Something I realized after my husband’s death by suicide is that we are all connected. Simple, I know… but events like this really hit home how intertwined we all really are. All humans are connected in some way, and when someone dies, especially by suicide, many people are affected. Even those who didn’t know the deceased can be tremendously altered. There is a ripple affect in the energy between us, people feel empathy and relate in their own ways. It’s what makes us human.
And that connectedness is what has made my grief journey somewhat bearable. Yes, talking and sharing my story leaves me vulnerable, raw and often scared and afraid of judgement but it also allows me to heal, move forward, and acknowledge the trauma with others present.
Others feel the same; they understand the rawness, and the pain. They get the scared feelings of being vulnerable and the fear of being judged, and feeling shame. But as Brene Brown puts it “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive”(Daring Greatly).
This applies to everyone and every situation. Today this seems to be the theme. I have had two clients come in to my work today with very different situations, but both talked of the need to connect. To be seen and heard. Both were very open about their mental health and how important connection is in coping with their depression, especially when they are at their worst.
At group the other night, I felt scared to cry, afraid to say what I needed to, and ashamed to talk about my needing to set up boundaries and go no contact with my husband for a while. I was ashamed of the situation. Afraid I would be judged and possibly blamed. After all, I blamed myself.
Then as I spoke, and I heard others tell their stories, I found our situations were different, yes, but our emotions, and fears were not. I felt us connecting in the room and heard people say me too or I understand. As the weight of isolation lifted, and we shared empathy, I felt the shame lesson. There was a shift in the room and anxiety was replaced by connectioning, healing and warmth.
My best friends have been vital in helping me towards moving forward in my grief. They didn’t offer advice, or push for me to get over it. They didn’t act uncomfortable or awkward listening to my story or listening to me cry. Them just being there was enough. They gave me what I needed by just being. I’m so thankful for them. They continue to be there for my family.
My daughter met a young girl at school whose father died as well. She came home and told me about their exchange of stories. She looked at me and said, “mom, I understand how she feels. Sad.” She could empathize with her new friend’s loss. And she realized she was not alone.
Weeks after my husband died, I found the courage to finally read the cards and emails I had received from friends and family, and his extended family. I was touched.
People had wrote me about their experiences with suicide, family members who had mental health and didn’t survive their illnesses.
They talked about the spouses left behind and how much they suffered during the course of the illness and how they were crushed when their spouses passed. The isolation I felt after the blame I received from myself and from his family lifted. Others who I assumed would be blaming me responded with compassion and empathy.
One of the emails was from a high school friend of my husband’s. She said he helped her in ways he couldn’t even understand and was thankful for what he’d done and for the opportunity she had to have met him. His connection with her, rippled through me, and I was feeling a slight peace in reading these letters. He wouldn’t be forgotten because of these connections.
My family wouldn’t be alone because of these connections and the shame I felt at the time drowned with the compassion of others, and with my slowly learning to be compassionate with myself.
Most importantly, these connections never die even when our people do. The proof is in the signs I’ve recieved that his spirit and soul is watching over us.
This connection has changed, but I know it still exists. I felt him, I’ve heard music that played at moments that were just too coincidental for me to ignore and I’ve had other signs that prove he’s using our connection to help others and let them know he is there and he is listening.
So though I know the pain will always be there, and I will question a lot of my actions during the final year of his life, I will continue to share my grief, and our story to people who have earned the right to hear it. I will continue to connect to honour my husband, to help myself and to hopefully help someone else.
How has opening up and connecting helped you?