When a Loved One Commits Suicide

My kids and MomThis picture is one of my favorite memories. My mother had come to visit for the first time after my father passed. The four others in the picture with her are my four birth children.

Sometimes I look at this picture and try to see if there is some hidden sadness in my son’s eyes.

See, he took his life on August 8, 2014, nine years after this picture was taken. I still don’t have closure. I can’t understand what drove him to believe there was no hope, nothing to live for. When a loved one takes their own life, they leave their loved ones with unanswered questions.

Some of the thoughts I shared in my journal on the initial days after learning this tragedy follow:

Today I received a phone call no one, especially a mother, should receive. An impersonal call from a coroner letting me know you, my son, had taken your life. I’m in shock, disbelief and unexplainable grief. My poor troubled son, was there some clue to your pain in our conversations? In our last phone call? Could I have said something to life your depression so well hidden beneath sarcasm and laughter? Why, son, I keep asking. You could have come home. We all loved you even though you distanced yourself from us. Why did you not seek help? Am I to blame?

Four days have passed and still the tears flow and my heart is heavy. I can’t believe I’ll never see you walk through the door with your smile and “I love you, Mom.” I wait for the phone to ring so I can hear your voice again. It was a mistake, I hope you’ll say. Son, I pray for God’s mercy for your soul to now be in peace. I love you always, my beloved son.

I sit alone in an empty house. Silence reigns, but my mind screams. In two days I make a journey to say farewell, but I’m not sure I can do it. How can I look at my dead son’s body? For the first time, I’m wondering why they say funerals are for the living. I want to remember you laughing, sharing your quick wit, smiling. I don’t know if I can do this.

Closure? No. What happened to you? The shell you left behind looked so different from when I last saw you. What made you so sad? Your good friends were as shocked and lost as we are. Some questions perhaps are not meant to be answered.

Today is your birthday. You died so young. I cling to the comfort that you are no longer in pain, and that when you gave your life to Jesus, it was forever and that God has taken mercy on your soul. I pray you have no more suffering. Walk in peace, my son.

I haven’t written any further in my journal. It is too filled with the pain of loss. I opened it today because the anniversary of my son’s death passed  a little over a week ago and his birthday is Friday. I still have trouble believing he is gone.

Suicide is a tool of Satan’s. When we lose a loved one to such a cruel ending of life, there is no closure, ever. It is something we must try to put into perspective and move on. Faith is what we cling to. Hope comes from Jesus.. God’s grace is our comfort and healing.

 

 

One is the Loneliest Number

tulipsJune is widely known as the month of weddings, new beginnings, and love. For me it has become a marking month of days and weeks of sorrow. The month when I watched my husband die. People talk about soulmates, and I can attest that there is such a thing. My husband and I were true soulmates. I miss him constantly. I miss him in the beauty of the gardens he created, the work his hands did in this house, the bed where I now sleep alone, in the very air I breathe. It has been almost three years now. June 26 is the date he left the pain of this world and entered Heaven to tend to God’s gardens.

Why do I feel grief so keenly still? Perhaps because God planned this from the very beginning when He said two would become one. Then when half of the one is removed, the remaining half is left to heal.

For the most part, I am healing. I find joy in the life the Lord has provided. I’ve always been more of an introvert than most people. I’m a writer and I find peace and comfort in the silence  with my hands on the keyboard as my thoughts pour out. Yes, I’m lonely sometimes. But the loneliness can’t be changed by being in a crowd of people or even in the comfort of my children’s homes. I’m lonely because my soulmate is not with me in any of the places I go. Half of me is gone.

I try to remain positive and to be an inspiration to others. I see God In the beauty of the sunshine, the flowers, trees, rain, snow, wind. And these things are comforting because He shows me He is a loving, compassionate God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. I have His promise of an eternal life and being reunited with my loved ones who have gone ahead of me.

And so, June is here again. Father’s Day is a sad day for me. My father’s are no longer in this world. And my soulmate was transported to the hospital on Father’s Day three years ago. He died in the ambulance, but they brought him back, and placed him on a ventilator where he lived another 10 days as his body slowly shut down. I said goodbye to him in the silence of a room only he, Jesus and I occupied. We celebrated his life and sang him off to Heaven. It is the way of life. The circle of life.

And I continue to wake in the morning, give thanks to the Lord, and strive to be a blessing to others. To live my life for whatever purpose God has for me until He calls me home. Until then, I move through the days of June each year with an acute grief of remembrance.

Breaking the Silence of Insomnia and Depression

power

I never suffered from depression to a frightening degree until I lost my mother, then my husband, and my son. All occurred within five years. Truly, I thought I’d handled the deaths well. After my mother passed, I was caught up in my husband getting critically ill and caring for him all immediately following my retirement from my day job. My mother died on December 30, on my husband and my 30th anniversary. I retired on December 31. On January 2, I was fighting to get medical care for my hubby. There was no time to learn to deal with being retired or losing my mom.

For the next three and a half years, I dealt with doctors, hospital stays, surgeries, and VA red tape getting help for my husband. I guess my mind was so caught up in the busyness of our everyday lives I didn’t miss the commitments of a day job, but I missed my mom every time I walked into the living room and she wasn’t sitting in her recliner watching television.

When Jesus came for my hubby, I kept myself busy practically living in the hospital, afraid to leave for fear when I came back he would be gone. But the time came and I had to let him go.

I was lost and struggled with finding purpose for my life, though I tried to show a positive face and attitude to my family and friends. I kept as busy as possible and slowly pushed aside the sad feelings that sometimes grabbed me from nowhere.

Then a little over a year later, my son committed suicide. I was scraped so raw inside, I didn’t know how I’d get past this pain. Not only his death, but why. There are no answers when a loved one decides to take their own life. But once again, I fought to remain strong and not show my pain because I needed to be strong for my children. Many times after talking to them, trying to lift them up, I would worry they might one day do the same thing. Jesus was my rock and I poured out my heart, my fears, and my pain to Him.

Then my daughter suffered a stroke unexpectedly and then a heart procedure and depression. I worried so for her and yes, I spent a lot of time on my knees. I still do. My children and grandchildren are the most precious gifts God has given me. I’m so blessed and thankful that I’ve watched them grow. I pray for those who have found themselves lost and struggling with addiction and destructive behavior. I can only place them at the foot of the Throne and trust them to God’s hands.

This year started with another blow. I was diagnosed with diabetes. Something unexpected and frightening. My daily life has turned into being aware of planning meals, snacks, and reading nutrition labels. Counting carbs and fat and recording. Pricking the ends of my fingers and checking blood glucose numbers.

And now I’m fighting the worst depression I’ve ever suffered. I’m not thinking about ending life. Not that kind of depression, but more the reality that I don’t have many years left. Only God knows how many days I’ll remain on earth. I’m caught up in the losses I’ve suffered. I miss my husband desperately. I need to talk to my mom. I want to talk to my son. But I’m alone in a quiet, lonely house. I have no interest in doing anything. I used to love to read and knit. Now that seems like too much effort. Mealtimes are lonely and uninteresting. I don’t want to write and think about giving up the one thing I’ve always been passionate about. And I can’t sleep at night.

The sleeplessness has made bedtime a nightmare. It’s a vicious cycle. I go to bed, begin to drift and then have to move. Have to turn over. Have to move my legs. Toss and turn, toss and turn. Watch TV. Read. Get up and walk around. Cry. Yes, I spent most of the past night sobbing and crying and praying for help. I know this isn’t normal. I go to my office and look up insomnia and decide to try using my bed only for sleeping. No more TV watching or reading. I rearrange furniture. I take a shower. It’s almost 4am. Another night of no sleep. My brain is foggy and all I want to do is cry.

I remember some relaxation CD’s I used to have and go on a search. I must have thrown them away. Then I remember my Kindle. I turn it on and search for audiobooks on sleep hypnosis and relaxation, surprised and pleased to find some. I read reviews and choose one. Listening to it, I finally fall asleep about 4:30am.

Today I’m battling with a tired brain, but I will not take any naps. I will be active. With Christ all things are possible, so tonight I will trust Him to close down my brain and give me rest.

I’m bearing my heart this morning because writing has always been a way to pour out my emotions in words. And, as always, I hope others who are suffering will find some inspiration and knowing they are not alone.

It’s Normal to Cry When You Suffer Loss

broken heart
God gave us tear ducts for a reason. I’ve never bought into the tough guy male stigma of “men don’t cry.” My Ron cried. He was not a weak man. He was strong, vital, and all man, but he was a caring, loving man who wasn’t ashamed to let tears flow.
Many times we held each other in our shared grief. He was a passionate man who would sometimes look me in the eyes and tell me how much he loved me, and tears would fall. Our love was deep, beautiful, and grounded. It is this connection we shared, which made it so hard to learn to live without him.

 

I shed a lot of tears, even nearly three years after his soul went to heaven. His picture is the background on my computer. When I open the laptop, he is there smiling at me as he sits in a fishing boat, wearing his hat and ready to make a catch of the day. Remembering all the camping trips, cooking over the fire, playing 500 Rummy, enjoying the outdoors together…these bring me comfort. Yes, sometimes I shed a tear because I miss those times, but they are healing tears.
I remember once when a song came on the radio and it was a song we used to dance to…one we called our song. I danced around the living room while I sang and tears flooded my cheeks. Healing tears. The journal entry:
Heard “Could I Have This Dance” on the radio. I looked at the picture of Ron and me and with tears falling, I sang from my heart to him. His smile seemed to grow bigger and love poured from his eyes to my heart. I don’t know where this Heaven is he’s walking in right now, but I feel him with me and God must allow these small hugs.
Church seemed to be one of my most difficult times to control tears. I’ve always been one who cried when the Spirit touches me during a sermon, during Communion, and now the absence of Ron by my side triggered an undeniable sting behind my eyelids. Sundays were our special days together. We’d go to brunch after church and eat at a different restaurant in the evening. It was our quiet day together. Sundays became the hardest days for me to get through.
I read somewhere that emotions are like waves slapping the beach. Each wave brings a new round of despair or clarity. Sometimes I cried to the point of making myself sick. Always in the safety of my home where no one could interfere. These times are necessary. They are a cleansing and a part of healing.
The reality of losing Ron tore me up inside, scraped my heart, and bruised it beyond repair. I’ll never be the same again. My grief was a private grief and I didn’t want to burden others with the intensity of the pain I felt.

 

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Each person reacts differently to losing a loved one. We are not crazy. And we are not alone. God promises to walk with us through the storms of life and even in the shadow of death. He doesn’t promise we won’t have difficult journeys just because we are saved, but He promises He will always be with us.
There are times when I sit curled up in a chair and ask Jesus to hold me. And He does. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I do nothing. Think nothing. Just feel. And I know Jesus understands.

 

Don’t be afraid to cry. Find a quiet spot and just let the tears flow. Don’t hold back. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve done this. Grieve as loudly as necessary. Pound a pillow if you feel the need. Curl in a ball and retire to a dark room. Do whatever you feel the need to do. It’s normal. It’s healthy. It’s healing.

 

Cry when you need to and know that life goes on.

The Dreaded “Firsts” After Losing a Spouse

yellow lily

The first year is the hardest. There are so many “firsts” to get through.
My first “first” without Ron was his birthday in October. Waking that morning, I whispered “Happy Birthday” to an empty room. I sat up in bed, put on my slippers, rose and went through the motions of my morning chores. Tears pushed at my eyelids and I willed them away. This was a day to celebrate, right? But how was I to celebrate when he wasn’t here any longer?
The only gift I could give him was a new bouquet for his grave, but I didn’t think I could go there alone. Not on his birthday. My daughter agreed to go with me when she got off work.
Standing in the cemetery, staring at the place where his body rested, knowing he wasn’t there, but feeling connected somehow, I silently said all the words I couldn’t speak without breaking down. The silk flowers were for fall and I knew he would like them. He loved gardening and flowers.
After we left the cemetery, my daughter and I went to a local restaurant to eat. Not the restaurant Ron and I would have gone to, but it marked his special day in the way the two of us always celebrated. I made it through this first, but not without a lot of tears and heartache.
This first was quickly followed by my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and our wedding Anniversary (which was also the date my mother had passed). So much grieving. Silent grieving, many tears, and feelings of “what does life hold for me now?”
Christmas was extremely difficult.
A journal entry on the first Christmas:

 

Over three months since I wrote in this journal. I’ve been getting through a day at a time. There have been sad days, like your birthday, my birthday and Thanksgiving. Firsts to get through alone. I truly thought this day would go by like the others with a little sadness. I woke this morning realizing the terrible loneliness of spending Christmas without you. I picked up Traci and we visited your grave. I brought you a new bouquet of poinsettias. We shed tears together and I told her she didn’t have to be strong for me any longer. I know she worries about me a lot. After I took her home, I stopped at Julie’s to drop off the left over barbecue from the Christmas party. It was after I left that the sobbing and tears began. I don’t want the kids or anyone to know how lonely I feel today. My heart is aching so. I sit here next to the tree which is lit as you always enjoyed on Christmas day. The rocking horse you made sits beside it. The other recliner is empty. The house is too quiet and the cats are keeping their distance, frightened by my emotions. But I’ll get through the day because you’d want me to not grieve so much. You’d want me to smile. I just can’t right now. I look at my future and see nothing to strive for. It’s just a life where I wake up and move through another day. The Lord is with me. He shows me beauty in the skies and in this earth He created. I’m grateful for His blessings—so many. But part of me, the best part, is gone. I miss you so much, my love. I just called my brother and they’re having a party at his son’s house. He could only talk for a couple minutes. Everywhere families are gathering together. I feel so alone. None of the kids invited me to their homes. My friend, Pat, invited me to have dinner with them, but I would have been so sad to be with them and not family. I don’t want to be needy but how do I stop feeling so lost and alone on this day that should be so happy? A family day. When you grow old, the circle changes. You know your kids are experiencing the Christmases you once had. If only you were here with me today. I look at your picture, at the pictures of us on Christmas. I think I’ll watch the Christmas CD with you singing. Perhaps I’ll feel your presence.

I made it through Christmas. Grief made me selfish and needy. I realize now that my presence in any of my children’s homes would have put a cloud of sadness on their day. I needed to be alone to grieve. I did watch the CD. I cried. I found another home movie of the two of us opening presents on Christmas morning. It was the year before Ron became too ill to go out and shop. Our tradition changed after that. I would take him to our favorite Christian store and we would each pick out a Christmas card and Anniversary card for each other. I wouldn’t look at what he picked out for me and asked the clerk to put it in a separate bag. The three years of exchanging just cards was awesome. It was all we needed. That, each other, and our love.
New hope came with the new year. I made it through some difficult firsts. There were more to come, but I felt I could handle them. Life began to settle into a routine and I was able to write again. Writing allowed me to use the grief in a productive manner. Filling in empty hours is crucial in moving from a state of constant depression into a new normal.
I knew people who clung to their loved one so hard they couldn’t rise above the grief and back into life. I didn’t want to be like them. Time doesn’t heal the hole left in your heart when a loved one dies. But time does make it easier to bear.
And life does go on.