It’s been a whole two years since my husband left us. Killed himself type of ‘left us’. It seems like no time at all and a hundred years ago. I remember two things that burned in my brain when it happened:
I will not be defined by this.
What can I learn from this?
The learning took time, it was tiny glimmers of revelation, epiphanies, moments of brilliant clarity and insight. Often one liners or well-intentioned but seriously terrible comments. Each of these moments moved me forward. In the first year it was all about my close friends and family. This was my Facebook status update one year on, New Year’s Eve, 2013:
2013 consider your butt royally whooped! During without doubt the worst year of my life, I have also felt like the luckiest woman alive. Why? Because I have not walked one step of it alone.
So did 2014 rock? Well, yes it has. The first six months were much tougher than I ever imagined. I got through the first year anniversary and all those ‘this time last year’s and thought I’d made it out of the grief.
Then it came back. Back to howling on the kitchen floor and banging my head to try and get rid of the pain. Watching my children do the same, trying so hard to keep themselves sane and in education. Well some we won and some we lost, but a whole two years on I can say we are a family again. Not three individuals dealing with our independent pain and a massive gap.
The second part of this year has been fantastic. I AM HAPPY. I AM A HAPPY PERSON. My support net has widened, I’ve read some great books, and cyber-met some kicking widows. I’ve beaten some of my own personal demons. I’ve travelled and taken flights on my own, been on the Underground, revisited old haunts and survived and come out stronger. I’ve watched my kids recovering, getting stronger and happier. I’ve given up my full time job to set up my own ventures, spent even more time outside, and got grounded, confident and happy. I’ve got me!
So, PJ’s suicide has not defined me. But it has changed me, shaped the person I have become. I don’t sweat the small stuff, I don’t suffer fools, at all. If I feel myself getting stressed or irritated by things I can’t control, I sing the theme to Disney’s “Let It Go” in my head. I know I am strong, I know I’m a good mother. I know I have more support and love from my people than any one person deserves and I never take it for granted.
What did I learn? That my children are stronger than I ever hoped and for that I am grateful and so proud. I’ve learned that most battles are not worth fighting, that there really is always someone worse off than you. One pearl of wisdom came from an incredible friend who came to our house within a week of PJ’s death. “Don’t try and do each other’s grieving.” She and her family had suffered their own terrible loss. When the kids were at their worst over the first 18 months, I was there for them, I hugged, I listened, I talked, I supported, and I bought fast food and chocolate and concert tickets. But I respected that they were responsible for their own ‘grief journey’ and knew I could neither protect them from it nor do it for them. A really hard lesson to learn as a mother.