People ask how you're doing the day someone you love dies. But they forget to ask at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday, or 11 a.m. on a Sunday, when it hits you just as hard as the first day.
When someone you love dies, people ask how you're doing. They seek affirmation that you're OK, that you appreciate their concern, and life goes on and so can they. They ask for a while, but then they expect you to be OK and they forget about the one thing you never will.
The day someone you love dies, you vow to live life differently. To love a little harder, remember a little longer.
The day someone you love dies, you lose a sense of what is normal. You claim that nothing will ever fill the hole that person left, but you fail to really understand the complexity of it until you're driving down the street in the middle of the afternoon, and see someone who has the same haircut as them, or you're laying in bed and can't fall asleep, no matter how much you wish you could, because you know they're waiting in your dreams, and you can't imagine having to wake up and remember they're gone -- again. You don't understand the complexity of it until you think of something you want to tell them, but you can't.
The day someone you love dies, everything suddenly changes. I think, though, what we fail to realize is that you don't see all of the little details that person decorated your life with and all of the pages they were on all at once. It happens gradually, and continues every single day.
People tell you the day someone you love dies that it's OK to not be alright, and that grief is normal. But once the funeral is over, life goes on, even when you feel like your whole world has stopped turning. Even when some days the sun shining makes you sad because they're not there to enjoy it, because you know they would. Even when some days you just hurt for no reason other than the fact that you feel their absence. Even when, sometimes, the toughest days are the days after the funeral.
Death has been called "the new obscenity." The nasty thing of which no polite person will talk about in public. If that's the case, suicide is the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone would rather ignore than talk about. But it's worth talking about, because isolating the problem isolates the people dealing with the problem.
But suicides never go unnoticed by others, because left to deal with the aftershocks of the suffocating riptides of this type of loss are dozens of people who loved the soul whose life was cut short. The wounds inflicted on suicide survivors are unanticipated, unintentional, and overwhelmingly intense.
I've watched in the last few months and years as people around me have struggled with the riptide that is grief while wrestling with it myself.
We are dazed by our helplessness, confused by the anger that laces through our mourning. Emotional wave after wave pounds on the grieving, knocking them off their feet, sapping whatever strength they had mustered to face the day.
It goes on and on and is heightened by the looming unfinished business, unanswerable questions, and beliefs ripped apart in a split second.
But, as time goes on, so does life. Phrases like "moving on" and "time heals all wounds" get tossed around by people with the best intentions, but who can't understand.
They say suicide is a death like no other, and those who are left behind to struggle with it must confront a pain like no other. But the one thing that is scientifically proven is that life will go on, even in the midst of all of this. And eventually, day-to-day tasks begin to take precedence over the pain again. But it's always there, because moving on does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean forgetting.
I don't think any of us who has lost someone to suicide has ever forgotten that there is an empty space, and we never will. But gradually it becomes a space created by the death of someone we loved, without the emphasis on and preoccupation with the suicide. We acknowledge—not accept—what has happened and that it has changed our lives forever. We acknowledge we will never find closure. We acknowledge the questions won't be answered.
The day somebody you love dies, whether it be to suicide or anything else, people will care, and I mean really care for a while. But it's never long enough. Remember the power of a simple "How are you doing?" or "I'm here if you need to talk." Even three, seven, 18, or 38 months down the road. That's the tricky thing about grief: There is no timetable.