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going through the grief process

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9-8-8 is Canada’s new Suicide Crisis Helpline for anyone who is
thinking about suicide or worried about someone they know.  
For more information, call or text 9-8-8.
Visit 988.ca to learn more.


Guest post by Alexandra Wyman

The following is an excerpt from “The Suicide Club: What to Do When Someone You Love Chooses Death” (Houndstooth Press / November 21, 2022 / $5.99)

No matter what happens, please just always let our son
know how much I love him and always take care of him. I love you.

My soulmate, the man of my dreams, the man I waited so long to meet, my everything, my better half, my penguin, my love—with one single action, he blew up my life, and it would never be the same. My husband went up to the mountains and shot himself. What the fuck is happening? How am I supposed to do this on my own and raise this kid? What did I do to deserve this? This was not part of the deal. How in God’s name am I supposed to get out of bed today?

Grief doesn’t happen the same way twice. There’s no predictability to it. It’s just like our son’s first experience using a pen to draw on paper. Nothing is legible about what he drew, and yet the only real part of his drawing is the ink. The fact that I am grieving is recognizable, but its order and legibility are a complete mystery. Grief’s unpredictability is challenging to manage. At times, I could tell my nieces a fun story about Uncle Shawn or play one of his favorite games without even flinching, and other times, I had to excuse myself for a quick sob in the bathroom.

In the beginning weeks after Shawn died, I reserved time every night to turn on a hot shower and weep. I made sure my son was down for the night and then stifled my sobs so as not to wake him. From the day Shawn died, for a couple of months, my son and I did not live at home. We moved into my parents’ basement; I am grateful we had the option to do so. With time to heal, I now know there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Whether you are a public or private griever, it is right. Whether you wear sunglasses all the time to hide your puffy, red, bloodshot eyes, or you look like a mad person in your car while screaming at your steering wheel, it’s all correct. If you beat the shit out of your Tempur-Pedic pillow while listening to “Flower” by Moby, it’s okay. If you choose to book a Rage Room for twenty minutes of uninhibited rage colliding with a steel bat, taking out furniture and household items, it is exactly what you need to do. What is not okay is holding it in. Finding excuses to not deal with grief, or finding distractions in your life to hold off the inevitable of the individualized grief process coming your way, can ultimately be unhealthy and prolong the process.

One of my therapists early on asked me if Shawn had a sense of humor. “Yes!” I said emphatically. All sorts of moments brought a little laughter to us amid the grief. You will find some too, and it is absolutely okay to chuckle, even if it leads to another sob session. It is said that laughter is the best medicine, and I truly believe that. Although I have had many challenges in losing Shawn, a small part of me recognizes that he is okay where he is, and he would want us to enjoy the funny moments—even if there are only a few.

Getting to a point of peace in my grief process is tough and still very much a part of my journey. Facing death, embracing time, and rediscovering joy and love are all components of the process—a process that cannot be rushed nor skipped over. I have peace knowing his soul is in a place where there is no pain or sorrow. He can rest. It has taken soul-searching in all of my being to realize my purpose in all of this was to love Shawn unconditionally and to bear our son. For these things, I am grateful. I am grateful I met him, knew him, loved him, laughed with him, hugged him, planned with him, and shared a son with him. As awful as this experience has been, I would do it all again if it meant knowing this man. My time with Shawn was a gift, and this tragedy will lead me somewhere. My life is better because I knew him.

How to Grieve: 4 Tips for going through the grief process:

  1. Strategies can change daily. Collect different tools that can help- meditating, journaling, screaming, exercising, seeing a therapist- so you have multiple things to choose from depending on how you are feeling.
  2. Find something to anchor to. It is the one thing that will motivate you to keep putting one foot in front of the other when you are experiencing the hardest days.
  3. Grief is unpredictable. What is predictable is how we respond and can trust ourselves to handle whatever life and grief hands us. Trust yourself that you can get through this. It takes work but it is possible to get through the hard days and horrible feelings.
  4. Grief from a big loss will be with us. There is no finish line. As we heal and grow, so does our grief morph and change. It is helpful to surrender to this idea.

 

Alexandra Wyman is an advocate and public speaker for resources in the aftermath of suicide. After she lost her husband to suicide in August of 2020, Alexandra found a need to change the language around suicide, and decided to write about it. Her memoir, The Suicide Club: What To Do When Someone You Love Chooses Death is an Amazon best seller. She has spoken at a variety of conferences including Bridging the Divide Suicide Prevention and Awareness Summit 2022, 2023 Northwest Conference on Childhood Grief, and has been accepted to present at the 2023 Military Social Work & Behavioral Health Conference and the International Association of Suicide Prevention Conference 2023 in Piran, Slovenia. Alexandra has also been a guest on a variety of podcasts including The Unlock Moment, Author Hour, Resilience Unravelled, She Persisted, and My Wake Up Call with Dr. Mark Goulston. Alexandra has her own podcast called The Widow’s Club, as well. She practices pediatric occupational therapy and lives in Colorado with her son. To learn more about Alexandra and her work, visit her website at www.forwardtojoy.com.