by Jan McDaniel
At one time I believed my husband's death had destroyed me. Over time that pain weakened. When it did, I found precious memories of our life together. Still there, drifting somewhere inside me, surviving. Using them as a starting point, I wrapped his love around me.
We just don't know a lot about death. We take much of what we believe about it on faith. Sounds like love. Love begins with faith. Forty years ago, I did not know what would happen if I married this man. He was handsome and tender, intelligent and caring. Yet, I knew little about him and less about who he would become and how I would have to change. We grew together, closer and closer over the years.
What amazes me is that I feel closer to him every day, just as I did when he was alive. In fact, I know him better now than I ever did before. How can this be?
The explanation could be as simple as perspective. I can see the smallest things he did in a new light now. I can appreciate them more, too. I think there is something about being alive that inhibits the deepest heart connections. We loved and celebrated each other and many moments in our lives, but we also grew tired, worried, and focused on other things. I could not be as close to him then as I am now.
I do not feel our love has ended. It feels more like he is somewhere else right now and that our separation is just temporary, the way I used to feel when he was at work or in another room. He doesn't feel ended. And with this new perspective, I can look back on the whole of his life and see that suicide was a very little part of it. He was so much more.
Maybe that is why the heart struggles against accepting loss. The mind knows immediately what has happened. The mind grasps the physical realities and often grasps at the first logical explanation. The heart, on the other hand, must sense there is more, must know on some level that logic has very little to do with suicide and that death is not the sum total of a person’s life. Therein lies conflict that must be resolved between head and heart on the long grief journey.
Perhaps the heart knows death is not the end. Many cultures and religious beliefs accept the concept of life after death. Is that just a comfort mechanism? I don't think so. I don't always sense my husband's presence around me, at least not that my conscious mind detects, but there have been times when the evidence was undeniable. I've heard the same from others.
No matter who you lost or what your relationship with that person was, listen to you heart. It knows.
Enter faith. Promises are based on faith. Love and healing are much the same. When you talk about whatever you believe with others who have lost those they love very much, most often you will find respect, perhaps curiosity. We have been put in proximity to whatever lies beyond the grave. As for me, I trust that the same God who gave me my life with my husband will reunite us in Heaven.
Why did our lives unravel this way? How could he leave me? How could he leave the children I know he loved more than his own life? Each survivor must ask tough questions like these as part of finding a path to healing and recovery, but healing is possible. That is one thing we learn from each other. There is hope. On the journey from despair to healing, I learned about guilt, regret, blame, shame, loneliness, and many other things, but honoring my own feelings and the memory of my precious soulmate led me to the joys of life and healing. I know him well enough to know that is what he would want for me.
Jan McDaniel, a writer from the southeastern United States, lost her husband to suicide in 2007. As a blog columnist and community forum moderator for the Alliance of Hope for suicide loss survivors, she writes about survival, connection, and hope. www.LightThatBringsHope.com