Every year roughly 40,000 people take their lives in the U.S. and I was almost one of them; I know I’m not alone.
While I made the decision to stay, the same can not be said for many I’ve known, including my first love.
We never expect to lose the people we love, not this way at least; and as much as we may see or hear about their impending choice, it still comes as a complete and utter shock to our systems when it occurs. T
he grief that comes from losing a loved one to suicide is like no other — we spend every minute of every day questioning ourselves: Did I do enough?
What did I miss?
Did I say I love you enough?
What could I have done differently?
Suicide is the one ending that never leaves a glimmer of closure.
I say to the boyfriend I lost: your death was my death. Losing you made me lose a part of me and though it was painful, it needed to happen, for only through losing you could I find myself. It’s been a slow and difficult process — a lonely and confusing one, a tear filled and angry one, but an important one.
In the direct aftermath of suicide it is almost impossible to see that you’ll ever feel better or that life will return to normal and for the most part, it won’t. But we do come out on the other side a stronger and more resilient version of ourselves. Our lives will never resume to “normal,” because life is different now — but we can and will be better for what we have been through if we allow ourselves that growth.
What I want to say to the person I loved is that what you didn’t know before you left is how deeply I wanted to go with you; I could sense you were in pain, too — and how much easier would it be to go with someone you loved?
I wanted to share my secrets with you: How many times I tried, how long I held on to the sadness, how much pain I felt every time I opened my eyes, how I longed to leave. When we were together I tried to appear stronger than I felt; to comfort you, to comfort myself, to inspire hope in you. You didn’t have to leave.
And we sat there, two broken souls who loved one another; two broken people who were scared of life and scared of love, scared of that happiness that could be, that was. You shared your secrets with me, but I couldn’t share mine back. You told me of the hospital visits, the medications, the fear that filled your mind. You asked me if I would be uncomfortable if there came a point when you needed help again and I vowed, as I looked in to your beautiful blue eyes, that I would never leave your side, I would be there every step of the way.
You turned to me and said, “I know you’re depressed too, you don’t have to say it because I see, and I promise, I’ll always be there for you.” But how can you be there for me when you can’t be there for yourself?
When I pulled away (my deepest regret), after you called me out on the fact that I was keeping things from you, I sat for days ruminating over my feelings: My desire to leave this world, how fragile you made my heart. You were my first love and I waited more then ten years for you to come back to me.
And you did, you came back and I was overwhelmed.
I was frightened by the depth of my feelings for you, frightened at how you’d react if I shared with you any of how I really felt and how it would break your heart when I worked up the strength to leave this world and you behind. I finally mustered up the courage to share my heart with you, to say out loud the things I feared. I told you:
“I have been planning my suicide.”
You were the first person I’d ever told, even though it was not my first plan nor attempt. You pulled away this time but you came back, a week later. You were different: a different you – more anxious and sad, I feared my honesty had hurt you, hurt us. But we picked back up and kept going, making plans to completely commit to one another — it felt good and right.
But things never went back to normal.
Two weeks after you came back, on April 9th, 2014, you, my dear sweet first love, decided to take your life; an act that would forever change mine. Your suicide made me feel things I never knew I was capable of feeling. The depth of grief I suffered from your loss showed me how deeply my capacity for loving another person really ran — it showed me that the pain I felt prior was nothing in comparison to the pain I felt in losing you.
Never have I shed so many tears. I’m sure you’ve done the same.
Every time you hear the word suicide, or anything referencing the way your loved one died, a flood of uncontrollable tears slip from your eyes no matter what you do to try and stop it.
Never have you felt so much fear or lack of desire to move forward because deep down we worry that moving on with life will make their lives less meaningful. We may feel as though we are betraying the love we shared for the person we lost, betraying ourselves and their memory.
Never will we feel so empty, lost or confused.
The days will turn in to weeks, turn in to months, turn in to years in the blink of an eye.
It’s been a year and a half since my love left and never have I felt so brave.
You are brave, too.
No matter how weak you may feel I need you to know you are strong, you’re a survivor. Every day we open our eyes and choose to keep going in spite of our loss. We are surviving another day without the person we so deeply loved.
I know because of loss that I am strong; I am brave because I continue to push forward no matter how afraid I am. I share my story, I share his story. I reached out and started talking to others who felt how I felt, who felt what he felt, who have tried to do what I’ve done and what he succeeded in doing. The best way, I felt, to honor his too short life, was and still is to help others that suffered the way he did, the way we both did.
I read a quote recently by Ernest Hemingway, “I have been bent and broken – but I hope in to a better shape.” The pain of losing the person I was in love with made me face and deal with the reality of my own darkness for the first time ever: I have come out the other side more self aware, more compassionate, tougher in a good way. I am resilient and my will to live is stronger then ever. He would want that for me, to keep fighting, and I realized in his absence, I want that for me and so I stay. I know your loved one would want that for you. No matter how depressed or exhausted you may feel now, I encourage you to keep going – not only for yourself but for them, for me. You will get through this, I promise.
Through losing the person I was dating to suicide, I’ve managed to find myself. I know now I have a purpose on this earth and though things still often look bleak and there are days I don’t think I’ll survive, I know I will and so will you even if it doesn’t feel like it now. “You may no longer physically be here,” I say to every single person who died by suicide, “but you’ll always be with us and if we look close enough, we will see you all around.”
Survivors of suicide loss are the strongest people I’ve known – we have all been bent and broken. While it may take what seems like an eternity to feel better, we surely will have been bent in to a better shape for having known the people we lost. We get to carry these amazing souls in our hearts in everything we do which makes every accomplishment that much more satisfying; we are now living for two and I know I work hard to do things that would make those I’ve lost to suicide proud, in their memory.
Try not to remember the painful way your loved one died but the beautiful way they lived. Try to remember the smiles, the laughs, the hugs, even the awkward moments, and allow yourself to build new memories with out them. Even though it may feel like betrayal, they’d want nothing more then for you to be happy and are watching down in peace knowing we are going forth living the best life we can without them. And on days when you feel you’re drowning, when the pain feels too much to bear, allow the tears to roll down your face as each tear is a bittersweet reminder of the love you once had, a love that will always remain.
I tell myself often: it’s hard because I am broken, I’ve been bent, but I’m strong and it’s ok to move forward in to that better shape. And I want you to know and do that too. You may not believe me now but your heart won’t stay broken forever. Eventually the tears will turn to smiles and the pain you feel will lessen – it may take a while but it won’t always feel this raw.
The only way to get through it is to go through it.
You’ll be OK.
You are brave.
You are strong.
You are loved.
Keep going. You’re not alone, don’t ever forget.
Author: Danielle Glick
Editor: Erin Lawson
Image: Author’s own