Now it's done. Not only is Free Fall written, it's published and out in the world generating a life of its own. Early reviews call it brave, insightful, inspirational, and raw.
I'm not sure it's brave. I'm uncertain how to feel about it all together. It simply is my story.
I opened my journals written during that time frame with a great deal of trepidation. I'd written them, stuffed them in my bedside table, and written more afterward. Reading them again brought all of the pain back. I could see where my tears had crinkled pages and caused ink to run. I scribbled words like "grief sucks" and "I miss you, Sean" over and over again. And there were pages of such anger that I squirmed in my seat recalling how intense that had felt at the time. Raw is an accurate word. Again I wondered why I'd want to write a memoir about such a painful event, but then I found myself sitting at the computer with tears streaming down my face as the story poured forth onto the screen.
I told myself that the only way to do it was to write uncensored. If I meant to tell my truth, then I needed to reveal all of my journey, even the darkest moments. It's not always flattering. It is, however, always brutal.
The story is short, only about 36,000 words which isn't even half of what one of my novels would be. I couldn't write anymore than that. It was too intense, too real, too sad to relive.
I kept my intention in mind as I edited because it was important to me that this not be a vindictive story or one of victimization. I wanted it to be a story of the brutality of grief and the promise of hope. I wanted to show my reality so that no one else walking a similar path would ever feel as alone as I did. So I edited to show only my perspective, changed the names of certain people who didn't choose to be in the spotlight, and relied on my journals of anguish to guide me.
Baring one's soul for the world to see isn't easy, but I felt it necessary. People in my Survivors of Suicide group also encouraged me to write this, telling me that they didn't have the means to express themselves so I needed to speak for them. I don't presume to do that, though. I can only speak for myself, for Sean, for my children, and for our journey which is still unfolding.
Fiction is a helluva lot easier...and more fun...I can testify to that. For a memoir to be true, it must be bled from the heart and soul.
About Free Fall...
"Understanding suffering always helps the energy of compassion to be born."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
In an instant my husband stripped away my identity as wife, stay-at-home mom, and best friend. With his suicide, our world changed forever. He'd been the center of our universe, but then he was gone.
Grief is a dark journey, one often tainted with judgment and false perceptions. Add the word 'suicide' to the mix and more complications arise. This memoir, Free Fall, is intended for those who may be facing their own tragedy and feeling alone, hopeless, confused, scared, and misunderstood.
Free Fall is the journey of piecing our lives back together—overcoming children's anxiety as we traversed the brutal grief and trauma process, learning to say the words 'widow' and 'single mom' without cringing, surviving the fall out with friends and family who simply couldn't understand our healing process, triumphing over the stigma of 'suicide', forgiving my husband, and finding peace after chaos.
Free Fall is for widows, widowers, parents, survivors of suicide, family members or friends of one who mourns. This story is for anyone who needs encouragement that there is another side to grief. There is. We're there now. We're looking back and holding our hands out to you saying, "hang in there, you're not alone, and you'll get here, too."
Excerpt of Free Fall...
Being alone like this is more frightening than I ever anticipated. Grief isn't a 'condition' or an 'issue' to get over. It's the loneliest journey I've ever experienced.
Everyone leaves. Everyone who said "call me" doesn't answer the phone. This kind of alone is terrifying. It's different than being single, back when I had single friends who were available and plans were abundant. This is the absence of what was and what will never be. This is the realization my life plans have been thrown off course and I have no idea how to navigate this new path.
I feel almost desperate to connect with Sean. I wear his sweaters, look at photographs, watch our wedding video, wear his wedding ring on my thumb, and write him letters in my journal. I sit in my closet and talk to him out loud in the middle of the night. I ask him why he didn't choose us in the end. When I look at those pictures and videos, I stare at his face and wonder when he became so lost.
Bree has a stuffed monkey that she carries around. Sean bought it for her last Valentine's Day. When she presses the paw, a recording of Sean's voice says, "I love you, Breezy Bree." She's upset tonight because it stopped working. I thought it was a battery problem, but that didn't fix it. Another piece of him is gone.
"You can't do anything right!" She threw the monkey at me.
I'm holding it now as I sit in the closet where he died. Maybe I'm losing my mind. I tell him about my fears that I'm a horrible parent, my worry about letting everyone down, and tell him that I love him.
New Year's Eve is approaching. Normally, I look forward to the new year, but now all I see is a void of endless nights where I pace, scared to sleep for fear of seeing him in my dreams.
I ache, simply ache deep in my chest and I don't think it will ever go away.
He left us, damn it. He chose to go, yet here I am mourning him like a fool, pacing the house, wearing his sweaters, and holding a damn monkey while sitting on the floor where he died. There's not one thing that's right about this picture. Not one thing.
How do I get beyond this? What if I'm stuck here in this state of limbo, of not being able to think beyond the moment? How can I mesh the two parts of Sean? How do I make peace with any of this?
In DC, my family said they want the old Amber back, that they can't stand seeing me look so sad.
I don't think the old Amber exists anymore.
I feel like I'm in a soundproof booth, trapped behind glass. I see myself on the other side—a version of me that is happy, secure, and confident. I smack the glass with both hands in an attempt to break through to reach her, but the barrier won't yield. I'm trapped in this bubble of grief, nightmares, and regret.