Even though it has been four years since I lost Ellie, I realize now that I have mostly avoided my feelings of grief, sadness and sorrow. We went through a prolonged period of trauma because of her illness that left me bereft and completely strung out. By the time she died, I was sick from all the stress and I realize now how afraid I was of completely falling apart if I let it out.
I felt that I had to be strong to cope with the years of constant crises that almost ripped our family apart. I had to be strong for my son who I feared for because he had been through it all too at such a young age. Thankfully now he is a fine young man and reassures me regularly that all is well with him. He has graduated as an Engineer and just started his first job.
Maybe it was the right thing for me to do it my way to suit my circumstances. I knew how damaged I was from all that I had been through with the final blow of her suicide and I recognized that it could take me down completely. I saw it as a sink or swim situation for me in order to survive it.
In the early days, I did not have the will to live so focusing on my son and his father kept me going each day. Engaging with my grief terrified me because I did not feel up to it. The reality horrified me.
I was in a hurry to fast forward with my life, in order to get away from what we had been through. I resented engaging with the sorrow. I know that life is short so I reasoned that feeling grief was a pity party, which is just not me at all. On a rational level I had come to terms with what had happened but emotionally those feeling would not go away, they held me captive.
On the advice I recently received on the forum, I started to write out my thoughts and feelings and I can now report some success in dealing with my emotions. I can see all the scars of the past and the hurt and pain of seeing my beloved child endure such illness that was not easy to treat. Mental illness with symptoms of behavioral problems are not really recognized as disease and so are often misunderstood by many.
So now I see engaging with my grief feelings as on a continuum. On one extreme is denial and the other extreme is being overwhelmed. My aim is to be somewhere in the middle.
I engage with my emotions now only as far as is safe for me to get out of denial, but only as far as is comfortable and not to get overwhelmed. I can do this when it suits me. like when I am alone and I now give myself permission to feel my emotions my way.
But I still have a very strong drive to fast forward and put it all behind me as soon as possible. I realize now that avoiding my feelings of grief at this stage is unhealthy for me and that in order to heal I must experience all my emotions. The only way forward is through it which I still strongly want to avoid.
In this instance, my instinct to avoid pain may actually be prolonging my pain.
This post first appeared on the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors forum. Reprinted with the permission of the author. Visit our moderated community of support to those who have experienced the tragic loss of a loved one to suicide.