This Friday it will be 23 months since Tony died. I had another blog post ready for today, but I’ve been thinking about something else and I want to write about it while it’s fresh.
Recently a friend messaged me to say that someone she knew had lost someone to suicide – someone very young, still a teenager. I do not have the young man’s name, but I know that she referred his family to this blog. I don’t know if they’re reading yet. Their loss is still so recent. But if anybody reading this has lost a loved one to suicide, I am so sorry.
There is no such thing as easy grief. I don’t like to compare my grief to anybody else’s, because I don’t believe that it’s helpful or that there’s any way to know what someone else’s grieving process is like. I can compare my grief over Tony to say, my grief over my grandmother, because I personally experienced both things. What I will say is this: grief over a death by suicide is different. It is, in my experience, a turbulent, tangled mess of emotions unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Sometimes, even now, I look back and wonder how I survived it. I wonder how I am STILL surviving it.
I sent my friend a link to the Alliance of Hope but I want to include it here. The Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those grieving a loss to suicide. Their website has links, personal stories and a wonderfully supportive forum full of caring people who understand. I would recommend it to anybody who has suffered this kind of loss.
The other thing I want to say, because it’s important for those who are newly bereaved to hear, is that there’s no wrong way to feel. The first couple of months after I lost Tony are still shrouded in fog. I remember bits and pieces. I remember intense, gut-wrenching sorrow and searing anger. I remember numbness and confusion and pain and relief and guilt and shame. I remember feeling like a failure. Even now, nearly two years after his death, I still wrestle with those emotions. I am still recovering. Death by suicide is a cataclysm for those left behind.
What I hope we can all remember is to be patient with the grieving. Do not presume that you know what someone else is feeling. Do not offer platitudes. More than anything else, be kind. Kindness was the only balm to my heart after Tony died. Again and again, I found myself cracked open by it as family, friends, co-workers, and people I only know online reached out to me. I have written before about grace, and I still feel that I am surrounded by it. Don’t underestimate the power of a kind word and an open heart. They can work wonders.