Friday, January 25, 2019

Finding Peace

Jenn Gilstrap of Campbell, Texas has shared her writing on this blog before. As a survivor of suicide loss, her willingness to share her story is both courageous and a gift to her fellow survivors. I am honored that she has allowed me to share her most recent writing, once again:

I'm nearly two years out from my loss. Being honest about where I've been, and where I am, and where I hope to be, has been key for me; as has being determined not to let the loss control the rest of my life. 

To those of you who are new to having lost someone to suicide, my heart breaks for you. I wanted to take a few minutes to express some things that I've personally learned along the way in hopes that those of you who are new to this understand that it does get better.

I lost my husband to suicide on March 20th, 2017. I found him in our bed. I went into immediate shock. I remember very little from that morning. Mostly I remember walking the road in front of our house telling myself it had to be a dream. I didn't cry. I screamed a lot but I never cried. I was too far removed from the emotions you would think you'd feel. All I felt was numb and bewildered and stunned.

The signs had been there. Bryan talked about killing himself often; mostly when he was drunk. When he was sober, however, he'd always assure me that it was just talk and there was nothing to worry about. I loved him and I wanted to believe that what he was saying was the truth. We talked about his suicidal ideation and we agreed he needed help. He had all the tools at the ready. But the day he decided to go, he didn't talk about it. He didn't reach out. He just did it.

Now, because my husband drank and used his medications to get high, we fought. A lot. And I could be down right ugly to him. I hated what we were going through as a couple but what I hated even more was that I was being put through hell for an addiction that wasn't even mine. I had to deal with the drunken antics; I had to watch after him and hope that he didn't hurt himself or someone else. I had to deal with hostility that was directed at me. It was exhausting. I was hurting. And the man I loved, the man I was giving my everything to, just kept hurting me. 

In response I could be mean, but I thought if I said the "right" thing, it would stop. For a long, long time, I struggled with the idea that my angry words were what caused him to complete his suicide. I was so sure that if I'd treated him better, he'd still be here. If I would have said this instead of that; if I would have let one thing go instead of fighting for another thing. On and on my guilt went. After he died, I rarely stopped to remind myself of what had brought me to that point. I started to forget that Bryan had been a grown man and had done his part to bring our relationship to where it was.

I needed to take an honest look at Bryan's past, too. My husband had attempted suicide several times. I'm sure he'd attempted more times than even I knew; well before he and I ever got together. Had he completed then, who's fault would it be? His mother's? His father's? No. Nobody else was or is to blame. 

Today, I am still healing. I still have days that are hard. But I don't feel sad when I think about Bryan anymore. To be honest, I can't really put how I feel into words. I'm moving on. I have a new man in my life who I truly love. I'm pregnant with my first child; something I didn't think was possible when I was married to Bryan. My life is blossoming. 

I'm grateful for the beauty that's come from the ugliness of my loss. I got here though, by embracing the pain. I had to acknowledge what I'd gone through and stop looking for the whys behind it. There are no answers. There is no way of knowing what would have happened if I'd done this or that or said this or that. There is only what happened. And it happened. Not because of anything I said or did; not because I was lacking as a wife or friend but because my husband was sick. He succumbed to his illness; much like cancer. He made a choice with a mind that simply wasn't right. Once I made peace with that, it helped me move forward.

I hope those of you who are new to this glean something from my words. You are NOT to blame. You did nothing wrong. I don't care how mean or ugly you were. The decision to die by suicide was always theirs and theirs alone. I pray you find your own peace.