I get asked daily what helped me to heal after my husbands suicide. Often after the horror of a tragedy we are drowning, suffocating in our grief and we are desperate for anything to fix us. We are hoping there is one self-help book we could read that would cure us. Or one grief specialist that could talk us out of our darkness. Or one advice column that will have the ingredients to cure our broken hearts.
I don't believe it works that way. At least for me......it didn't work that way.
When my husband died, I couldn't read a book beyond reading simple story books to my children. When I sat down at any time of day or night with an adult self-help, grief, or spiritual book? I couldn't make out the words on the page. They were blurry. I would try to read one page and the information wouldn't soak in. My head would be pounding. It was too much. It was too soon. I could hardly get dressed in the morning. How was I going to power through enough books to cure me? I still bought piles, piles of self-help books after he died. Books on grief. Books on death. Books on spirituality. Books on how to talk to the dead. Books on where souls go when they die because I desperately needed to know where my husband's soul was.
So, did books help lift my grief? Yes, and no. No, in the first weeks I couldn't concentrate enough to read a book. But over the past 2 1/2 years I have read piles of books and the ones that actually sparked something in my heart and helped light my way out of my sadness? The stories of real people's experiences with trauma, tragedy, sadness, depression, and grief. Those are the books that spoke to me. They warmed my heart. They taught me that I was not alone. They showed me that the world is full of darkness, tragedy, and lives that go wrong but that people make it out of that darkness. That's what I needed to hear, to read. I needed to know that someone else had made it out of the burning ashes of their grief and made it to sunshine again. The self-help books? I would skim through them, try a bit of the advice, and put them back on the shelf. Why? Because what works for one person isn't always what's going to work for the next 100 people. You could tell me that exercise lifted your grief and I could try to exercise every day and still feel a dark cloud hanging over my head. You could tell me a hundred other ideas that helped you and maybe only 5 of them will help me. The point is that self-help books are wonderful but you might have to read 10, 20, 100 of them to put together the pieces from each that will help you as an individual. I used to want to write one, but now I want to write my real, raw, and honest story of the years leading up to my husbands suicide, the day of his suicide, and all the minutes/days/months/and years after his suicide. Inside of that story I hope someone will find hope, peace, empathy, and that they will relate to what I went through and will see that I made it through and so can they.
Nature helped me after my husband's suicide. I couldn't be around very many people. I coudn't concentrate. I didn't like being in crowds. But when I would step out into the woods with my children? I would feel a calm wash over my spirit. I could hear my husband talking to me on the wind. The sunshine? The sunshine did things to my grief that I can't explain. My children would be playing their nature games in the woods and I would find a nice and sunny spot to set up our little camp for the day. I would sit there with my face turned to the sun, shoes off, barefeet touching the earth and I could breathe. It was the only place I could really breathe. I felt connected to everything and in that moment I somehow understood that while my husband was dead........I could still feel him, I could still love him, I could still talk to him. I was desperate to talk to my husband after he died. Desperate. It's all I thought about most days. I would talk to him outloud and demand that he tell me why he left. I would demand for him to say something to me....anything....to tell me that he didn't do this because he didn't love me....to tell me that it wasn't my fault because I was so sure that it was and it was pulling me towards my own demise. It was in nature that I eventually learned that I didn't need to go to a medium to talk to my own husband. We all have the gift of this....some are just more in-tune with it. I started to eventually hear him. How? When? When I let go of the demanding. When some of my deep grief and depression lifted. When I learned that I might ask him something and he might not respond for a few minutes, a couple of days, or a week. There is no time where souls go. There is no time in the beyond, in heaven, or whatever you want to call it. Talking to a spirit is not like talking to someone when they are alive. It's a slower process. It's a different type of conversation. They speak in energy and it takes time to figure out their specific language. They show you pictures in your mind. You hear them in your thoughts but it takes patience to learn the difference between their voice and your own thoughts. It's also a feeling. When I'm feeling sad and thinking of my husband and suddenly a dragonfly lands on my knee? I know it's him. He's there. I can feel it. I can feel his hand on my shoulder and his presense and can almost smell his cologne. There are so many other ways that I have learned that he communicates with me. He blows out lightbulbs when I cry in the basement alone. I will be sitting at someone's house having coffee and when I mention his name their dining room light flickers. They don't notice but I do and I just keep on with our conversation. So after I learned that nature was going to be one of the greatest components to my healing? I learned that my husband was also going to be. He has helped me understand what happened, where I go from here, and which path to take almost daily. He's always close by sending me signs or answering my endless questions. Yes, people die. But the relationship continues on. How? You have to believe. If you don't believe? Then you will miss out on their signs, you will block out their voice, and you will forever seek outside sources to communicate with them. You have to tune in. The relationship continues. Just in a much different way. It was him that told me to date. It was him that told me to go to South Dakota on vacation which is where he left me a message inside of a person. It was him who told me to help others in grief. It was him who tells me to keep going, keep pushing, keep rising. It is him who now tells me to keep talking to the man I've been talking to lately. He says that sometimes you have to go through the worse to get to the best. He says that sometimes you have to turn down a handful of requests from people who want to date you, date one that teaches you lessons and gets you back into life and then the universe sends you the right one for your heart. He knows my path. He's on my side. He might have left me here on earth without him but he's not completely abandoning me. He's pushing me towards my dreams and the life that I deserve.
Time. Time has helped my grief after my husbands suicide. It hasn't healed it or fixed it. It's just that time has allowed me to learn. Time has allowed me to grieve. Time has allowed me to go through all the emotions....once, twice, a hundred times. Time has allowed me to really think about where I go from here, how I go from here without him.
So these are my ingredients that helped me after my husbands suicide. Nature, real humans stories, spirituality, talking with people who have experienced grief, time, building my boundaries, stepping back from my social life for awhile, QNRT therapy, and my husband. That combination has gotten me to where I am today. Am I done grieving? No. Am I "over it"? No. Suicide grief runs deep. The trauma of seeing your husband in the morning and two hours later getting a knock on the door that he shot himself? That trauma will stay with me forever. I play that day over all of the time. It's part of who I am. In so many ways it's awful and in other ways I hear my husband telling me, "Let it make you more compassionate, Nik. Tell our story. Don't let this harden your heart or make you afraid of life or even loving a man again. It happened, Nik. It shouldn't have happened. I had thought about it for awhile and that day? That day was a totally irrational and spur-of-the-moment choice and when I got to the other side? I wished I hadn't done it because I could then see the entire picture and my soul had to deal with that just like you have to deal daily with the fact that I'm gone. But we are both where we are and we are ok, Nik. We are growing. We are learning. Our hearts are bigger, not smaller, because of this. We are still a team. And someday we will flicker lights in someone's kitchen together but for now, Nik? You gotta live. You gotta live for our babies, for you, and the world needs your heart, your compassion, your knowledge, your rawness, and your story. See you when I see you my friend. I'm ok. I'm more than ok. You do you for awhile. You're going to be ok. You're going to fall in love again and have a beautiful life. Take care of you. I'm always here if you need a friend or want to ask your endless questions about the beyond. I'm always near by."
Go to nature to heal your wounds.
Talk to your loved one that died. They are always listening.
Seek out others real, raw, and human stories. Within them you will find yourself.
Time. Give yourself time.
Reach out to a grief support person to have your grief seen and heard and acknoweldged.
Always know that the answers to heal yourself are within you. There are no quick fixes. There is no one recipe for healing.
You have to seek out many resources and make up your own recipe.