It’s been three and a half years since Steve died by suicide. Thanksgiving week is always hard for me because it’s the halfway mark- Halfway through another year without him. Halfway through another year as a widow (I still hate that word and don’t think I’ll ever accept it). Halfway through another year of what can sometimes feel like hell. And of course, the dreaded holiday season is now here in full force. It can be brutal. I know it can be nearly impossible sometimes for us survivors of suicide loss to be thankful. Believe me, I understand. We’ve all lost so much- Not only our loved one, but all of the residual losses that come along with death and especially suicide.
I was watching TV the other night and cried uncontrollably into my sofa. Today, I had to stop working to sob at my desk for a half hour. I had to contact my therapist multiple times this week because the anxiety was just unbearable. I was having a really difficult time on Thanksgiving this year again and a post of mine popped up from three years ago and that made me stop. It forced me to reflect on where I was then, who I am now, and how far I’ve come. I still feel pain every day. You know what though? I smile too. And I laugh… a lot. There was a time three years ago that I never thought I’d truly laugh or smile ever again. And if I did feel some slight happiness, I felt guilty. I am allowed to be angry for everything I’ve lost, but I’m also giving myself permission to be thankful for all that I have and enjoy life as much as I can. I’ve become an expert in feeling polar opposite emotions simultaneously. It’s bizarre, but hey, what part of this new life isn’t really? I want to share what I wrote back then and hope it might help you or someone else too. No matter what, be kind to yourself.
November 23rd, 2017.
I remember the first 6 minutes… The fear, unbearable pain, and shock that took over. At 6 days it all seemed impossible… How was the world still turning without him here? ….but we got through somehow. Getting past 6 weeks was really just a blur of survival, tears, and utter disbelief…. This just cannot be. And now 6 months…. I don’t know how we got here. The pain, shock, denial, and sadness are very much still here, not necessarily less, but different. And the world still turns somehow.
Today is going to be hard. How ironic, confusing, and yet strangely appropriate that the 6-month mark of Steve’s passing falls on Thanksgiving. I am so sad and so angry, but I am still thankful. I’m thankful I’m still alive. I’m thankful I have been given the strength to survive this and hopefully help other people get through feelings of suicide or surviving loss after suicide. I am so incredibly grateful for the people who have surrounded me from day one… My family, my friends, and the NCPD. I have truly seen the good in the world, so very close to me, in spite of something so terrible and tragic. Angels are truly walking among us. I am thankful for the people who have come into my life in the last 6 months, especially my suicide widow friends, Blue HELP, and all of you who have come to me with open arms, rather than running from this crazy life of mine. It truly amazes me how much goodness people have in their hearts. I have experienced horror first-hand, but I have also experienced true righteousness and I will forever be grateful for that.
Today, as you all gather with your families and friends, I ask that you look around and deeply appreciate each and every one of them being here in this world. Tomorrow is not promised. Life can change so quickly. Cherish what you have. And always look for the good in the world. I promise you, it’s there, I have seen it.
And to my Steve… I miss you so much. I know you are here with me today, just in a different way than last year. Our house is so quiet, but I am remembering how frantic we were hosting our first and only Thanksgiving last year. I was acting like a lunatic and of course you were calming me down. I will especially miss hearing your laughter today, seeing you wash so many dishes, and kicking everyone out of the kitchen. Your absence will be so apparent, but believe me, you are not and will never be forgotten. I carry you in my heart today and always.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Police Officer Steven Clifford – EOW 5/23/2017