by Jan McDaniel
“How do you survive after the suicide of someone you love?” I try to answer this question and others like it every day. For over thirty years, my husband was my world, the father of my children, my soulmate. After he died, I had no idea how to go on without him.
At first, I existed but little more. And I found such darkness. There I would dwell for quite a while though you might not have known - unless you looked closely – because I went back to my job as a newspaper reporter only eight days after his death.
I wandered through the days, crying as I drove to and from work and assignments, drying my eyes to go into the office and to do interviews and take pictures. I recorded the lives of others even as I felt my own life was over. It was as if the planet had shifted and I had been shifted, too … away from the land where everyone else was living.
Now, I write about the bits of light and hope that eventually brought me back. I can remember mostly the love I shared with my husband; the pain of losing him has softened.
But back to that “how” question. Exactly how did my life's greatest tragedy become a new life and a new way to honor the love my husband and I shared?
On the community forum at the Alliance of Hope for suicide loss survivors, people like me challenge some of the most painful issues survivors face: being told to “get over it,” stigma, shunning and just the terrible shock and pain of losing a loved one in such a traumatic and violent way. We heal by sharing our personal stories and strategies for survival in a safe and nonjudgmental environment. It is tender work in the face of monumental pain.
Layers of loss unfold gradually. Though each of us has a unique journey, it helps to see we are not alone in figuring out even practical things. Who will shovel the snow or decide what to do with boxes filled with a life now gone? Navigating holidays, eating out alone, seeing couples walking hand in hand … we can relate to how difficult those things can be.
I’m privileged to witness the brokenhearted find their first moments of peace and to see them reach out to give a word of encouragement or a virtual hug to someone even newer to grief.
That’s how I discovered I can live a good and productive life – one day at a time. That’s how I survive.
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