Last month, one of our forum members posted a question that resonated with many other loss survivors. She asked:
"I know everyone grieves at their own pace, but I would love to know when it might start slipping into the background of my life vs. right in front of my face every second. My counselor said two years is normal. Would anyone be willing to share their experience?" ~Reluctant Widow
I was happy to share my experience with her. It's a bit unusual. I've gone through my own losses -- some more traumatic and profound than others -- and have trained and worked as a trauma and loss counselor -- eventually interacting with thousands off suicide loss survivors, in person and though the Alliance of Hope Forum.
I'm glad that Reluctant Widow asked people to "share their experience" because in realty, we are each sharing only that -- our own unique experiences. I believe one's experience of grief is influenced by a number of variables including but not limited to:
- one's own emotional makeup
- one's relationship to the deceased and the importance of that relationship
- one's sense of connection with the deceased in a spiritual realm
- circumstances around the suicide: public, private, news media, finding body, witnessing, etc
- the quality and quantity of family and community support
- the existence and severity of secondary wounds and relationship difficulties
- the existence of other stressors (financial, health, employment, child-rearing, etc.)
- the trauma training and expertise of mental health professionals if involved
- the use of adjudicative healing tools like yoga, meditation, being in nature, etc
- and lastly -- the way we think and speak about our loss and the possibility for our future
A couple of years ago, Jan McDaniel wrote something that resonated deeply with many people. To paraphrase, she wrote that while she had never wanted her husband's suicide to define him, she had somehow allowed it to define her. That realization allowed her increased freedom to create a new life, outside of the role of suicide widow. Jan's inspiring essays are on our blog.