I survived being shot by my husband. I survived his suicide. I survived my grief and navigating my children through their grief journeys. I survived burying the beliefs of who I trusted him to be as I faced the undeniable truths of who he was.
Still, I cannot say that survival is any more than a day to day proposition. This blog is littered with posts where I considered my options. As Laurence Gonzales notes in Surviving Survival, “our ongoing survival requires relentless attention.” There is no mastery over trauma and PTSD after violence, no arrival at the day when it is left squarely behind.
Even within my hopefulness and optimism, a darkness lies and only a sound, an event, a stress, fatigue, open the door for it to emerge. I suspect anyone who has survived violence experiences the same, it’s just not something we talk openly about. Perhaps in our minds to acknowledge it gives it too much space to expand, perhaps we want to pretend it isn’t there and we can be who we were, before.
Some of my dearest friends, survivors of gun violence, are reeling today, gutted with the loss of a bright light in their lives after the suicide of someone whose darkness and demons were put upon him as a young toddler watching the murder of his mother at the hands of his stepfather with a gun. My heart aches for all. I know too well the feeling of wishing for a final kind word, an embrace, wishing for foreknowledge to intervene for a rescue. And I know the sense of profound loss.
His death is a sobering reminder that even with all the resources and support out there, grief is a singular and lonely journey and we have absolutely no say over what someone chooses to do to escape it. We are left only to pick up the pieces and create some sort of meaningful mosaic out of their untimely death, and their lives.
We want the happy ending, to know that it all turned out okay, especially for those of us whose children witnessed partner violence and experienced our shootings. The truth is it doesn’t always turn out okay and that is extraordinarily painful to accept.
We can do our best to provide support and intentional intervention to those who have experienced violence. We can check in with them in person rather than through social media interactions. We can notice random but perhaps guised goodbyes. We can let them know we, too, struggle at times and share how we are able to move through it. Ultimately, however skewed their perspective, when someone makes the choice in silence, it is beyond our control.
As survivors, we can practice sitting with pain, with grief, with the sometimes unbearable weight of trauma rather than running from it. We can teach our children as well. We can let go of the sense that everything needs to be perfect, of absoluteness, of holding on to outcomes so tightly we aren’t free to appreciate what is before us. And I hope we can, here and now, make a pact of love to agree to take it one day at a time, to wait another 24 hours before acting on feelings of self-harm, and in that time reach out of the abyss; to stop the cycle of violence at us.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to 741741.