Today I pulled out my Nana’s necklace to wear. As I attempted to untangle the cross necklace she wore daily, I began to get frustrated and then I cried. It wasn’t the necklace, it was her. It was the amount of loss my family has felt this past year. We have lost three family members since last September. Starting with my mother-in-law, then my Nana and finally last month, the hardest of all, the sudden death of my brother-in-law. No amount of therapy or wine can take away the pain and heartache of losing three family members when our family is so small as it is. The pain is fresh and it reawakened with every death. And it never gets easier explaining to my children how or why someone they love has died. I don’t have any real advice as to how one begins to heal or continue normal life while they are still grieving, but I hope my words may give you hope and know you aren’t alone.
It’s okay to say you are not okay.
The most common question asked by well-meaning friends and family is, “are you ok?” or “how are you?” Our natural reaction is to say I am fine, doing ok. Well I am here to tell you it is ok to say you are not ok. We thought we were ok after the death of my mother-in-law, and then my grandmother. But we were not ok. And then when we got the call that my husband’s brother took his life, we were far from ok. Nothing prepares you for a loved one to commit suicide, nothing. Our world turned upside down and we were suddenly telling my 7, 9 and 11 year old children that their uncle took his life. No one gave me a book about how to handle that when they were babies. It was now my responsibility to make sure I said all the right words and answered all of the questions the right way when my head was spinning trying to understand this myself. My children saw their father in the worst emotional pain of his life. And there was no one left to handle this besides him and I. We had to be the grown ups, plan the funeral, clean the house. Do all the things that had to be done when we really wanted to just crawl in the fetal position and cry.
Take the help
Accept the food, accept the help, just say YES to what is offered to you. When I was struggling trying to accept help while planning a funeral and still being a wife and mom, my sister and dear friend told me to just say yes. I felt like we didn’t need any help and didn’t need food. I was so wrong. Knowing that every day I had one less thing to worry about, like dinner and feeding my family or going to the grocery, took such a load of stress off of my shoulders. Also a wise friend said to me, “Nicky, people want to help and need to do something to help you guys, so let them help.” Our friends and family knew they couldn’t take our pain away but they could feed us. So again, say yes to the help.
Life is different because you are different
In all the pain and suffering the past few months, it’s hard to admit the good. Sometimes I almost feel guilty admitting this but even through our darkest days, I never felt alone. Our family was showered with love and compassion from so many. Not only family, but friends from this blog, from school, our church, our pastor, my husband’s work, friends I haven’t seen in years and friends who flew hours to be here for us. Death takes so much from us, but it also reminds us of what we have. It’s a harsh reminder that life can be taken from us so quickly and to truly cherish it and the people who are living around you.
I have no doubt I am different now. My family and marriage are different. I look at people differently; I feel less judgment towards people and don’t doubt my friendships like I have in the past. I forgive easier, love harder, and make more time for the people I love. We were broken; this year broke us. Now it is time to put us back together, but not in the same way we were before. We will be stronger. Our faith is now stronger as we have experienced pain and love like we have never before.
Grief is a complex thing. As the days go on and we aren’t crying every day, it’s hard to say how we feel. There is still this heaviness in my heart. I feel it every day, every so often it hits me and feels fresh and raw. I will suddenly get a memory of him walking through our door or swimming in her pool as a child. I like to think maybe it’s them letting me know they are still here with us. I recently watched a TED talk that a few friends have shared with me. The main thought that stuck with me was, “a grieving person is going to move forward, but it does not mean that they’ve moved on. We don’t move on from grief, we move forward with it.”
National Suicide Prevention Hotline :: Make the Call
Lastly, I want to say that if you or a a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, please ask for help. You are not alone, you are loved, we want you here with us. Please reach out to a loved one or call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-talk (8255).