Surviving Suicide – Part 8
I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I would mention 2 tools/exercises that greatly helped me with accepting my marriage was over. A great recommendation I would offer for anyone going through divorce/separation is “Rebuilding – When Your Relationship Ends” by Dr. Bruce Fisher and Dr. Robert Alberti. There are many commonalities between divorce/separation and losing someone to suicide I found. Both are grieving loss, both have many steps to the process, both are highly charged with emotion and questions.
The 2 tools/exercises I talked about are letters you write. I have heard of these being used in other classes/seminars I’ve attended but this was the first time I’d been exposed to anything like this. The letters were to be hand written, something about the brain absorbing better when hand written as opposed to typed, but if you’re not comfortable hand writing, at least type it out. Since discovering self development after my husband Rob passed away, a huge part of it was journalling, writing down your thoughts day by day, celebrating the wins, accepting the losses. Not only does it allow you to “brain dump” and get everything out of your head and onto paper, it also serves as a great reference to see where you were and where you’ve grown to. I fought the journalling, don’t know why but I did and yet every single time I did it, it felt good. Even if you don’t feel like journalling it all out in full, at least jot down the major moments, thoughts or feelings so you have something to look back on later. It also gave me a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I was recording my journey of moving forward, and if you go back and reread any of your journals, it is quite eye opening to see how you were thinking back then compared to now.
The 2 letters we were instructed to write were an “Anger” letter and a “Sad Goodbye” letter. You can choose whichever one appeals more to you at the moment based on your emotions. I was very angry at the time so I chose to do my Anger letter first. This doesn’t have to be done all at once, it took me a few days to complete. I would suggest that you date your letters, I did not but wished I had. Start out your letter with “I am angry …”. I’d write out whatever came to mind and just went with it, it was exhausting but at the same time exhilarating. I didn’t worry about correct spelling or sentence structure, or whether I repeated myself – I just let everything I was thinking/feeling at the time to pour out of my head and onto paper. I’d write until I felt I didn’t have anything more to say, then I’d put it away and reread it the next day and if something new came up for me or another thought came to me from rereading, I’d write some more. I think it took me about 3 days to finish and when I reread it I felt there was nothing more that I was angry about so it felt complete. I just reread my 2 letters yesterday to remind myself of where I was at this point in the process and I noticed that my Anger letter was much longer than my Sad Goodbye letter, my Anger letter was 7 1/2 pages long on lined 8 1/2 x 11 paper, my Sad Goodbye letter was only 5. Another interesting thing I’ve just noticed and it may not have any importance, but the Anger letter was written in black ink and the Sad Goodbye was in blue – hmmm??? Something that was pointed out in class was that while writing your Anger letter, you may notice that your hand writing gets a lot bigger in size and a lot messier as you let the emotion pour out of you, that’s pretty interesting to look back at too.
My Anger letter mentioned I was angry at the infidelities, deceipt, lying, humiliation and betrayal. List out every emotion you can think of that you’re feeling at the time. Anger apparently is the first emotion we know or express when we’re born. As a baby we have to then learn how to express varying levels of anger as well as other emotions. Anger seems to be very common for those who have lost someone to suicide too, so it’s a good place to start. Don’t let your head do the talking, really try to write from the heart to release some of the anger. Part of my anger was also at myself, for having selected Rob in the first place, for having defended him to others, for having spent so many years with him and have the outcome not be what I wanted it to be. Much of the self directed anger was useful later when deciphering my role in all of this, and was essential to moving forward by taking responsibility for what I had contributed, and kid yourself not – we all play a role in a relationship, it always takes 2 to tango. I was also very angry and hurt and betrayed that so many of our friends knew what was going on and had not told me. That one was useful in deciding who I wanted to keep in my inner circle. When a huge life trauma occurs, I have found that’s when you really find out who your friends are and weeds out the ones that do not support you. I fluctuated quite a bit between being angry at Rob and myself in my letter. Looking back on my letter now, I clearly see where I needed to make improvements so that I could have a happy, healthy life both on my own and with a new life partner. I have learned much since I wrote my letter, but just rereading it identifies a few more things I’d like to improve upon.
The “Sad Goodbye” letter was a real eye opener for me to reread. I was sad that after 29 years of being with Rob that we didn’t even have a hug goodbye. I said goodbye to all we had, the good and the bad, the ups and downs, but mostly I was saying goodbye to my hopes and dreams for the future. I was mourning the loss of what would never be. I think many feel this way when it comes to suicide too. When someone is gone you have no opportunity to say all those things you always meant to say, but never got around to. You lose the chance to have another conversation or any other interaction. In my letter I said goodbye to the hope of having a 40th or 50th wedding anniversary, even though our marriage had been tumultuous, I still somehow had envisioned my life continuing on with Rob. Very strange indeed! I said goodbye to being a couple, the husband and wife team at work, being a family of 3.
I also said goodbye to all Rob’s anger and realized even then that my life was much calmer not having him in it relationship wise. I said goodbye to all the hurtful memories, the words that had been said that etched themselves into my mind forever. I mourned the loss of family gatherings knowing it would never be the same again, and it wasn’t. I said goodbye to Rob as a father and husband, it was a role “the good wife” I defined myself by I later realized. I also said goodbye to mothering Rob, that too was a role I had become accustomed to that didn’t serve me at all. I said goodbye to ever learning what went wrong, why it went wrong and I realized back then that I just had to stop asking why to a question I could never get an answer to. That was a very hard one for me as I’d always been a “why” person. I ended with saying I was looking forward to saying goodbye to the love I still felt for him so that the pain would stop.
I know now that the love never went away. He was my first love and even though I truly did hate him with good reason, I also still loved him and I’ve now gotten to a place of acceptance of this. The love/hate relationship continued throughout our relationship and was even more pronounced during the separation and continues actually to this day. I no longer really hate Rob, I’ve learned to forgive him and myself so that I could move on. Forgiveness is essential. I still hate his actions, but not him and realize he was just very sick mentally.
I think I will write 2 more letters, both the Anger and the Sad Goodbye from a perspective of suicide instead of separation just to see what still comes up for me almost 10 years later. I also want to mention that neither of these letters ever have to be shown to anyone, unless you decide to share them. I had no intention of ever letting Rob read them, but just shortly before he died, I was telling him about them and he asked to read them, so I decided to let him. I watched his emotion as he read them both, he teared up and softly apologized once again, so that was healing for both of us. I hope that you will try these 2 letters as well to see what comes up for you, and if you’re so inclined – please share with me whether you found it useful/helpful?
Much healing to you!