I think a natural part of the grief process after a death by suicide is experiencing what-ifs. As Shawn’s fiancé and the person who spent the most time with him, I almost felt a greater sense of responsibility in preventing this tragedy. What if I was home the weekend before? What if I encouraged him more to receive medical treatment for his anxiety? What if I directly asked him how he was feeling more often? What if we moved to Green Bay or he got a different job after he graduated college? What if I was just more present in our everyday life? What if the Packers made it to the Super Bowl? That last one is not directly on me, but anyone living in Wisconsin will perfectly understand that one.
The thing I am learning about what-ifs, however, is that they do not solve anything. It does not change the fact that Shawn is gone. They simply keep me living in the past and further prevent my healing process. What I have to keep reminding myself is that no one person can be 100% responsible for another person’s actions. This was not my choice. While intellectually I can understand this, it still does not prevent me from having these thoughts and feelings. I so wish I could have been the one to save Shawn. When I expressed these feelings to Shawn’s mom she responded perfectly, ” I truly believe Shawn had to save himself and I think he did.”
A fellow survivor of suicide shared this with me– “We all have a choice. Beat ourselves up over what we can’t control or move forward and control what we can.” Though I know I will still experience what-ifs at times, I choose to move forward.