Life as a widowed parent has been difficult at times. From making decisions alone and questioning whether you're doing the right thing, to wondering whether you're giving your kids too much in order to compensate for the loss of their dad. There have been times where I've been caught in the "feeling sorry for myself mode" as my plate overfills with duties and responsibilities, which leads to worry and lack of sleep. When you add the trauma of a death by suicide into the mix, there is constant worry on how this type of death affects you, your kids, and your family and friends.
People around you change. Those who haven't experienced this type of loss tend to stay away or just don't talk about it. Many think that when you get up each day, shower and make an appearance at the grocery store - you're doing great! Then, just when you believe your invite to a party was lost in the mail and you find out it wasn't, your mind goes in so many directions. "Hey! I can make the party. My invite must've been lost in the mail (due to address change)," and she replies by saying, "You weren't invited. This is a couple's shower."
I think the worst part of life after loss by suicide is watching your kids struggle. I wonder and worry, am I doing enough?
Each day I wonder if my kids will chose the same way of death as their dad. But then I remind myself what I've come to understand as truth; suicide is not a choice. Death by suicide is a side effect of an illness. My worry then changes and I begin to look for signs of the illness in my children. I have witnessed defiant behavior, anger, grief, self medication, depression, anxiety, treatment, alcohol abuse, and an eating disorder in my own children. Each of these mental health struggles could lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts.
How do I ever know if I've done enough to help them get through and quite honestly, survive? Surviving mental health issues is difficult in itself. Being the only parent responsible for them, watching their pain and struggles, and searching for the source of relief becomes somewhat overwhelming.
At times, the 'feeling sorry for myself mode' can lead to my own bouts of depression. The pressure and worry can lead to resentment when I watch everyone around me living "normal" lives, or when my very good friends (at least I thought they were) stop including me or call to talk only about themselves and their struggles without even asking, how are you?
It's normal and human to have these thoughts when life brings all of us change and challenges. If only Rob would've known that living without him is so much harder than living with him and his illness. Pain goes away, treatment can be found, and support is there once we begin to understand the illness.
Talking openly with others about your own struggles helps heal us. There are many who don't want to share, listen to others, or even read a blog like this. When you do, it can be life changing as you soon realize you're not alone.
Talking with my kids now as adults has allowed me to see their strengths, courage and wisdom. I'm amazed by all three of my children. Being able to have adult conversations with your grown kids about your honest feelings can change things around when you realize, maybe you've done something right and there's no better mom for them except for me. It makes sense and brings peace.
"Mom, if you can look at our lives from our point of view, we couldn't have had a better mom, we needed you. You were chosen for us, we are who we are because of your strength." - Whitney (pictured above on right)
Thanks to Whitney who helped me see my own strength and purpose during a time of struggle.
Whether you're a widowed parent or struggling in a different situation, look at your journey during the times when you're feeling down and turn it around. See it from a different point of view. It may just turn that frown upside down.
by Vonnie Woodrick
About the Author
Vonnie Woodrick created i understand in 2014 in loving memory of her husband Rob who lost his battle with depression in 2003. Vonnie routinely provides speaking engagements to private organizations and community groups throughout the year in an effort to raise awareness about suicide and encourage education about mental health. Learn more about i understand's "Love Heals" Lecture Series.
This blog is part one in a six-week series titled, "Life After Loss".