On June 8, 2012, following 7 months of marital separation, my husband chose to end his life by suicide. He methodically planned his death so that I would find him – and I did. Every sunny spring day that smells of mayflowers and dew is a reminder of the morning Rod purposefully ended his life. I can still see the pained faces of the firefighters, paramedics, the police officer, the nurse from the medical examiner’s office and of family members and close friends who came in support.
Rod’s lethal, final act undoubtedly ended his own anguish, but I still wonder if he could ever have imagined the intense, lasting pain his death caused for me…..or the emptiness our children feel in the space he used to fill as their father….
The first several weeks after his death can best be described as surreal – with funeral and estate matters shaping most days. I think the magnitude of our loss fully hit me about a month later – near what would have been our 16th wedding anniversary. I had suddenly become a widow, a lone parent, and was trying my best to carry on – especially for my kids – despite living with the crushing guilt of being a survivor of spousal suicide.
I remember feeling intense guilt, shame and isolation – and a never-ending roller coaster of emotions. My life was irrevocably changed, yet the world around me kept on going. My children seemed to be adjusting. I attended a grief group – but never felt like I fit in with people who lost loved ones to cancer. The very mention of suicide seemed to put a charge in the air. Over time, I learned about the programs offered by the CMHA especially for survivors of suicide. The following winter, I was fortunate to join a survivor support group. Each of the 8 of us who participated had different stories and experiences, but the common thread of ‘death by suicide’ created a bond that fostered understanding, connectedness and healing for all of us. We worked hard each week at moving forward and were there for one another then, and for a couple of years after the group ended. I believe the CMHA suicide survivor group was an essential part of my healing journey, and is why I’m participating in Ride Don’t Hide.
I wrote the poem below as an written expression of my grief journey.
IN THE AFTERMATH
My head is pounding, my limbs ache as I struggle to bring clarity and focus
I slowly move – first to hands, then knees, choking the bloody dirt from my mouth
Up the slope of the ditch as bleak winter sky reveals
Smouldering heaps of rubble in the distance – the smell of acrid smoke fading
They are waiting on the roadway – big brown eyes full of pain and fear
Yet seemingly relieved to clutch my hands – to cling to my broken body
There are no sign posts to show us the way – but a distant horizon peeks up from the graphite smudges
And so we walk, a hilted, uneven gait – every stumble tears newly healed flesh from deep wounds
We press on in hopes that There has the promise of being better than Here
We navigate the way as best we can, without compass, without map
Time moves forward, following its own rules, its own pace, oblivious to our pleas
One day we notice that the pain no longer screams to be heard
He says his heart has healed to be in thirty seven pieces – the hundred have slowly knit together
She points at the tree – where a single red bird perches atop leafless branches – and suddenly we remember color, sound and beauty
We hug and hug and cry tears of loss turned to hope