Adapting to the new normality
Living a life affected by a suicide of a close person is hard. Allowing yourself to live again is even harder.
Like thousands of others, I too, lost someone very close to me this way. In a way, you can call us survivors.
I’ve never really given much of a thought to this. It’s not a subject anyone likes to talk about. Preferably, no one wants to do it ever in their life. But here we are, without the ability to turn back time and revert whatever happened to someone we lost. And so the only direction left to go is to move forward.
How to live while we have to cope with shock and adjust to a different reality? The most honest answer that there is no common way for all of us. We all have different stories, we all cope with pain and grief differently.
However, there are a few things I learnt while slowly trying to adapt to this new normality. If you can call it ‘normality’.
While trying to get used to the life ‘after’, we go through certain adaption stages. For me, there were three. And since I’m no expert, I decided to come up with my own names.
Before I was able to live an actual life again, I went from a complete shut down to living in a limbo. Or I’ll be able to live because I’m still probably only halfway through it.
When your world stops
The mornings shortly after were the hardest. It’s like you function in a maintenance mode or less. How many times did I wish someone can switch me off and turn back on when it’s over?
Your life perspective changes pretty much 180 degrees. It seems impossible to process the news.
What should you do when the urge for life clashes with its hardship? It’s like having an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.
One tells you there is still so much to live for, and the other makes you doubt it. Does it make any sense to dwell in this world full of chaos, depression and just general craziness going on every day?
The constant struggle of wanting to live impaired with the guilt of still having an option to live, to enjoy. If you talked to people who are closest to my heart, they’d tell you I laugh loud, and I laugh often, but the suicide of my partner made me feel guilty when I do so. Why can I smile and he can’t? Now, top this up with the possibility of never knowing why. Not everyone leaves a note or well-documented health records. I learnt the hard way that people who deeply suffer inside can cover it up. Yes, there are ups and downs, there are small mood swings, sad periods are replaced by happy ones where you talk about the future plans, about what you hope to accomplish with your life. So, how can you spot those important signs that would give you a hint of what is going on?
Getting out of this state of mind will be something similar to the Olympic run through obstacles. But it will help you figure out that deciding to live and allowing yourself to live are two, completely different approaches.
When you decide to continue living
It might seem unimaginable, but the pain you feel right after will eventually weaken. I doubt it will ever completely disappear, but I know it can become slightly more bearable. I started a new job, began interacting with my friends again, started learning a new language, started writing.
And for long it seemed like it’s working.
I wrote the article about how I’m trying to get back to normal life again. What did I actually do? I just continued living because well, I was left with this life, so let’s move on with it. But in fact, I was stuck in a limbo. I had to take a step back to realise I tried rushing through the pain. If there is one thing I learnt, it is to be patient, to be honest with yourself, your feelings and people around you.
When you allow yourself to live
There is no point to pretend this will be easy in any way possible.
Especially because mental pain is so good in impairing itself with the physical one. There will be days when you’ll feel like everything you want to do is to sleep only. Because that is the only way to get through the day. There will be days when you will start crying in the middle of the street while people will be looking at you all confused, because there is nothing wrong with you on the outside. And you won’t be able to stop it.
Let the pain come and go in its natural way. Don’t suppress it, because sooner or later it will catch up with you.
You’ll be passing the streets while seeing the faces of those who are gone everywhere. You’ll have the need to approach people to make sure it’s not them. At the back of your mind, you know it’s not them. Shortly after this happened, I went for the screening of ‘A star is born’. Who knew it would end the same way. The irony of not reading spoilers, right?
Facing the question: “Oh, why aren’t you in contact anymore?” How am I going to explain this to you? In some weird way, you’ll have to adapt to be okay to talk about suicide. It doesn’t make sense to pretend or to cover it up. We should always call things, feelings and experience by their actual name.
There are a few reality checks you should be ready for, regardless of how hard they are to digest.
The world won’t stop….It’ll feels almost surreal because you will not understand how everyone can just simply go on with their lives when something terrible happened. I was often told you need to go on, you need to live. I wanted to shout at people if they are insane, if they can’t see what happened. But I realised they were right. It won’t help me when I curl up on my bed. Not anymore.
There will be days when you’ll feel like you want to be completely alone, and there will be days when you’ll be scared to be alone because you will be afraid of your darkest thoughts. Remember, people who love you are there to help you. So don’t be scared to reach out to them. They are the small flashes of light and life you are looking for.
There will be days when you’ll replace crying with laughter. And you should not feel guilty about it at all.
Nostalgia will be your companion. In the beginning, she’ll be there on a regular basis. Later, she’ll become more of an occasional visitor. She’ll bring not only those painful, but also those beautiful memories. I can’t stress enough how important it is not to dwell in the past though, no matter how difficult it is, you must try.
Remove ‘what if or maybe’ from your dictionary.
I had a lot of sleepless nights, thinking, what if I would never travel at the moment it happened, what if I would have had a chance to prevent it? And then I started asking myself, what if it would happen anyway? I will never know. And it’s not because of lack of love, interest, being there for each other.
Replaying all possible scenarios without never knowing the outcome is a self-torture. And trust me, you won’t be helping anyone, especially not yourself.
Get ready to accept the fact you might never find out why it happened.
There was no note left. I was spending my time with a person who was smiling and was full of life all the time we were together. I was the sleepless one for many nights. The person next to me was having the deepest and the calmest sleep. Maybe I didn’t ask enough. I don’t know. But slowly, I’m learning to live with a fact there is a strong chance I’ll never figure out why.
To be able to keep a track of all the whys I have, I started writing them down. Then I started writing a little bit more. Trust me, it’s a great way to reflect on the reality and what’s going on in your mind.
I never thought I will have to face something like this in my life. I never thought so many of my friends were affected by a suicide, too. It’s a bit alarming how many people lost their friends, siblings or partners to a suicide, isn’t it?
But despite of what happened…
Mine and your days, too, will slowly start getting better. It’s not easy to adapt to this new life without people we lost. But I don’t think that they would want us to throw our lives away. What you can do is to talk about it, to raise awareness, to share your experience and help those who went through the same one. Remember, not all is lost, and that there is still exciting life waiting for your somewhere, out there.