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Experiences of Traumatic Loss - The Replay

For months after Tom died, I found myself replaying events in my mind. I felt in some ways, like I had walked into a theater with the movie half over. There I was trying to put pieces together, looking for parts of the story to create a cohesive narrative of what happened. I did this because I needed to make sense of the tragedy that had caught me by surprise. It was one that didn’t make sense.

Tom and I both considered ourselves Catholic. I would not say practicing Catholics but we both had attended church; both had been through Catholic education and knew the routines as mass. I assumed that aligned our values in a nice and neat order, including that fact that suicide was not on the table. Ever. I wasn’t aware how profound the religious doctrine influenced my thinking until he died. Suddenly I heard chatter in my head saying suicide was a direct sin against God. Images of Dante’s levels of hell filled my mind. Then an anxiety appeared late at night as I began to wonder where a soul like his goes after an event like that. Clearly, he did not meet St. Peter at the pearly gates, so where was he? Was he ok? Was he being punished or helped? Was God really that judgmental or the loving, forgiving, all-encompassing God, I wanted him to be? And for these questions, I got no answers.

He also died in the middle of a trauma. I would call a suicide act an act of trauma. His state of mind was altered from the drugs and alcohol he was using, his mind was severely poisoned, and his thinking was very distorted. The fact that he made no mention of a forthcoming suicide to anyone proves that. He carried this twisted dialogue on his head, while alone, never asking for help or alerting anyone his soul was in trouble. That was not like the man I had married. He wore his heart on his sleeve and was very vocal. I called him my chatty Cathy; he was such an extrovert and so very social. I say this because he died in the midst of trauma. I am guessing he awoke and wondered what had happened. With a clarity of mind, I am hoping he was able to see the events that had transpired more clearly and figure out he was no longer with us. They say there are no dry runs in life, no replays, no second chances. You get one life, and this is it. I also know that regardless of how much pain, anger or suffering he was in, he would have done anything to be with his children, because those two souls he loved with everything he had. So there was definitely a battle waging in him. And to find out that death was the outcome, must have been painful. I know he has felt deep sorrow because I know his soul. His actions were one of a sick person, but his soul was a good one. I know he loved and loved deeply. I also know he never would have wanted to hurt me if we are talking about the purity of a soul and the love he felt. Yes, he was struggling, yes there was a battle but hurting others was not something ingrained in his being.

I say this because I wonder if dying was traumatic for him, with all this conflict going on. To suddenly wake up and not have access to your loved ones, to not say goodbye, to not ever be able to see or touch them again, must have been devastating for him. So for many nights I worried about him. I wondered, I talked to God, I tried to understand, and I replayed events.

In the end, I still had to say goodbye and trust that God and the angels took him in and offered him love, light and healing. I think forgiveness is one of the strongest actions we can offer ourselves and others. And it is modeled for us on a meta level and on a microlevel. I have had to learn to replay less and forgive more and sit with the fact that I will never truly understand all the details that led to his death, only those that I felt responsible for. My actions in some moments that could have been better. I will never take responsibility for his suicide, that is his to own but I will take responsibility for those small details that in moments seemed unimportant yet were profoundly impactful. There were many of those moments. I replay less these days, although it has become somewhat of a habit because I still desire answers. I always will. Yes, I think replaying of events is a normal response of a confused mind, but you also have to learn how to be ok with the unknown – unknown answers and unknown outcome and surrender It all to God and the Universe. We really do live an existential existence, but both shine bright.

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