Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of my husband’s suicide, and the day my world fell apart. I can’t believe I’ve survived twelve months, it feels like such an unreasonably long time. I hate even saying it out loud. One year. I don’t feel ready to be in my second year of grieving, it’s still too soon, too raw, too unbelievable.
I can no longer think ‘this time last year we were…’ I can no longer tell people he died ‘recently’ or ‘a few months ago’.
I know that in widow-terms I’m still in my early days of grieving, but to the rest of the world, it’s been a long time now. I know people will start or have started forming certain expectations on where I should be, how I should be behaving. I also know I need to ignore these people and listen to my heart, but I can’t help wanting the world to slow down – stop even. To just wait until I can catch a breath and pull myself together again.
I don’t think I was fully prepared for how much the anniversary would hurt. Obviously being on holidays overseas was a big distraction but in hindsight, timing it so that I got back to Australia the day before probably wasn’t the best decision (although, because my trip revolved around the dates of Camp Widow West, I was working within certain limits).
Everyone says the lead up is the worst, and with our wedding anniversary and his birthday, it certainly felt that way. But with his death anniversary, it was very different. The day kind of snuck up on me, I wasn’t prepared. Not that I know what ‘prepared’ even looks like.
With his birthday in March and our wedding anniversary in June I was somehow able to find positive things to focus on that day, to carry me through the pain. On his birthday I was grateful for the amazing life he’d lived. I spent the day with his friends and family, remembering good times, crying together, and trying to celebrate this wonderful man who was loved by so many. On our wedding anniversary I was able to be thankful for the love we shared and cloaked myself with that. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude that I met Dan, that I spent almost two years with him and that he gave me the honour of calling myself his wife.
However there was nothing to be positive about on his death anniversary. It was just a horrible, sad, f*#ked up day. Knowing now the turmoil he must have been in that morning when he kissed me goodbye and left for work, my heart breaks for him all over again. We know that his suicide wasn’t planned – it was spontaneous and triggered by a psychotic episode caused by a bad reaction to his anti-depressant medication, but thinking about how scared and lost he must have felt just destroys me. I couldn’t get the images out of my head of him driving to work that morning and turning the car in a different direction.
Images of him writing me his heartfelt letter, trying to explain that he loved me and was sorry for the hurt that his death would cause, but that he was losing his mind and needed to make this sacrifice before it was too late and he became a constant burden on me and our families. Images of his final moments. Of his death. Of his body being taken away.
It was a terrible day, and it has hit me hard. I cried the entire anniversary and as I write this, two days later, I am still crying, feeling broken and empty.
I guess there might be one thing to be grateful for right now though. At least now that I’ve been in this place for a year, I know how to get through these dark, painful lows. I know how to practice self-care, mindfulness and listen to my body when it tells me I need to slow down and rest. I am laying low and being gentle with myself. I’m gathering my people around me and letting them protect me and carry me. I have received countless messages, phone calls and deliveries of flowers this week. I know I am loved by many, and these people are keeping Dan and I in their thoughts and prayers. I know I’m not alone. I will survive this and smile again, but today it is ok to cry. It’s a shitty day.