If I could only hear your voice one more time, hear your laugh, hear your heartbeat under my ear as I snuggled against your side...
Ben said, "I'd forgotten what he sounded like."
I remember not wanting to disconnect Sean's cell phone for the longest time. Sometimes late at night I'd call just to hear his voicemail message, hear that familiar baritone. I eventually disconnected the line, mainly because so many people around me were telling me to "snap out of it, move on, let go" even though it had only been months since his passing.
I often wonder if they would have done that if he had died of something other than suicide.
I doubt it.
Briahna had had a monkey where he'd recorded his voice in the palm for a Valentine's gift. She used to snuggle with it at night until it no longer made a sound.
It's both lovely and sad to hear someone's voice after it's been silent for a decade. See his smile. Hear his laugh. Remember the moment as if it were happening now.
Yes, we've moved on and succeeded in so many ways. Yet there are moments...these precious moments that filter into present day that take my breath away.
After the movies were put away, I went outside to watch the dogs play for a little while before bed. I stood on the patio Sean built, noticed his hand print in the concrete around the fire pit, and smiled. Despite his loss and the pain we've experienced, we have a good life built on the foundation that he and I built as a young couple. There are new dogs--two puppies in fact--because the ones we started out with have also passed on after growing with the children. The play set has been removed because the kids had outgrown it. A piñata once hung from the deck above me for my son's fifth birthday party where people had shown up despite a raging blizzard and we'd had that fire pit blazing while little kids threw snowballs and swung a broom handle at that horse-shaped piñata. As I stood there with my gaze locked on that hand print, I laughed at the memory and, for a moment, felt like he and I were reminiscing.
Life really is good, though. I've lived and loved. I've walked through the dark and into the light. I'm still here. I've come a long way--we all have.
Below is an expert from my memoir on surviving suicide and parenting through grief. The movies made me remember this particular passage so I looked at it again. And you know what? When I read it, I think of myself at that time with a great deal of compassion and wish I could go back as this future version of me to say, "keep believing...you make it...you really do."
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.
From the back cover...
"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."
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.