Statistically speaking, when losing a loved one to suicide, the grieving process is often longer than with other kinds of death. I have read countless items, both in my previous studies and in my personal quest for enlightenment post-Rick, that say this. In a sarcastic voice in my head, I say, "Yay, something to look forward to," but in reality, I am doing my best to embrace the process and brace myself for what's to come. There are times I feel very impatient to move forward more quickly, but my physiological reactions and grief bursts do not allow it. It is day 114 and there has not been one single day yet when I have not cried. Sometimes it is brief. It is not always a torrent of emotion. But there has not yet been a crying-free day.
Statistically speaking, when losing a loved one to suicide, the survivor is roped into/tied into the "story" in a way that does not happen when someone dies another way. For example, if your husband dies of a terminal illness, strangers, acquaintances, and friends do not say, "Wow. What happened? What went wrong?" as they do with suicide. It isn't necessarily that people want to know the details (though sometimes they do), it's that they can't fathom a suicide loss the same way they can fathom other loss. We know that different kinds of cancer can kill. We understand that being a soldier, for instance, is a dangerous occupation and puts people in harm's way. We know that saying "It was a heart attack," leaves little to the imagination.
With suicide, people say, "But why would he do that?" They say, "Did you notice anything?" or the even worse version of that question, "Didn't you notice anything?" They say, "Was he depressed?" or "Did something happen that day?" And the person left behind is right there in the death again, up to her elbows in trauma, pain, and questions. You can choose not to answer the questions. But it doesn't mean they aren't asked. The person left behind is constantly roped into being part of the tale. Like they had something to do with it, because they were the bystander, the other occupant of the house, the one who found the note. Like they had some knowledge of the reasoning. Like their job is to make some small sense of the horror for the person asking.
Statistically speaking, people who lose someone to suicide have more sleepless nights and more nightmares than people who lose someone another way. Sleeping problems, I think we all realize, are a trademark of grief. It doesn't matter how someone dies - those sleeping problems often follow for quite a while. In the wake of suicide, however, this usually continues longer. I still have nightmares. I still sleep on AVERAGE just 4-5 hours per night. I am not thrilled by this "statistic." Yesterday I honest-to-god felt like I had narcolepsy. I could barely keep my eyes open at work. I didn't feel on top of my game, because as people were talking to me I was trying to stay awake. As I drove the 20 minutes home from my job, I kept thinking to myself, "I hope I can make it." I felt like I needed to pull over because I was falling asleep.
Statistically speaking, when losing a loved one to suicide, happy memories are constantly questioned in a way that does not happen with other kinds of death. Things aren't taken at face value. Reminiscing about good memories or looking at photos is just not the same when suicide is the cause of death. When looking at a photo, the person left behind might smile and think of the good memory displayed in the picture, but she is also wondering, "Was he happy here? Had he already decided to end it? Was he remembering this moment as 'the last time' we would ever do that? Did he know?" For people dealing with other loss, happy memories are happy memories, times they miss or wish they could relive or always want to remember. No over-thinking. No philosophical ponderings that re-break the heart.
Statistically speaking, there is a helpless feeling associated with surviving suicide that doesn't exist with other death. There is a need to do something even after the person is gone. To be proactive. Like doing the Walk for Suicide Prevention. Just weeks out into grief, I was signing up, organizing a team, on the move. It's like all the things you wanted the time to fix, but didn't have the time because you didn't see it coming, you pour all of that into a walk or a blog or...whatever. It never feels like enough.
I can counsel myself all I want with "statistically speaking." I know the drill. I know the facts. And I can prepare myself and understand the mechanisms of this kind of grief to a point. But I still have to go through it. And I still feel alone. I write about it here so if you feel alone too, you know you're not crazy. I write about it here so you know where I'm coming from when my grief doesn't match what you imagine it ought to be. I write about it here, because the more I grieve, the more I learn... and the more I learn, the more I want to share.
Statistically speaking, I'll be okay. Life goes on and so will I.