Author’s note: Grief, as I have learned, is a linear process, with no set time of ending. The intensity of the grief does morph with time, but grief can remain for a lifetime after a loss of such magnitude as suicide. For only the person who owns this grief understands its pain.
This is why I wrote my story after the suicide of my husband. Along my path of healing, I met some who wanted to erase my pain. Many advised me to move on and forget my past. Some chose to walk beside me, and some chose to walk away from me.
Many days I waited for my heart to heal from my deep sorrow and many losses. I waited to start this new untraveled journey of this life I was handed without my permission. Suicide ends the inner torment of its victims, but it begins a lifetime of pain and grief for the ones left behind.
I decided to write my story not only to help me survive but others as well. Never would I have believed how writing my memoir would lead my heart to peace and happiness. My life mission now is spreading words of hope and providing support to survivors of suicide as well to those who have recently lost a loved one to suicide.
The following is part of the prologue to my recently published book, “Waiting for My Rainbow”:
I had an appointment on this day with a patient who had suffered three horrific losses. Her father died of suicide, her mother died of cancer and the last loss was her love to death by fire. All three deaths occurred over a year’s time. This young woman was broken beyond repair. And as I sat on my stool in my exam room, I stared into her vacant eye and my heart felt her deep pain.
There were many moments on that day we sat in silence only looking into each other’s eyes. We searched our minds and our hearts for some words or reasons to possibly explain her losses. But no words were found. Medications were available perhaps to help her escape her sorrow but somehow offering only a pill was not enough.
The magnitude of her suffering commanded more, but I was helpless of what I could offer this young woman to ease her intense and deep sorrow. I was defenseless on this day. I struggled how I could help this young woman of many losses. Never had I suffered such losses in my life, but on this day her sad eyes were the reflection of her immense pain. I took out my script pad and wrote her a prescription from my heart. This was all I had to give her.
Days passed, evolving into weeks and months and nothing changed in my life. The only person who held the power to change my life was me. I barely existed in my life. My thoughts reflected back to the words of the elder priest the day I visited him for spiritual guidance.
“God will bring you a rainbow, my dear. And at that moment, God will bring your life a new beginning, a life full of great love and happiness.”
God placed me in this time for a reason. But this reason I did not know. But I trusted in God to guide me through my maze of great hurt, loss and sorrow. I missed my best friend: I missed my soul mate: I missed my husband.
But what exactly did the elder priest mean by a “rainbow”? And how would I find my “rainbow”? I wished I had asked him what he meant on that day in his small clergy office. Now I was left to wait for my “rainbow”, whatever or whomever my rainbow was to be.
Over the past three years I viewed my life as a senseless drama. When I was confronted with misguided opinions and spiteful criticisms, I walked away. But there were some who tested my patience with their false accusations, hurtful words and behaviors. For you who accused me of being who I was not, I have always spoke words of truth. I will forever live my life rooted in my strong beliefs and devote Catholic faith.
Through my journey of healing, I learned responding to angry words were only an endorsement to negative attitudes and hurtful behaviors.
I was reunited with this remarkable woman many years later. Now I was a widow. While attending a theater event in my town alone one night, I stood to stretch when our eyes met across the huge theater. She smiled, walking over to where I stood. She was now married, and the couple was blessed with a small child. She had moved away from my area and I had lost contact with her for many years. But never had I forgotten this remarkable young woman.
She and her new family were now back, living in a nearby town. She proudly introduced me to her husband. Her husband spoke of the many times his wife told him how I helped her in those darkest of times in her life. I was taken back by his words. How could my words have impacted the life of this young woman?
Thinking back to that day in my office, I had little in a way of medications or words to release the pain of her tremendous losses. Then this young woman, who had survived three great losses, asked me if I remembered giving her a special prescription. With a bewildered look upon my face, I told her I vaguely did.
[MORE: Even with an addiction and the death of my husband, why I have hope]
Then she spoke words that moved my heart and words I will never forget. She still had that small piece of paper I wrote for her in my office so many years before. She had kept my small torn script safely where she could always read and reflect upon those few words I wrote. She read the words on that script daily.
She told me my simple token of kindness and my script with just a few words had changed her life. Stunned by what she told me, I struggled to understand how I could have possibly given her any hope that day. Her world was destroyed by three unspeakable losses.
Until our chance meeting at the theater, I would never have known that my simple words written on a single script impacted her future. This young woman and I would share a lifetime bond.
For the last four years I was living her past life. Now I needed to follow my own few simple words. On the day I met with this broken-hearted woman in my office, I picked up my blank script pad and sighed. I was at a loss of what I could possible do to ease her intense pain.
On the script pad I wrote her name, the date and signed the script as I did for any prescription I wrote. But the difference on this day was no pharmacy could fill this script. I had nothing else to offer her on this day but my humble and sincere words.
These few simple words came deep from my heart. I tore the small piece of paper and handed her the script. She graciously accepted the script and after reading my words she left in silence. She looked back at me as she exited my exam room, only smiling. I was amazed how this remarkable woman could muster a smile, knowing all her life had endured.
I asked myself how any person could survive such tragedies? How could I have known that my future would mirror this young woman’s past.
For now I lived her past and I was surviving in her present. Perhaps our paths crossed for just this reason. We shared the same losses and shared the same horrific pain. But on that day of our past, I searched for just a few simple words that might give her hope in her darkest of times.
So I wrote down a few words from my heart. And this small piece of tattered paper remains a part of her life today. What a humbling life lesson this remarkable woman has taught me that the smallest tokens of kindness can yield in the greatest amount of good.
One the prescription paper I wrote these words…
Just Breathe… And Walk…
And today I am doing just that. Breathing…and walking…
For what else could we do?
For what else could I do?
Dr. Cindy Milles of Orrington has been a family nurse practitioner for 20 years and a nurse for 40 years. She is a speaker and the author of the recently published memoir “Waiting for My Rainbow.”