I can see how my thinking has evolved since those first few awful months. Early on, I realized that in order to swim back to the surface and breathe again, I’d have to get to where this was about me and not just her anymore. I thought, “Yes, I’m stuck in the mud, overwhelmed with feelings of emptiness, confusion and fear about my ability to recover. But I won’t recover unless I stop analyzing what actually happened to her and focus on what’s best for me.”
A mini-revelation about a month after she died had led to that thought. I was in a golf match and standing over a 5-foot putt. As I lined it up, Alison popped into my head. It struck me that I hadn’t thought about her for at least the 45 minutes or so since the round began. In that moment, I wasn’t sure if that was the first time I’d gone even a minute without thinking about her. I wondered, “Why now? What’s different here”?
I stepped away to mentally regroup and thought that maybe I was able to manage my mind more than I’d thought I could. Maybe I can make progress with my grief and also figure out how to be temporarily free of grief’s burden. Maybe I had more control than I thought I’d had. It felt like a ray of light was peeking through the dimness of my new world.
Perhaps my brain was looking out for me, sparing me an hour of grief by showing me that I can move forward without having to be constantly deflated; that even though I can’t change the past, this is still my life to live.
I missed the putt, but as I walked to the next tee I said to her, “Al, that was because I was thinking about you instead of the putt. I know you want me to live my life as unencumbered as possible, able to set your memory aside while still loving you forever.”
Back then, I was immersed in negativity, groping to come to terms with how deep her pain must have been to sacrifice her very existence. Over and over I would think, “How could she abandon us and all she ever loved or hoped for? What was she thinking? Was she content, distraught, maybe excited to end her pain?” These are questions we can never answer, and in trying to answer the unanswerable, all we do is make moving forward more difficult.
I’ll never know what she was thinking. I’ll only know that her mind was tortured. The object for me, therefore, is to not also be tortured. I’ve got to stop cursing my inability to steer her to safety. Suicide survivors must accept that dwelling on the unanswerable will only leave you more anxiety riddled and stuck in the mud. The goal is to honor her memory, not to dwell on what can no longer be deciphered or controlled.
Back then the putt provided a moment of clarity. The fact that I missed it is of no consequence.
Truth is, I’m a lousy putter no matter what I’m thinking about.