The human being is a remarkably resilient animal. We know that we can remove certain organs or parts of vial organs, and still live. We know that we can push our bodies towards limits that other animals can’t touch. We know that we can experience a complexity of emotions and of reactions. We can survive an amazing number of things.
And yet, it still amazes me how much hurt a heart can hold without dying.
In the beginning, death had me numb, aimlessly walking around the house, sometimes just landing on a couch cushion and unable to move from that spot. Well meaning people brought me food, which meant that I could warm it up and serve my children regular meals. I don’t remember eating much.
It was hard, those days. It felt as if I were under water, under a glass ceiling, watching the world go by around me, yet unable to participate. The pain of losing my husband would slam into me again and again. Stupidly, I’d wonder why he wasn’t home from work or expect to see him in the living room. Of course, he’d never come home from work, he’d never be in the living room. That realization would shock my system again and again.
Why was this happening to me? What did I do?
Most people don’t see suicide coming. I think that’s the nastiest shock of it all. There’s the hurt from losing a loved one, but also anger and guilt. Why didn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t I know that he felt this troubled?
Eventually, I think that I realized I would never step above the haze if I didn’t try. There was no time that would heal everything…that only would work if I began to treat time as a tool. I was still breathing, I was still alive, but I had stopped living. My children needed a functional mother and I needed to be a functional person.
I began with the gym. I needed an outside source. I needed people to see me and me to see them. And so the goal was set: go to the gym a few times a week. At first I barely went. I’d make excuses or just stay in bed. However, little by little, I started dressing for the gym. Then, I’d actually make it there, children in tow. Eventually, I became excited about working out. My children made friends at the small daycare corner they had set up, and I began telling my story.
At first I hated anything to do with my back story. I wanted to move to a place so far away, people would just assume I was a single mom with no baggage. But that’s not how life works. Nor is it a healthy way to deal with things.
Once, my youngest began tossing a ball back and forth between himself one of the trainers. The man laughed at my child’s giggles. “Hey, buddy! That’s quite an arm! Good job!” A wave of grief slammed into me and I felt like I was drowning again. He’d never have a father present to show him how to throw a football. He’d never play catch with his dad. He’d never receive praise from the man he was supposed to look up to. How was this fair to my children?
But eventually it became easier. I didn’t snooze my alarms as much. I could talk about my husband. I could tell my story. Bit by bit I started building a future. A future for myself. A future for my children.
In the beginning, the hardest part is finding purpose again. Sometimes you have to make it up. Sometimes it has to be the smallest thing: getting up and leaving the house, going to the store, or the gym, or the park. That’s how you shake the bitterness of the event off and begin building a new normal. That’s how you find purpose again.