Before & After Suicide

I lost my partner Phil in the fresh, hopeful first weeks of the new year. The day he took his life-January 11th-marked the termination of an entire subjective reality, the one we’d celebrated together 10 days earlier, singing Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And the days of auld lang syne?

When everything collapses, not everyone hopes to make it out alive. Me, for example.

During and after the notification, made over the phone by the Vienna Police Department, I reacted typically–the trembling, the unreality, the feeling that I wouldn’t recover from this. A lot’s changed since then but one of suicide’s many paradoxes is that even as you begin to find out how to continue living, no real peace can ever be made with the event or its outcome.

Joan Didion famously described the surreal experience of losing her partner, reflecting, “We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe their husband is about to return and need his shoes.” Unlike Didion, I never harbored expectations of Phil’s return to our doorstep. After four months, I made the decision to leave the apartment we once shared, seeking refuge with my cousin and her family. Immersing myself in the lively chaos of her young children helps keep me grounded in the present. Last night, we sat together in the dappled summer evening sunlight, mesmerized as the one-year-old gleefully maneuvered her toy car while clutching her father’s empty beer bottle.

I also dread celebrating my upcoming birthday in 10 days without him. He should be here, joining me at the beach, recommending movies, being my constant friend.

But he is not. And having the pain of that dull with time falls far short of feeling any peace with it.