It seems to be a consensus amongst us -us being suicide loss survivors- that our grief is written on our faces. It turns out, it is not. People don’t see the loss. They don’t see the heartbreak. They don’t see anything but a face. It still kinda blows my mind when I realize this. It’s shocking, because I see it. I see the lines I didn’t have before, a bit of grey hair, and I see a gaunter appearance that comes with weight loss and stress, a tiredness that comes with excessive crying. But I’ve had people say that I look good. I look resilient. And those who don’t know what happened just think I look like me.
It is with that knowledge that I also know that every happy smiling face I see can indeed be screaming on the inside and holding back tears. You never know what someone is going through. I saw someone crying at the airport the other day and found out it’s because they missed their flight to their all inclusive vacation. Boo effing hooo.
Not a reason to cry, but for a moment I thought she had bigger, terrible things in her life that were her real reasons for tears. Missing the flight was perhaps just the tipping point. Then I heard her say “this is the worst day of my life!” I really wanted to tell her, “Brace yourself, honey cakes. You have no idea what could be waiting for you. Pull up your baggy PJ pants, straighten that neck pillow and buck up”. If missing your flight makes this the worst day, count your blessings.
In our group, I found that most of us wanted to talk about the details of our loss, at least a few times. How we found our loved ones. How others found us. How we made it though the first day. It’s an odd thing, but it explains why in therapy, the patient usually does all of the talking in the beginning.
Then of course, we want to talk about the person we lost. (Most of us do. Some just pretend it never happened. I don’t recommend that path, as it will devour your sanity and what little peace you can hold onto.)
We also want to pay tribute to them, wether that be raising funds for mental health, or for a favourite charity or cause that your loved one supported. I’ve done both and it is somewhat healing.
I’m making sure my journey of loss and healing is written on me. Not on my face, but on my body. I’ve been inked. A tattoo that I know John would love. He had two huge tattoos on his big strong shoulders and I had my little blue morpho butterfly on my lower back (I at one point thought i could be an entomologist and love this creature).
John and I were looking at studios where I could expand on my butterfly, and give her a garden of flowers.
We never got to that point. He left before the big tattoo expo we were going to attend.
I knew I wanted to get another tattoo, and now this one was for John, but had no idea what. Should I get the same ones he had? Should I get a likeness of him? Hmmmm….. not our styles. Not my style, that’s for sure.
I wanted this tattoo to be perfect.
It took me six months just to chose the studio, and the ones I narrowed it down to were scattered from LA to Glasgow, to Japan, and thankfully, Canada. I had to find the right artist, that had the skills to create something wonderful.
I’m pleased to say, I can drive to my studio and the artist is lovely.
The second last session of my group therapy took us to a labyrinth walk. Labyrinths and mazes are not the same. Mazes have cul de sacs and are for trickery. There are no dead ends in a labyrinth. Labyrinths are for contemplating, pausing, thinking, and in our case, healing. The labyrinth we used was the Chartres labyrinth, found on the tile floor of the castle in France by the same name.
I thought this session would be silly, and wouldn’t have much to offer.
I was wrong.
This was a heart wrenching, gut twisting, tear inducing and hurt drenched session.
We all felt it.
We were given a plain rock to bring to the labyrinth and to leave at the centre, along with something that didn’t serve us any longer. That something could be a thought, an emotion, anything that we just needed to let go of.
We then picked up a rock in the centre, and on it was a word. We were to walk the journey outward, taking our potentially more resilient heart with us. Maybe forgiving them for leaving us behind.
My stone said Faith.
I still don’t have a lot of that, in many regards, but I’m trying to have faith that things will get better… I think trying to have faith is a lot like having faith.
My tattoo is that journey.
I didn’t talk about that labyrinth walk to anyone for a long time. It was best kept inside, to work its way into what is the new me. It was a secret you kept with yourself. It sounds so hippy, but it really was a changing moment in my healing. I recommend doing your own labyrinth walk. They are offered in various places, or set one up for yourself and others that need some healing. Any kind of healing.
My tattoo is the labyrinth.
I didn’t tell many people or talk about my tattoo idea for quite some time, either, but I’m proud of it and it tells my story. It tells the story that I feel is written on my face.
There are a lot of other symbols on the tattoo work – dragonflies, a snail, flowers, and a lark. All mean something to John, to myself, to what we had and to what I now don’t have. It also represents what I do have: my new normal, my strength, my heartbreak, my unique journey, my hope and my future.
I wish my future could be one with John, but it is not to be.
The art also shows what I did have with him. I had love, I had beauty, I had happiness.
I had things some people never feel in their entire lives.
This tattoo marks me in a positive way, despite the reason for it, and despite the 8 hours of physical pain as the ink was marking my skin.
I love it. John would have adored it.
Now our story is written.