Just got a message from someone who had connected with me a few months ago because of a person close to her who had suicided. The grief had hit her all over again, but her friends and family members seemed freaked out by her continued sorrow.
She asked if I planned to restart my suicide support group, which I had stopped running after closing the shop because I no longer had a meeting space. I started to respond that I’d been really busy and hadn’t had time… but while that’s true, that’s not the real reason.
The waves of pain and sadness had been hitting pretty often again in the past couple of months. I haven’t done any blogging on the topic, and haven’t done any volunteering for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. And I haven’t wanted to start the group up again.
Unless you’ve lived through it, you cannot imagine how the suicide of someone you love just cuts through your skin and into every muscle of your body, all the way down into each and every one of your cells. It is a grief like no other.
Everyone deals with loss differently, and the loss from a suicide is no different in that respect. Some people use drugs (legal and/or illegal) and alcohol to cope. Others throw themselves into ill-advised relationships. Many (probably a majority) will isolate, trying to get through the brain fog and anxiety and despair alone.
I worked. And worked and worked, at one point doing a full-time job plus overtime, as well as two part-time jobs while also trying to keep our antiques and used books business going. I did that because that’s what I do… I work. I always have, and I always will.
And I know… many of you tried to tell me to slow down, that I wasn’t doing myself any favors. You were all right of course, but I wasn’t ready to face the reality of John’s death under such horrendously sad circumstances. I needed a buffer. And work was part of it.
Yet, I was falling apart, every minute of every day. I was a mess… thinking, although not consciously, that if I could put enough time between October 21st, 2016 and whatever day I was in, that at some point I’d be able to deal with it all better.
It’s not like I wasn’t thinking about him constantly. I was blogging and journaling…volumes and volumes of writing. And crying, screaming sobs that would threaten to tear me apart. But I couldn’t stop moving. I’d have these occasional flashes that I could pull myself together, and I’d be okay for a few minutes or hours…sometimes even a day or two. But then it all came back, as painful as ever.
Until one day it became clear that I had to make a major change, or there wouldn’t be anything left of me to change. As I said, I was a mess.
Sadly, John’s death was compounded by others… his dog Buddy, who died shortly after John did; the death of one of my best friends from high school; the husband of a close friend; the brother of another friend I love dearly, and then my own father.
In the midst of this, some wonderful things have happened: I now have a grandson and the kids are moving home to Maine this summer; I’ve reconnected with some friends from long ago and made new friends; I’ve developed closer relationships with a few very special people such as my sister, a cousin and some others; and I’m about to climb out of the financial hole that John’s death threw me into (and is yet another reason I was working so hard before).
Have I stopped crying over the tragedy of John’s emotional and physical pain that was so much worse than I realized, and the loss of a husband I loved more than I can describe? No… and who knows if I ever will.
However, I’m not wading through mud with every step now. I’m able to accept that I will carry this grief forever, that it is a part of me now, a part of who I am, just like being in my 60s – I don’t like being this age with its attendant pains and wrinkles and loss of mental sharpness, but there’s nothing I can do other than make the best of things, and to live – LIVE – the 20 or 30 years I have left.
So this afternoon while doing office work for a local therapist who’s away at a conference, I turned on the music. K D Lang (Hallelujah), K D Lang & Roy Orbison (Crying), The Bodeans (I’m In Trouble Again), Neko Case (Buckets of Rain), Whitney Houston (I Will Always Love You), Jimmy Durante (I’ll Be Seeing You), Playing for Change (The Redemption Song), Cheryl Wheeler (Essence). Kasey Chambers (If I Had a Pony)…
And I cried and I felt alive. And it felt good.
In memory of my beloved husband John Kelly Snyder… 20 Sept 1956 – 21 Oct 2016.
My Johnny was a true warrior, fighting demons no one else could see. I thought he was the strongest man in the world, and perhaps he was, but tragically, the demons got the better of him.
The name of this project is in no way intended to be reflective of, or piggy back off, Wounded Warriors which serves those military personnel wounded after September 11, 20o1. Like too many others, John was a warrior long before then.
Fair winds and following seas, Husband.
We now have a group on Facebook to help find resources, support and ideas for getting The Grief Warrior Project off the ground. You can find us there at https://www.facebook.com/groups/thewarriorproject/
Follow us on Twitter! @WarriorProjME.
Help support The Grief Warrior Project by making purchases from Heritage Collectibles, Books & Maps. All profits (after expenses) go to helping us help others. You can find Heritage Collectibles at https://heritagecollectiblesmaine.com, on Facebook (both a group and a page) and on Twitter (HeritageGifts).
Despite decades of disbelief, I have come to realize that our loved ones are able to communicate with us through the life/death barrier. My Johnny has proved this in ways that I can’t attribute to my own mind making things up… there have been complex coincidences and synchronicities, extraordinary happenings, and messages through others who could not possibly have any knowledge of the information they’ve passed on. Truly mind-blowing stuff. I don’t have a clue what I believe about life after death, but I know my husband loved me with everything he had, and that he still does. Our wedding vows were “to death and beyond” and that has proved true for both of us.
I can’t tell you how it all works, or how you can get through to your own loved one, but if you’re interested, I can tell you of my experiences and my thoughts on this.