When someone close becomes ill, by means of any kind of mental instability or disease, it’s incredibly difficult to comprehend what you are witnessing; as they begin to deteriorate.
To be honest, it was like waiting for the show ‘Punked’ to come running out, because there was no possible way that this could really be happening.
Hallucinations, panic attacks, suicide idealtion, their loss of positive memories due to complete cognitive distortion… sometimes they don’t even remember loving you. Or maybe they even believed you were committing adultery.
You learn quite about yourself when faced with something so horrific. You just do the things necessary. You just get through. You fight your ass off for them because they can’t. You can forget about showing emotion in front of them because it only makes them feel worse.
Then there is the guilt when you watch yourself behave in such a way that is selfish because of your own human shortcomings- when you are under your own pressure cooker of distress:
Anger when things don’t get better. If they fight or cannot accept help. Remorse or shame from seeking attention, in the hopes of one bit of affection from the man you still desire as he is quickly slipping away.
The grieving process begins way before the death. I can’t even begin on what’s it’s like to, almost overnight, yearn for the man you hear in the videos that your 4 year old is playing on your phone. The “before” pictures are too hard to look at. Keeping the “after” pictures to yourself. Except for one. Because it doesn’t look like much is wrong. So you share it on Facebook. And no one knows.
You want to scream.
This kind of grief is just as hard. Knowing that things will never be exactly the same as they used to.
After the death is when it all hits. You’ve kept it together. Now there is so much room to breathe and too much open space to now to process everything you’ve just observed and endured. And suddenly. You can’t remember the way they were before. Before the illness.
This kind of trauma has to be addressed before you can even begin to think about processing and accepting the death.
I only took care of my husband for 3 months. It took me 2 months to remember him not being sick. I couldn’t find the good memories blocked behind the trauma.
Children who have taken care of their parents, or spouses who have endured alcoholism, addiction, PTSD or other illnesses for much longer- this can take years to even begin to understand what’s really happened and work through healing.
One of the most frustrating things I see still going around in mental health awareness or suicide prevention tactics is thinking that these victims could easily have picked up a phone to ask for help. For many, by this point, their hands have been tied, their voice muted. That’s what the disease does. That’s the misconception.
And for the ones who really tried to get help, well sometimes the illness is just too strong. Just like cancer. And don’t you dare make it about yourself and say that suicide is selfish. Would it be easy for you to end your life RIGHT now? No. I didn’t think so. It takes incredible strength. It is the most unselfish act ever committed.
I’d like to recommend a book called: Transforming Traumatic Grief by Courtney Armstrong. This book is for sudden or violent deaths of a loved one and moving from grief to peace. Even if it was a longer progression of any illness, there are exercises to assist you in finding peace, transforming your trauma and establishing an ongoing connection to the one who’s passed.
This book along with talking therapy led to reconstructing my trauma.
It is important that you do not become psychologically damaged in which could lead to your own post traumatic stress. You must be aggressive in your healing to lead a joyful life again. This is what your loved one now at peace wants for you. And you must work on believing it.
Below is written by an anonymous new friend in the recent aftermath of her husband’s death by accidental overdose after suffering from mental illnesses and addiction that had manifested from PTSD, triggered by traumatic events while serving in the military.
“I loved my husband so deeply, even when he became incredibly sick. I would have done anything for him. I’m proud of myself for everything we endured and part horrified at the things I did to enable him. There was enough of him peeking through the insanity that my heart ached for the man I knew before the addiction and PTSD really took over our lives. To be frank, I’m not envious of the way my life could have turned out had he not been able to beat his illness. I think I started grieving for him way before he died, he was a great man that deserved more, and I think he would have always struggled. I know I would’ve taken care of him our whole lives. I’m thankful that I don’t have to. I feel guilty for feeling grateful. I feel as though I have this new opportunity at a completely different life, and I am thankful to have loved him for all the rest of his, even if it was cut short. I wonder someone’s if that offsets my sadness, that he’s at peace and that I’m at peace too.”
If you are a first responder or a loved one of a first responder in need of resources or assistance regarding post traumatic stress, grief, compassion fatigue, or other mental health related issues, please visit this page and fill out the form and we will help you locate those resources: First Responder Support.
A 36 year old stay at home, and work from home, mom of a 5 year old finding her way through traumatic grief after the sudden loss of her husband in May 2017. Kira was a fire wife who experienced first hand the unfortunate risks that first responders take within their occupation when it comes to job stress, work burnout, PTSD and other symptoms of mental instability or illnesses. She went from a caregiver to a suicide survivor in a very short amount of time. She shares her own personal insightful findings and utter honesty through her journey of healing in hopes it may help others in the course of their own grieving process; with personal development reading, fitness therapy, talking therapy, wine...and the occasional and necessary swearing!
You can find this post as well as others on her personal blog, Living for Two.