I’m surprised to say that much of my healing came through journaling and writing a book. Losing my ex-husband suddenly and in such a tragic way really threw me for a loop. Even with two degrees in psychology, years of working as a counselor, and years in my own therapy, nothing seemed to prepare me for that event. I didn’t know how to grieve such a painful loss, I didn’t understand why it happened, and I couldn’t let go of the wish that somehow, I could have prevented it. So I wrote. Almost daily in a journal until I filled it. Then I filled a second journal. And I started reading about grief and suicide loss. I ordered every book I could get my hands on.
One day I noticed I was repeating a story I had already written, so I went back and looked through my writing. Then I took apart the journal and much to my surprise, sitting in front of me were the first chapters of a book. I asked the Universe to send me a sign if this was the direction I should head because I had never thought about writing a book, let alone a book about losing someone in a tragedy. And sure enough, the three people I chose to talk to about the idea did not give me feedback about writing a book but rather, told the untold stories of suicide in their families. Then they praised and supported the idea. Sometimes when you ask for something, the answer is simply right in front of you.
There was no method, writing style or rhythm to my writing. No formatting, outlines or agendas outside of writing to get some relief. Most of the time I had no idea what I was going to write about. Sometimes it was at 2am when I couldn’t sleep, other days it was mid-day when I felt sad, or a memory came to mind. I wrote about my feelings, my thoughts about suicide, the things I was struggling with, wonderings about how best to help our children, and the stages I was experiencing of complex grief - the shock, the questions, the replay, the confusion, the deep sadness, the anger, anxiety and misery, and the shame and guilt associated with losing someone in this way. These seemed to be the stages I was going thru, not the traditional five stages of grief. Some of those stages were there, but my experience lasted years, as did the grief experience of many I have spoken to. No stages were linear, they all waxed and waned. And as I wrote more about it, things started to make more sense to me. I was able to put things into a cohesive format in my mind. The other piece of the writing experience that was so critical for me, was that I also needed to learn how to tell a suicide story and writing allowed me to do that. It’s not an easy story to tell or jump into. There I was, the survival parent with my ex-husband’s legacy on one side, our children in the middle and strangers on the other side. I had to learn how to literally find words and expressions to tell the story, learn what to say, and when to say it. Tell it in a way that made sense, that felt right, that seemed fair to me, honest and yet not too heavy to weigh others down. I had to learn how to have conversations with our children, sharing bits and pieces in a way that didn’t further damage our children but explained and supported everyone in our family. Because that is what we still were, a family. Hard to do, and I can safely say I learned how to do that through journaling and writing.
When the book writing became a real thing for me, the research helped me immensely. What I found normalized the experiences, gave another’s perspective, allowed me to ask questions, and contemplate a host of topics that come up when someone suicides. For example, where does a person’s soul go when they die? How come they never told anyone? Why am I still suffering so? As I continued my journey, I wrote and wrote. Much of it was never published because that part was not about the publishing. It was about the exercise of writing which is what helped heal me. To have an avenue where I could freely express myself and not worry about judgement or misinterpretation, but just express myself has been so incredibly healing for me. It doesn’t take the pain away, or the missing but writing has now shaped mind for today and the future as I continue on living with this legacy.
So if you need a prompt, here it is. Write. Write now. And don’t stop. Keep writing. Write first and figure out what to do with the writing later. Find out what you need to say and explore with curiosity why you need to say it. And then write. Write, write, write. Because the world needs to hear your voice.