May 18, 2016

That Girl is Gone

"Suicide does more than take a life. It devastates lives all around it. No one is the same afterwards, and the problem is becoming a crisis." 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. 

I am writing this to honor myself and all of you who every day, fight the mental, emotional, financial and physical trauma from living the aftermath of a loved one dying by suicide. 

It is real. We are living it. Every moment of every day.

I am writing this to honor grief counselors. To honor the amazing work you do every day to help people lost in their grief find themselves again. You help people find their new self and guide them to accept and live the new life they must live. We don't have a choice. You teach us we have to do the work to move from surviving to thriving. 

I am writing this to honor the small group of people left in my life who don't judge, question and only say "we want you to be what you need to do" because somehow YOU know I'm doing the best I can do. You have embraced the new Sandra and love me for who I am. You may miss the old me but you have stood by me and celebrate the new me. 

Death changed me.
Grief almost destroyed me.
I'll never get over it.
I struggle every day with it.
Some days the struggles are big. 
Somedays they are small.
I'm learning how to live with it.
I'm embracing the new me. 
I have no other choice.
Live or die inside.

I am not the same woman.
I never will be.

She is gone.

Some of you want her back.
You get pissed, judgmental, controlling, offended, disappointed with me because she is gone.
I'm not saying I'm sorry to you.
I can't handle your emotions because I can hardly handle my own.
No resentment.
I don't blame you.
I don't blame myself.

We all are different aren't we?
Death and grief has changed us all.

You want the old Sandra.

She was a doer.
A giver.
Got it done.
Yet over scheduled.
She owned a business.
She volunteered too much.
She took care of others before herself.
She didn't always want to do things but did them because she "should."
She laughed and she was social.
She was a good mom.
She was a good wife.
She was stressed and didn't know how to always handle it.
She let others opinions sway her decisions.
She had a lot of friends and acquaintances.
She had a nice life.
Big house.
Nice cars.
Stuff she really didn't care about but enjoyed.
She was insecure at times.
Nervous and anxious but it never took her over.
She didn't know how to handle painful situations.
She didn't look in the mirror enough and ask herself why she felt that way.
She took peoples shit.
She was hurt by people and didn't always stand up for herself.
She didn't walk away.

The moment her husband's life ended her life ended too.
Just imagine it being all gone.
Her life blew into a million pieces in a moment.
Pain so deep it took her over.
She couldn't do anything.
She couldn't function.
She would stay in bed for hours after the boys went to school.
She would cry for days.
She drank too much coffee and red wine.
Her family and friends cried with her, listened to her scream, took care of her boys.
Her community fed her, sent words of love and support.

And then he called.
"Sandra, this is Doug. I'm checking in to see how you are doing?"
"I'm not doing very well Doug. Maybe it is time to come in to see you."

And it started.
I met with Doug every week.
Sometimes twice a week.
My road to finding the new Sandra.
The new me.

He listened.
He guided me.
He told me things about suicide, mental illness, death and life I never knew.
He opened my mind to life beyond grief.
He told me I was not crazy.
He let me cry.
He let me scream.
He let me drop so many F bombs I scared myself.
He agreed with my Doctor I needed anti-depressants.
He told me I needed to eat.
He was proud of me for finding yoga and taking care of myself.
He gave me tools to help me handle difficult situations I was in every day.
He gave me permission when I asked to paint my bedroom.
He told me he was waiting for me to say it was time to move.

I cried when I left him.
He saved my life.
He saved the boys life.

He gave me my life back.
He gave Jack and Charlie their mother back.

I am a different person.
How can I not be?
Nothing in my life is like it was before.
Every ounce of my being has changed.

Doug helped me be okay with it.
Phyllis, Erin and Joanne have helped me be okay with it too.

There is no guidebook to grief.
There is no manual to being 40, widowed, raising two boys and surviving the trauma of your husband dying by suicide.

I wing it every day but the professional counselors in my life give me guidance and support to help me be okay with being me. Help me be okay with what I was dealt. Help me be okay with the new life the boys and I have to lead.

I am quiet.
I am funny.
I am empathetic.
I am a good listener.
I am fit.
I am present.
I live a simple life.
I don't need things.
I need experiences.
I can read again.
I can focus again.
I am okay when I want to crawl back in bed.
I know I'm no longer depressed, rather just so tired from doing this on my own.
I don't need anti-depressants anymore but am thankful I had them to help me get here.
I see a grief counselor every week.
I am an amazing mom.
I still cry a lot.
I put me first. No guilt. No regrets. Me. My mental and physical well being comes first because if I'm not good, my boys are not good.
I do my own thing and like it.
I get hurt by people's judgement but I move on. Quickly.
I have days I can't function because the pain is so great but the recovery is not as long.
I feel grateful every day I can afford grief counseling.
I don't trust people, but I'm working on that.
I don't drink as much red wine.
I still drink too much coffee.
I wear high heels every day.
I paint my nails black.
I color my own hair because who gives a shit.
I have embraced pieces of my old life I want to keep and let go of those that I don't want.
I let people go who try to make me feel bad about myself and choices. I feel bad every day anyway. Why hang on?
I am old and wise in spirit.
I have lived 40 years in 4.
I struggle every day but know I am getting better.
I know I am okay.
This is me.
And I like her.

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