They say that there is a grieving process that one goes through when a loved one is lost. The 5 stages of grief according to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross are 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance (PsychCentral).
A death by suicide is different and a loved one's suicide can trigger intense emotions. The stages of grief differ slightly.
Now that I am approaching the 6 year mark to the beginning of the end, memories and emotions for me are beginning to stir. Six years has given me time to heal and to be able to reflect on where I was and where I am today.
In the early days of this blog, when I was in the beginning-middle of recovery, I couldn't see as clearly as I do now. And reflecting back on the stages of grief, I can look back and say that my state of shock did not last for long. There was the initial shock that began the moment I found out, but it didn't take long for that to fade and to only be hit with it sporadically over the years. Even now, 6 years later, for no particular reason I will think of Dale and say to myself, "I can't believe he's gone." I suppose there will always be that shred of shock, but not in a sense that is binding. I believe shock never stayed with me for long because I lived with a suicidal man for years. Many times he led me believe that it wasn't going to be if but rather when. I lived my life revolved around that fear he bestowed upon me because somewhere inside, I believed him, and I tried to do everything that I could to never let that happen.
For me, the first prominent stage was confusion. I saw things in Dale in the last few months that I had never seen before. He had spoken of the demons, but for nearly 13 years, he kept them at bay. I was confused as to how one could get to the place he was at, not just towards the end, but his entire life. Why did he feel this way for so long? Why wouldn't he seek help? What happened in his life before I knew him? Was it depression alone? Did he have borderline personality disorder? What role did I play? Was I an enabler? Why didn't I see this storm coming? How could I have been so unprepared? I would look back on our lives and see things differently, but was it correctly? Did my perspective change? I. was. confused. I wanted to understand. But the more I thought about things, the more confused I became. It took more than a year to begin to let go. It was so difficult, especially with my introverted personality. By nature I think and process. However, I came to the point where I had exhausted all of my thoughts and questions due to the inability of ever having them answered. He wasn't here. I wasn't getting any answers from his family. I knew everything that I would ever know. I had to accept what I knew to be true and let go of the rest.
Dale's death broke my heart. It was a devastating and traumatic loss. However, I never found myself in despair. Sometimes I wonder if raising my son completely alone kept me from despair. I had no time for it. I had a child to attend to and there was not a single day that I didn't get out of bed to take care of that child. I also never felt rejected by Dale's choice. Admittedly, I thought that after our son was born, he would have been enough to keep Dale going. I never saw myself in that place, but my son, I
It took years for anger to make its presence known. In a way, I understood what he did. I didn't and never will think that was the right choice or that it ever should have been an option. But despite what he left me to deal with, I couldn't be angry with him. Again, I was deeply, deeply saddened for him. Broken-hearted, alone, and confused... but I was alive. I had a beautiful son and a life. I was thankful for all that I did have. It wasn't until I was in "a good place" that I was able to open up the doors to anger.
One of the things that I had told myself from the beginning was that despite all that happened, I was not a victim. I was an active participant in my life (even when I was a mush of a person and I wasn't making choices, that in and of itself was a choice). That mindset made me not regret my decisions and my life with Dale. (If you haven't read much of this blog, the situation was much more than the suicide). Those thoughts gave me power, power because I felt that I had control over my life. It was a necessity, especially at that time.
It wasn't until about 2 years ago or so that I couldn't help but to compare my life with John to that with Dale. I even went further to compare my life in my twenties (I married Dale at 23) to John's and to other friends in their twenties. I didn't have many fun, exciting, young and carefree experiences because (even though I didn't know it at the time) life was already strenuous. I was taking care of a sick person without ever even knowing that I was doing that. That made me begin to feel resentful towards the life that I had with Dale because I felt that I missed out. That's when the anger trickled in. I have had to retell myself that I was there, I made decisions. I need to take ownership over my past. And I have and I do. Hindsight is always 20-20 and I have to keep that in mind. I cannot change the past, and to be honest, I am not sure if would even want to. All that I can do is make the most of today and to experience life to the fullest so that I don't look back and have any regrets on how I am living my life right now.
I also worry about my son. I always will. Whenever he gets upset and down on himself, I can't help but to have an internal panic attack. I can't help but to be worried about his mental state, or his future mental state. That causes me to become angry with Dale. I am angry with him for giving my son a predisposition. All I can do is fight with all of the nurture I can find and hope it kicks nature's ass!
Guilt. Guilt has been by my side for 5 years. It found me well before Dale took his own life. It found me when I finally spoke up about my unhappiness in our marriage and the lack of respect that he had for me... which led to his unraveling. It punched me in the gut when I got the phone call. It was there whispering in my ear as I tried to work though all of my confusion. It laughed at me when I began to find happiness again. It was there day and night and even in my dreams. I was swimming in guilt. I knew that it wasn't my fault, that it was Dale's decision. But I also knew that by my speaking up (which I had the right to do), I caused his derailment. It may have been an accident waiting to happen, but I was the trigger that led to his end. I felt guilty that I still had a life. I still had our son. I was happy to be alive. I found beauty in life, even in the darkness. I felt guilty that I was healthy enough to do that, when he wasn't. I felt guilty for finding enjoyment and for finding happiness. Guilt really threw its all at me when I found John. Maybe it knew that I now had the artillery to beat it. But for the first two years with John, I was almost consumed with guilt. What I felt most guilty about, was that I liked my life better now. I was happier now. Life was good. It wasn't heavy. It was healthy. Everything was just... better. God, that was sooooo hard for me to admit. Even now, I feel a tad bit dirty for say that. But its true. My life is better now than it was before.
My mind battled my guilt mostly through my dreams. I believe that's because I wasn't awake to put up my guard to protect my true thoughts. My dreams let me expose them in a safe place, within my own mind. I worked through it in my dreams. And I would say it took me up to about the 5 year mark from Dale's death for me to feel the clutches of guilt begin to release itself.
Since then, I have noticed that I have been thinking about Dale more. When I think about him now, I can do so without the bad moments ruining the good. I couldn't do that before because I was protecting myself. Now, for reasons that I don't quite understand, it's safe. I can go there. So I have and as a result, I have begun to miss him more than I have in a long time and that is a strange place for me to find myself in. For the first time in almost 6 years, it's mainly just me, without shock, confusion, anger or guilt. What I am feeling is genuine and untainted by the stages of grief. It's new and I haven't fully processed it yet. I suppose that is why I am back here writing and sharing all of this. I can't imagine its a bad thing though.