day. In those first few seconds to minutes of finding him, the shock had my mind create mode categories: “think tank” mode, “task-orientation” mode, “priority setting” mode, “make sure you call 911 first” mode, “am I thinking of everything” mode and the two most important modes for that day: “how am I going to help ‘the kid’ deal with this” mode and “I need help and am going to need people around myself and the kid even though we are very private people and don’t ask for help” mode.

It was this shock that kept me calm when the police and authorities arrived, when the medical examiner conducted his investigation, when my daughter became aware, when he was wheeled out, when I started making calls, when the texts started coming in, when friends started arriving to support and organize me.

It was shock that protected and moderated my emotions when I started having fleeting realizations that my life had just changed and when glimpses of my thoughts started to entertain that my partner was really gone from me… that he really did take his life and that I really did find him lifeless.

I could not have gotten through those moments (as well as the weeks ahead) without shock, so I am grateful for it. I don’t know where it comes from or how it knows to make its presence known, but for me it was necessary. I have learned that shock has its own intelligence, it has its own direction within us. It also has its own timeframe. It decides when you are ready to feel more and it may waiver between a sudden or gradient release of its numbing protection. You may or may not like how it lets go for you, but I respect it because it is wise. For some, states of shock are acute and short-lived, for others it can be prolonged — that is the wisdom of shock.

It was not until recently that I could admit to myself that my partner is physically dead. Even though I understood it and realized it, I could not admit it or verbally say it until now. There were countless therapy sessions to allow me to get to this place of acknowledgment and once I was ready, shock released its last numbing protection from my emotions. I am better off because of it — that is the wisdom of shock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: December 27, 2016
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