Explaining this terrible experience to others, it's impossible! No one who has not gone through the loss of a loved one to suicide can even begin to imagine what it’s like. But several weeks ago, I tried the best I could to explain some aspects of it to my friends. They were worried because I said I hadn't gone grocery shopping in several weeks. I hadn't cleaned my house either, I just slept all the time.
First, I told them that that is what I needed to do at that time. My body was exhausted from barely eating and sleeping those first couple weeks. And I was emotionally exhausted. They seemed ok with that answer, but they were still worried because they know they can't understand it and don't know how to help me.
So I tried to put it into a way that they could understand. Now, I still feel my explanation highly oversimplifies what I'm feeling, but it gives them an inkling. First, I told them to imagine they were riding in a vehicle. Inside, you don't really sense that you're moving. You watch the rest of the world fly by you. You see other cars and people zoom past doing whatever they are doing. But inside your confined space-the vehicle (your mind/heart) even though you are moving forward, you can’t perceive it.
The next comparison I made was about my exhaustion. I had managed to do all my laundry that day so that was the example I used. Laundry isn't that difficult to do. It's a normal every day chore that everyone does without much trouble. So I equated that to taking a drive at 45mph on a nice sunny summer day.
But to me, that simple chore (or any other simple daily task or job) is now more like driving 45mph through a white out blizzard in windy conditions at night with bald tires. It's scary and stressful and I don't know when a snowdrift, another car, the wind, black ice (a trigger) is going to make me spinout and crash (start randomly crying, have a panic attack, etc). I don't know how long this blizzard will last and I don't know if I can make it through. Afterwards, I'm exhausted and need to rest.
Some days, I make it through the blizzard just fine, albeit exhausted. Other days, I don't want to face the blizzard and I just want to stay in my nice, warm, safe blankets. Other days I try it, I lose traction and spin out, and crash into a snow bank.
So that was how I tried to explained it to my friends. My explanation isn't quite right, but at least my friends have some word pictures to help them understand the way I am now.
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.