My marriage was only three years old when Daddy died. It was my second marriage. I was frightened my grief would tear it apart. Those intense emotions of heartache, traumatic stress, and fury funneled their way down to one emotional pipeline and spilled out in angry, watery, aggressive reactions. I couldn’t control my feelings and acted like a tired, cranky two-year-old child. I felt embarrassed to cry, but tears traveled down my face in rivers. Grief left me looking sulky.
My husband became a safe target. Most of my anger was focused at him over trivial things. We painted the house together and I furiously blamed him for leaving a paint-can in my way. He worked a split shift and was sleep deprived; I yelled at him for not listening.
My father’s suicide taught my husband and me how to communicate. We had a lot to digest. He didn’t understand why I was so quick-tempered, and he would react defensively. I didn’t recognize how tremendously angry he was with my father for hurting me. He tried to keep those feelings to himself; they came across to me as condemnation. We had a lot of conflict—and, thank God, ended up going for professional help.
Anger, I realized, had always been my method of dealing with uncontrollable things. That realization and my husband’s loving concern may well have been what saved our marriage. A counselor helped teach us both how to interpret our feelings. I learned it was because I felt safe enough with him that I centered much of my grieving fury at him. It wasn’t fair of me to do that. He learned that I needed to be held when I acted like a child, not walked away from. In counseling, we talked out our feelings without so much emotional-fuel.
Afterwards, he was there for me all the way. He hugged me, and gave me space when I needed it. But most importantly, he listened to me when I experienced my anger-disguised emotions of helplessness. At a support group for families affected by suicide, he learned that my anger wasn’t as unique as he thought. My tears came with less anger after they stopped meeting his resistance.
After a suicide, communication and emotional support is as necessary as water and air.