Last month, I received a wonderful message from a woman whose fiancé ended his life five years ago. She told me she had – for the first time in five years – been able to read an entire book.
Following the devastating loss of her fiancé – just days before their wedding - this survivor’s grief was compounded by unconscionable secondary wounds and challenges that robbed her of her power. Complex grief combined with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, began to dominate her life. She became too depressed and too anxious to leave her own home. Her curtains remained closed and the only traveling she did was from her bedroom to her kitchen, for an occasional bite to eat.
I was thrilled to read her note first thing in the morning. This was something to be celebrated. Prior to the suicide, she had been an avid reader. After the suicide – like so many other survivors - she had difficulty concentrating. She would find herself reading and re-reading paragraphs many times or forgetting what she read. And sometimes she would just forget where she left what she wanted to read.
On the Alliance of Hope forum, survivors often describe difficulty concentrating.
“I, who used to read 400-pages novels in a weekend, cannot face a paper or a magazine. My son gave me an article to read the other day -- it was 2 pages. Took me 3 tries to get through it.”
Back when my stepson died, I had difficulty concentrating too. I forgot many appointments. It was terribly embarrassing and at times, I wondered if I was losing my mind. I didn’t have access to all the information and understanding that we have today.
Confusion and difficulty concentrating are aspects of the survivor experience which are sometimes overlooked in the rash onset of debilitating emotions. If you are having difficulty in this area, please know that the ability to concentrate and focus does return with time for the vast majority of people. Perhaps not as quickly as we would like, but it does return.
Ronnie Susan Walker MS, LCPC is the Founder and Executive Director of the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors.