I arrived home after the funeral to my greatest fear. The walls that were once a safe and reassuring refuge were now the breeding ground for despair. My husband’s belongings remained to deceive my mind into thinking that, despite his suicide, he could once again come through the door.
The only way I knew to begin to heal was by taking one tiny step forward. I couldn’t allow myself to focus on the mountain of grief in front of me, nor could I dwell on the fact that I had no idea what awaited me on the other side. The hurdle I now faced was finding the strength to keep going on, and I found that by simply moving.
If I was going to live again, I could not allow the important moments of my immediate life to pass me by. It would help no one for me to dwell on the past. My first goal was to direct my attention on whatever lay directly in front of me, focus on only that, and let all else wait for another time.
My immediate concern was meeting the needs of my children. Just five days after my husband’s funeral would come my daughter’s first Christmas as well as my son’s first big event without a father. I placed all of my energy towards making this day special as I pressed forward to battle the rush of last minute Christmas shoppers.
Once I arrived home from shopping I was too exhausted to move. I lay on the floor sobbing over my next obstacle. How would I label the gifts? Are they to be from mom and dad, or just mom? Which is less depressing; to remind everyone of the father that couldn’t make it home to celebrate with his children, or shut him out of the picture altogether? Every decision brought me closer to a breaking point. I printed both of our names on the few gifts Tommy had planned to buy, tossed the remaining unmarked presents into boxes, and headed to my family’s house to join my children.
Just as it had in years past, Christmas came and went. Despite my family playing the part, the joy and purpose of the occasion was nowhere to be found. The void Tommy left behind was the heavy centerpiece that overpowered the room. He always had a fierce presence about him, but his absence was even stronger. I was beginning to feel that living may very well be the most painful thing I would ever have to do.
I stayed as long as I could manage, but found myself once again consumed with grief. I left my children with my parents and retreated home to the solitude of my bedroom. This was the only place I felt safe. Here I didn’t have to pretend to be strong. I was free to be whatever I needed to be, and at that point I needed to completely fall apart.
I had no idea how to begin a healing process and absolutely no strength to try. I prayed, but mostly cried. I didn’t know or care how I was going to meet the demands that the future required of me. Going to work, paying bills, and caring for two small children were simple tasks that any normal parent should be able to perform with ease, but I couldn’t find the strength.
In order to give my heart time to heal, I isolated myself from the outside world. However helpful this appeared to be, a huge problem still remained. Shutting out the world was hurting me more than protecting me from others. I was ripping myself into tiny bits each passing day by my self-absorbed actions. Joy comes from giving. By my locking myself behind feeling bitterness and hate my protective walls were actually crushing me.
Deep down there was still a part of me that hoped it would be possible to connect with people again. It was as if I had become desperate to find someone to trust so that I could restore some form of peace. I wasn’t quite sure if I was more afraid of destroying myself through isolation, or opening the window that gave people around me room to come near. Both options left me vulnerable, and I was terrified of pain.
My depression and sorrow were heavy indeed. What I didn’t realize was that much of the sorrow I felt, I had placed on myself. I had chosen to carry doubt, panic, fear, anger, and frustration. I didn’t want to believe this to be so, but as I began to examine a very simple vision that had come to me; I better understood the damage I was doing to myself.