Thursday, February 20, 2014


Can we forgive ourselves? Is that really possible if you are a Christian? I believe in the Lutheran doctrine which says that God is the only one who can forgive us. R's death was a choice he made, and I know that intellectually. But there is still guilt. And what to feel guilty of if I was not the one to kill him? Lots of things: simply being alive while he is gone, what could I have done to stop him? (answer: nothing), why wasn't I able to save him when I found him? (answer: it was too late), etc...the list goes on and on. Some of these things are logical and some are not. Through all of my reading I have learned that with any kind of death there is guilt. It seems to be a criteria for the grieving process. And so what do I forgive myself of? Or what do I ask God to forgive me of? Whatever I can; for instance, anything I ever did to hurt R, not being able to help in some way, being angry at R, all kinds of things. Anger is one of the biggest issues I have. I get angry for the littlest, stupidest things and it is sometimes intrusive and inconvenient. Example: the other day I was happily walking my son into the YMCA for his swim lesson. It was twilight and a huge firetruck sat in the front entrance with it's lights flashing around. As I walked past the firetruck I was instantly transported back to that horrible evening when R decided to kill himself. When we found him it was twilight, the sky was the same color, it was damn near the same exact time of day, and after I called 911 there was a huge firetruck, ambulance and 2 police cars sitting in my front yard with the soft light of evening in the background. I sat on my front steps praying in a panic and wondering what in the hell to do with  my son at this moment. How to protect him? You cannot. You cannot protect your children from everything in the world. I think I had good instincts in keeping him with me, and explaining to him in very simple language what was happening. And back to my anger: walking past a firetruck is a simple task, right? Normally one  might wonder, what happened here? Is everyone OK? But not me. I think about how we came home and found him hanging there - and proceed to think, You son of a bitch. I can't even walk past a firetruck without thinking of what you did. How could you do that?! How could you do that to your son?! 

However, this truly is a process. And each time I am reminded of his suicide, the cut hurts a little less and a little less and I am able to move past it. Deep wounds do heal. It just takes time and care, like healing from a heart surgery. My chest was opened and worked on, and sewn back up again, but the true healing takes much longer with special care for months and months and maybe even years afterwards.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Somber vs. Happy

I don't want to grieve anymore. I don't want to think about it anymore. I am tired of working on it. I want to work on something else. Grief is hard work. It is draining. My life outside of this tragedy is finally going pretty well. I'm happy and hopeful for the future; the door to a personal dream I have had all my life seems to be opening up to me. I want to remain happy and energized- I don't want to think about the death of my husband all the time. And I don't have to. Did you hear that? I don't have to! What a horrible way to live, thinking about death all of the time. R would never have wanted that for me. I'll say something quite controversial here: screw what R would have wanted for me. I am not living out his life or his dreams, I am living out my own. This is my life, my time table, and no one else has a say in the matter except for me. I will not apologize for being me, or for being happy. And THAT is what R wants for me.

The problem with being a widow, particularly a young one, is that you are carefully scrutinized. Our culture expects you to be somber all the time. Our culture does not accept non-traditional grieving, grieving without tears, too much or too little- if you don't do it the exact right way, something is "wrong."

Tragedy such as this opens you up and makes you vulnerable. There is no energy left over for putting on a facade. This has been one of the greatest gifts to me. I have finally become my own person. I found myself. I found connection to my own spirit I have never had before. I truly believe God has somehow turned a horrible thing into something good. As humans we can never understand how this is possible. But I don't question it, I just keep believing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Feeling Crazy

When it has been a few days (since I have written on this subject) I become very antsy. I can hardly sit still until I can get something out again. Just now, before I sat down to my little netbook, you would have seen me literally pacing the length of my apartment in my sweatpants and bathrobe. If anyone saw me they might think I look either neurotic, disturbed or riddled with anxiety. I walk around doing little chores like giving the cats their nightly dry food, preparing the coffee maker for the morning, doing dishes, laundry and sometimes forgetting what I was going to do on the way. I pace trying to think of what I was doing when I got up out of my seat. Where was I going? What was I going to do? This behavior actually has a name: polyphasic behavior. I have read in Dr. Alan Wolfelt's book, Understanding Your Suicide Grief, that this is something that can make a grieving person feel like they are "crazy." He explains it as, " start doing something and then, right in the middle of it, you forget what you were doing and start doing something else." I cannot begin to count how often this has happened to me when I am at the grocery store. I would be there for a only a few items, and while walking around get so distracted that I could not remember what I came into the store to purchase. I have tried to get into the habit of writing a list before I go, otherwise I wander aimlessly from section to section trying to remember what I need and picking up things that I don't need. And there have been times when I have aborted the trip altogether while driving to the store. 

I have been doing these polyphasic behaviors since R died. For months I did not know what to do with myself, even though I had hours of nursing schoolwork to do. Every moment of my free time could have been filled with some kind of nursing schoolwork. School will be a sure-way to keep myself from thinking about what has happened. Going to school is the only way I can survive right now. I have to have a reason to get out of bed everyday. My son. I need to do this for my son. I need to go to school to show him that I can still function and not completely fall apart. I floated around my apartment doing a little here, stopping, and moving to something else. I just could not sit down and stay on task for more than about 15 minutes at a time. I would get up and continue my little chores: straightening up  the couch, cleaning up toys, the bathroom, my bedroom, and do some pacing in between. To an outsider I may have looked like a very busy person. I suppose that would be true. My mind was so busy sorting through things that I could not focus on any one thing for very long. I did not realize this until a few weeks ago. After all this time, and reading through the book so much, you would think I could recognize my own behavior. Nope. I have become a student of grief and specifically suicide grief, learning things about myself as my mind slowly returns back to what it was before this trauma happened. Perhaps my brain will never be the same. I am beginning to accept that. I am a new person now. I have undergone a transformation that was forced upon me, but transformed for the better, I think. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Recurring Dreams

Today is my son's birthday. This is his second birthday without his Daddy. I can't help but think of R today. He is missing this. I bought my son his first basketball  hoop. I tried hard as I could, but could not physically get it together by myself. It reminds me of when we bought our son a trampoline for Christmas and were up until 2 am Christmas Eve putting it together. That was a two-man job for sure and also a pleasant memory for me now. These thoughts have been mostly fleeting, until this afternoon. Coming out of a store and walking to my car, I was nearly brought to my knees with flashbacks, both visual and auditory. My heart started to beat faster while my stomach had a horrible sinking feeling; the kind of feeling you get when you know something bad has happened. Mommy why is daddy hanging in the garage I kept hearing; me screaming his name. I could see him there, eyes closed, looking like he was sleeping, mid-air. Perhaps it might have been provoked by this milestone for my son. Apparently, birthdays, anniversaries and holidays can trigger these sorts of things. But I woke up so happy for my son this morning that I thought I would be just fine. Earlier today I was digging around in R's old tool bag, which still retains the faint smell of our garage. Maybe that was the trigger.

Perhaps my psyche was trying to warn me last night when I had a nightmare about a tornado. This is a recurring dream I have when I am right in the middle of something big, an internal conflict - something that I am trying to find peace with. The dream goes like this: I am walking somewhere or arguing with someone when suddenly a tornado is visible in the distance, or a TV news anchor is shouting to take cover. Panic ensues as I try desperately to find a safe place to go while the tornado goes over me. When I find this spot, it is never perfect. But eventually I have to stay there because I run out of time. I brace myself for impact. I can hear whirling, racing wind outside as it comes close, and it either misses me altogether or passes "through" my hiding spot and I come away with not so much as a scratch. The interpretation of this dream (if you believe in such things) is fairly obvious to me: things may be bad right now, and you might be scared, but you will come through the other side unscathed.

Monday, February 3, 2014


It is amazing to me how you can live with someone in the same house (such as your spouse) and not know everything about them. Knowing someone requires communication. Just because you live together does not mean you will automatically maintain intimacy in your relationship.

R. and I were both introverts. I did not know, as I do now, that this can be a bad combination for a marriage. We tend to keep things inside, internalizing it all, until one day it comes blasting out like a volcano. Volcanoes are not good for marriages. They start fires all over the place. This is a dangerous place for a relationship. Too much internalizing, not enough communication can let someone slip through the cracks of mental health. This is one of the reason's why R's death was such a shock. I knew that he was depressed, however, I did not know just how low he had sunk.

One of my mistakes was that I stopped expressing my feelings. The less I expressed my feelings, the more difficult it became to do it. Even the most typical spousal issues (sharing of chores, finances, etc...) were hard for me to put into words. I came to a point where I would try to put it into the simplest most basic sentence I could come up with, such as: I do not like it when ________________ .

The point is, we were both keeping our thoughts and feelings inside to save each other the stress of an argument. But, this backfired completely. It caused more stress for us to hold everything inside and pretend like things were okay, than to have an uncomfortable discussion. As time passed on, we grew further apart due to our busy everyday lives and not making time for our relationship. Soon I didn't know how R. felt about anything. I didn't recognize him anymore. Who was this irritable, angry person? This was not the person I married. And I'm sure he felt the same way about me. I felt that I had turned into a different person, and I was not pleased with myself. I am working on forgiving myself and forgiving R. The guilt that comes with death cannot stay.