The Unspoken Grief of Incomplete Suicide
Happy endings have clouds too.
Committing myself to a lover with Bipolar disorder, CPTSD, and a crippling, low self esteem was not an overnight decision. I took an extensive amount of time researching and plodding over the data, the case studies, the sheer amount of information. I knew in my heart, in the deepest wells of my capacity, that these were merely hurdles. The love I had and still have for this person, my person, would overcome any disease, or illness, or disorder, and, in that aspect I am right. Still, the evening of his attempted suicide has not disappeared from my recollection. We do not speak of that night. He has not read my disparaging journal entries, he has never been able to account for my despair, and understandably so. It must be incredibly hard to accept that your pain has bled into your lover, staining her. Writing this, I am in no way placing responsibility on him to acknowledge my grief. This grief is my own, and it has been wiped away without malice, but wiped away it has been. Maybe you are in a similar situation. Perhaps you are reading this, because you too, have trauma that is unfortunately an afterthought in the healing process. How do we navigate this? How do we hold such tragedy in our hearts without the support of our first line of defenses, our lover? I am taking your hand here. I want to write, no, I am called to write this, so you know this is not a confined trauma within you. I know your pain. I live with a pain similar to yours. While I am no expert, I would like to shed light on some of my struggles, and some of the beautifully sad advice I have learned and discovered along my way towards my personal recovery.
I will spare you the details of the action, but for sake of understanding I will be brief. It was hand gun inspired. He was, for his sake, involuntarily committed, and taken away. I had been very close in proximity to him before the police arrived. Life and death were a mere cheek brush away, and I was not in control. The after effect was more surreal. It took me a full day and night before I could head home (my daughter and I spent the night at my mother's, who made sure to keep us company). Alone, we entered our apartment, just the way it was left before he sped away to his intended resting place. The dishes still piled, just as we had left them. I held my pain inside until she retired to bed, and I went numb. In a panic I realized all the clothes were clean, nothing smelled like him. It was traumatic in itself to realize that if he had completed his intention, that scent would've vanished with him. I dug through the closet, and finally found something, an old shirt, that he still occupied. I wore it every night he was gone. Ten days. I washed in his soap, I smelled his hair sponge, I read our texts. Every night I would commune with a couple of rabbits that grazed in our back yard, I burned cigarettes I hadn't smoked since high school into my ankles. I couldn't eat. I somehow scrounged up enough money for a week with an online therapist, which was immensely helpful, that gave me tips and tricks and something to look forward to each night. This was my story for ten long days. Ten, consecutive, complete days. Within the ten days, I worked full time, and I mothered full time, and I grieved only in the hours before sleep would encapsulate me and the world demanded my functional role within it every morning.
I cannot say this experience has not been a somber blessing. It has forced me to appreciate life to a far greater degree. I also learned a lot about my grief. If I could offer any advice to the silent grievers out there, I would like to gift the below:
1. Talk to a counselor, You need one too.
Being committed was a godsend for my now husband. He was able to be monitored and in contact with licensed mental health providers constantly during his most vulnerable time. You however, do not have that. Look into your work counseling programs if offered, a lot of times you are allowed up to 3 visits per stress/traumatic incident. If not available, I highly recommend mental health apps, there is income based assistance and you can sign up for just a week or so (whatever you can afford). Not only that, but you can talk whenever you need, in video or just chat form, a true miracle. If you have a regular counselor, you need to get in contact immediately and inform them of the recent trauma. Oftentimes, direct and immediate intervention can help you process things in a healthier way (unlike burning yourself intentionally, am I right?
2. You have a right to express your emotions. period.
You will feel angry, frustrated, sad and numb, almost guaranteed. You need not feel guilty, or feel that your are expected to feel otherwise.
3. Take time off if you have it, or don't
I am glad I personally couldn't afford to miss work. I cried a lot in the bathroom, but it was better than staying at home. Do what feels best to you. Go to work if you need to, stay at home if you want to and can.
4. Journal like no one is reading.
Write all the things you need to write down. If that means writing "fuck" in bold print 8,000 times, do it. You need that outlet. You need it desperately.
5. Research for their release.
All of my free energy went into research. I researched the illness, traumatic grief, what to expect upon release, how to be a better ally, you name it, I read about it. Try and turn your experience into an improvement plan. There are ways to improve, always, and hey, gives you something productive to do that benefits everyone.
6. Know you are not alone.
I found a lot of comfort in Facebook support groups, in my family, and in my counselor. Knowing people were supporting me, and supporting him, and understood I was having a rough time separately from him did a world of good. You are in the same boat. I suggest looking into community group if that is something available to you; if not, online resources are extremely helpful, and gives you a real person to interact with.
I pray you never have to experience this pain, this heartache. If you have read all the way through, and haven't, I pray this for you. I know many of my readers will understand my pain, sadly. I offer nothing but my purest sympathy, advice and love towards you. We will never be the same, and some days we will be reminded of this fact more than others. You are not alone. You are important, and so is your grief. Take care of yourself, and always, always believe in the light behind the clouds.