I mean, it's not like I battled a physical attack or triumphed over a disease. I wasn't held captive in chains. I wasn't in a war. What does it mean to survive the suicide of a loved one?
Well, it's insidious. It's a psychological battle of guilt, anger, shame, and grief.
The internal battle (what we say to ourselves):
Wasn't I good enough?
Why couldn't I save him?
What signs did I miss that he was that sad?
Didn't he love our family enough to fight to stay with us?
Didn't he realize how much we loved him…how much we needed him? Was I too big of a bitch to let him know those things?
The external war (what others say to us):
He's burning in hell, you have no right to mourn him.
Suicide is the ultimate rejection, an unredeemable sin.
Didn't you ever tell him you loved him?
Couldn't you tell he was sad? Why didn't you make him get help?
He killed himself, he's a coward.
Did you do everything you could to help him?
That's the battle we face--and it's socially acceptable. We often suffer in darkness, burdened by shame and guilt, and wonder if we could have said one word or done one thing that would have altered the outcome.
People whisper around us, suggest we lie about the cause of death to make others feel more comfortable, and tell us things like "if he was that sad, you're better off" or "you're lucky he didn't kill all of you if he was that messed up."Boom! Judgment is cast onto someone based on a final decision made in a desperate state of mind. A good person is suddenly deemed unworthy to be mourned because of one word…suicide.
That's the true tragedy.
The stigma of suicide is a stain that sinks into our skins and scars our hearts. We survivors of suicide embark on a journey of grief that involves trauma, forgiveness, spiritual questioning, and guilt that eventually leads to peace and understanding. But, oh what a journey it is.
Even today, eight years later, I have Bible versus tossed at me that are supposed to invalidate the love I had for my husband. Personally, I don't believe God is that harsh and will not tolerate that kind of abuse.
And that's exactly what it is…abuse. Survivors of suicide mourn in the shadows, afraid to utter the word for fear of the judgment that always comes…the slight change in facial expression, the narrowing of eyes as if assessing us in a new light, the careless comments that wound an already damaged heart…judgment often based on ignorance.
Unless you have experienced anyone's tragedy, do you really know what they're experiencing? Replace judgment with compassion, open your heart and your mind, and think before speaking.
I'm thankful for organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention who host days like this, International Survivors of Suicide Day, and Out of the Darkness walks to bring this subject out of the dark and into the light. I'm grateful for the members in my online Survivors of Suicide support group who walked with me through some horrible moments along my journey. We are not alone. Suicide is not a tragedy to hide, rather it is one that is simply that…a tragedy.
At the end of the day…only love remains.
"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."
You can purchase a copy of Free Fall now at: