There is a cemetery in Southern Indiana that holds a grave I never thought I would see.
I know exactly where Jake’s grave is and every time I walk towards it, my heart breaks.
I’m not supposed to be here.
He’s not supposed to be here.
It took three years before I could come to his grave and not cry until my eyes swelled.
This is not where I want to be, but it’s where he is.
The Day We Didn’t See Coming
Nobody saw the events of September 1, 2015 coming. Even if any of us had consulted a crystal ball, this wouldn’t have been in it. I’ve looked back so often- even though Jake was quiet the last couple days before his death, this wasn’t on my radar.
I thought he had a lot on his mind, maybe a depressive episode.
If it had been, I would have done anything to stop him. All of us would have.
There are no words to fully explain how I got through hearing of Jake’s death. I’ve tried to describe it to those close to me, including my former therapist. Shattered is the only word that can even come close.
The Day After describes how I began the process of crawling forward with my life and how it is possible if you have had this sort of loss.
I didn’t attend anything after the funeral service because I was far too broken. I simply walked out to my car and drove home.
I spent days in bed, crying and drinking. I even spent my tenth wedding anniversary in bed- it was only 9 days after Jake’s death. Matthew let me be.
Stay with me.
He knew that he had essentially broken me. Verbal and emotional abuse is no joke, and it will put you in a place that nobody should ever be in. Matthew is a bright man, but this wasn’t one of his better ideas.
He had changed.
I had changed.
That’s no excuse for what occurred.
He eventually realized that even though I had cheated on him and ran our marriage even further into the ground, Jake put me back together. Anyone who knows me well knows this.
There were days that I couldn’t see a way out of the darkness that I was living in. I ate and drank my way through my feelings. I gained weight and didn’t care.
I still don’t. I currently sit at 170. I don’t weigh myself unless I’m at a doctors appointment.
At one point, I became angry and mean. I’m not like that. I will become that way if pushed and even at this point, I still should have handled things better.
The Breaking Point
I began talking to Jake’s brother’s girlfriend, *Lauren. One discussion went terribly and to this day, we aren’t on speaking terms. I’m okay with this.
I am not, however, okay, with the fact, that it destroyed my friendship with Jordan. We are barely back on speaking terms. This took a lot of time, work on my end, and a bit of help from Sara.
I realized that I needed a bit more help to get past my grief. Raging, crying and eating clearly weren’t working.
I found a wonderful therapist and slowly began to see a bit of light. I worked on processing my grief in healthier ways- this blog is one result. I also worked my way through trust issues (I’m still picky about who I like), issues in my marriage, with my kids and some other personal things.
I highly recommend therapy in any form.
I even got sober while I was in therapy and my therapist was thrilled. When I started, she was almost ready to send me inpatient based on my drinking.
Seeing the Light Ahead
There are days that hurt- Jake’s birthday and today, September 1. I think it always will. This is okay. I refer to it as “The Day the World Went Away”, which is the title of a Nine Inch Nails song. He loved that band.
As four years have gone by, I try to remember what I’ve been able to accomplish. I remember that Jake would be so proud of me, or so I hope.
I’ve become a volunteer for the AFSP Out of the Darkness Community Walks. I’ve also done a couple of the college campus walks at the University of Louisville. In a way, it helps me carry on Jake’s (and my) love of helping others.
I figure if I can live through this, I can help others somehow. I cannot explain what a suicide loss is like. I just know that this is something that nobody should have to live through.
I have been outrageously lucky- support isn’t something that everyone has. Matthew didn’t have to be there, but he was. My best friends and family have been there since day one.
Josh, Jake’s other brother, has been one of the best supports I could ask for. I couldn’t have made it through the first two years without my former therapist. I may have ended up in jail and/or rehab.
I have a really bad mouth and back then, unchecked anger issues. The mouth hasn’t changed at all, but I’ve learned to manage my anger. My kids have noticed.
I may have kept drinking had my doctor not called with the fateful lab results.
Grief is one of the hardest emotions for a person to manage. One day can be great and you don’t think about the loss at all- the next, you’re sobbing over a memory.
” Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you”- “New Year’s Eve”, Taylor Swift
My short term memory is trashed, thanks to a mini-stroke shortly before meeting Jake. My long-term memory is intact, and I am grateful. This helps me hold on to the two years of memories.
Thanks to those memories, I’ve created two hashtags: #ForMySuperman and #SpeakNow
They are seen with many of my mental health/suicide related posts on social media. I’ve often referred to Jake as my Superman. Even though he wasn’t perfect and our situation definitely wasn’t, my life was better with him in it.
He saved me from myself sometimes, but even more, the world I was living in. For two years, he was always there for me. I could be myself again, I was able to breathe. I could be happy and not pushed into a corner.
Those memories have gotten ne through the last four years, the good and bad days. I don’t have any pictures of the two of us together, but Josh and Sara have helped me with a collection of pictures of Jake and even a few of his kids. His daughter looks just like him. Of course, she’s taller than me.
All of the pictures have been carefully saved- they’re all I have.
The last week of August and the first couple of days of September are hard for me. I try to do things for others during this time- it helps. I also try to take care of myself so that I don’t fall into a pile of tears.
Growth, Change and Happiness
Before I met Jake, there was another Jacob in my life, my grandfather. He died in May 2016, and it broke my heart. He was the first man in my life who really believed in me.
I called my Granddad “the sunshine of my life”. He gave great advice and had a great sense of humor.
It took over a year to finally feel like I was living again. This doesn’t mean I was fully healed and living my best life. It means I felt like I wasn’t stuck in a daily grief pattern.
I struggled to move past the anger that eventually came, sadness, and other emotions. I never went through the bargaining stage. I knew Jake wasn’t coming back.
I’m at the best I’ve been so far. I’m past 2 1/2 years sober, and every day still remains a challenge. If someone tells you that sobriety is a breeze, it’s a lie. I don’t sit in meetings or read the Big Book every day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do the work.
Happy? Am I happy? Probably. I’m living the life that Jake made me strong enough to live. As long as I keep that promise to myself, I’ll be okay.
My kids are growing up and I’m attempting to figure out where I want to go next. A few years ago, they were smaller and I had all the plans in the world. I know what it’s like to have that ruined in a minute. I don’t like making long term plans.
I do know that I’m going to be okay no matter where life takes me. I’ve got three people watching out for me- my grandparents and of course, my Superman.
Pics courtesy of pinterest