Sunday, March 29, 2020

Standing By You

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we see
No I won't be afraid
No I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

- Bennie King, Stand By Me

Oh my heart. 

My heart is so heavy right now. So full of love and so full of heartache.

In a few days, we will round the corner to three years since we lost John. Once again, memories of his loss are fresh. I am engulfed in the memories of those first days and weeks. 
But today, it is not for me that my heart aches. Today, I am aching for my fellow survivors of suicide loss - particularly those who are very new to their loss. 

I made it through the first few weeks after John died, because I was never alone. My close friends and my son worked together to ensure that there was always someone by my side. Later I would tell people that I did not make it through the first year at all, but instead other people made it through for me and they held me up all the while. The people who loved me carried me. I was saved by hugs and shoulders to cry on and hands to hold. That is just the truth.

Who will hold up a suicide loss survivor today, though? As our world is adjusting to a pandemic and an urgent need to step back from physical contact - as we are all being forced into taking a time out - I can tell you for certain that suicide is not taking a break. I suppose I was blessed that three years ago, we weren't being given a worldwide message that the best way to show someone you care about them is to stay away.

How will new loss survivors make it through now?

I can't give you an easy answer. Like every question that has to do with how a person goes on living after someone they love has died - there are no easy answers. What I can tell you is this: survivors of suicide loss are some of the strongest people I know. We will find a way.

If you are new to a loss by suicide:

I know your agony. I may not be able to touch you, but I am standing by you and you are not alone.

I know your fear.
We may never have met, but I am standing by you and you are not alone. 

I know your tears and I know your hurt. I may not be able to hug you, but I am standing by you and you are not alone.

I know the hows and the whys that will tear at you. I know your rage at the lack of answers. 

I am standing by you and you are not alone.

Three years ago, it took over a month before I could spend the night in my own home alone. On one of the first nights, it was raining outside. When the rain picked up, the wind caused one of the doors to the shed behind my house to blow open and then shut again. It was a startling and spooky sound. I looked outside my bedroom window and I could see what had happened, but I was in my nightgown, it was dark, and it was pouring outside. When you are a survivor of suicide loss, there are times when nothing about the world feels safe. I certainly didn't feel safe going outside that night. So, I made the decision to not venture out until morning. I'd latch the shed's doors then. Instead, I picked up my laptop and posted a message to an online survivors of suicide loss group. I explained what was going on. I am scared. I wish I weren't alone. 
That is what I wrote.

And then, a minute later, someone replied. "You are not alone." And then another person. "You are brave." And then another. "You can do this." And then another. "Try to rest. We are here for you now, and we will be here for you in the morning."

On that night, I was finally able to fall asleep because of who those words were coming from. Even when it seemed like the whole world was full of false fairy tales and deceitful stories of dreams come true, I knew that my fellow survivors of suicide loss would tell me the truth. 
It was that night that I learned how to take in the love and concern of my fellow survivors. Love that wasn't directly in front of me but was still ~ and always ~ around me. 

To my fellow survivors of suicide loss, know this: learning to lean into love that you can not see will be an integral key to healing, in more ways than one. I promise you that.

If you are new to this loss, please don't let being physically alone stop you from reaching out. Don't stop telling us when you are lonely. Don't stop telling us when you are afraid. I am not the only one who - regardless of physical proximity - is standing by you. If you are like me, you may feel as if you will not be able to make it through these dark nights. That's ok. I felt that way too, and some nights I still do. But I am making it through. One day, like me, you will look around and find that you are among the strongest group of people that you have ever known. You do not have to do this alone. We will do this together. Let me share with you the truth that my fellow survivors shared with me on that rainy night three years ago: You are not alone. You are brave. You can do this. Try to rest, we are here for you now and we will be here for you in the morning.

We will find the ways to withstand physical separation from those we love, while leaning into love at the very same time.

You are not alone. I promise. I am right here, standing by you.

I promise.

Photo at top: Me with the Macaluso Family
August 2017, four months after John's loss.