by Tom's Wife
I just replied to a post here from someone whose family had just left and they were now alone. This really got my mind spinning, so I've decided to write this post.
On the day that my husband Tom took his life, the first person I called was my nephew. He's 34 years old and a pastor. A year earlier his own father-in-law had taken his life also. Jeff made calls to the rest of the family for me and then headed up here - a 500 mile drive - early the next morning.
That night I was alone. I had told my neighbors I was just fine and needed to be alone. Wrong. I ended up calling the chaplain's 24-hour hotline with a lot of worry about whether to call 911 for myself. I couldn't stop shaking - my legs just continued to kick, my head was pounding, I was crying so hard I felt like I couldn't get a full breath. That wonderful woman explained what was happening to me physically and the hormonal flush that was happening to my body due to stress. She talked to me from 11:00 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. I finally had calmed down. She told me I had to lay down, I didn't have to sleep, but I had to rest. I never did sleep that first night, but I did finally calm down a bit and rest.
I don't even remember my nephew Jeff actually arriving that next morning - lots of memory gaps in those first few weeks - but I clearly remember us sitting on the deck and him talking to me. I listened intently because I knew he'd been through this situation only a year earlier and I knew he loved me very much.
I clearly remember him very seriously saying, You are a strong person, but you cannot do this on your own. You have to accept help from your family and friends. We're all here for you. Don't tell them you're fine, you're not, and it's going to be a while before you are.
The first time I laughed was that day when he so very gently said, "I mean nothing by this, just asking. Have you showered?" I told him I actually had showered that morning. He told me, all anyone can ask of you right now is to eat, drink, and sleep. If you shower, that's a bonus. No one can expect anything more, including yourself.
His analogy of this grief was like walking into the ocean. In the beginning, every wave is huge and will take you down. Eventually smaller waves will hit you and you'll stumble through them, then another huge wave will take you down. He said the waves will get smaller and there will be more time in between, but there will be times a monster wave will come out of nowhere and take you down again, but you will get back up, you will not drown.
He urged me to seek grief counseling, offered to take me to my doctor for medication, he cooked my meals, he offered to do ANYTHING, including clean my house. He sat in the living room and read while I talked with Tom's sister in the kitchen. He wanted to give us space, but wanted me to know he was there for me if I needed him. He was my perfect first angel. He was calm and loving and he truly understood how I was feeling.