by Stephanie Chandler
I wanted people to better understand this journey, depression, suicide--all of it so I shared it on social media. The feedback was wonderful and helped me get through this first anniversary (the anticipation was worse than the actual day!)
Our lives were forever changed with the passing of my husband, Chris. I decided early on to be honest about what happened because I don’t know any other way to be. I have always wanted to show up in the world with authenticity, though it’s tricky now because as much as I want to be real, I also don’t want to spread sadness around.
If you ask me one-on-one how I’m doing, you’ll get an honest answer. Some days are better than others, and if you ask me on the wrong day, you’ll probably have to pass me a tissue. That’s the reality. I’m not trying to be strong or trying to pretend that it’s all okay. I’m just doing my best to walk this weird tightrope and get through it all the best that I know how.
The truth is that there has been nothing easy about this year. I cried every day for the first six months, and then I slowly started to claw my way out of a pit of darkness. Grief from loss by suicide is considered “complex.” It comes with extra layers of guilt, questions that will never be answered, and a whole host of woulda-coulda-shouldas. Just when I reconciled some piece of the puzzle in my mind, something new would pop up and knock me down again. But I kept getting up, because that’s all you can really do.
It has taken some fierce determination to not let grief win, and now I can finally say that most days are far better than they were at the beginning, and that is something to be thankful for
Through all of this, I have grown harder in some ways and softer in others. I can no longer tolerate negativity in almost any form. I can barely manage to watch the news, and cannot sit through anything with violence, injustice or extreme sadness. The little annoyances in life mean nothing to me. Traffic, bad weather, a rude clerk at a store—it’s a waste of energy to give these minor complaints a second thought. Life is meant to be enjoyed and appreciated.
At the same time, I have this whole new vulnerable side that has an even bigger appreciation for all-things-creative. Music, art, words—finding inspiration in these can move me to tears (the good kind!) more than ever before. It’s like I used to see only in black and white and now everything is in vibrant colors.
I’ve come to realize that the only thing that really matters in life is LOVE. My heart was shattered in a million pieces because of LOVE. But my heart is also fuller because of LOVE. When I think about what has most helped me get through this incredibly painful year, it’s been the LOVE of my family and friends.
What I’ve learned from all of this is that if anything, I want to love harder. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to tell my family and friends that I love them. I could never, ever regret loving someone, even if it ends in pain. Life is uncertain and pain is inevitable. But LOVE remains, even in the aftermath of pain.