If the title of my blog today looks like a Google search, it’s because it is. Mine-about six weeks ago. It turns out, there is no blueprint for navigating the grief process after your loved one dies of suicide. Even Google did not have the answers for me. My doctor had given me six weeks of family medical leave. After that I had to decide-return to work or not. I asked everyone I loved and trusted for advice and I received many different answers. My brain and heart were conflicted. My brain said, “Return to work. The district and the students count on you.” My heart said, “I am not ready.”
As hard as it was, I decided to follow my heart. My job, as an educational speech-language pathologist, is very demanding emotionally and mentally. I kept thinking, how can I take care of the needs of 45 students when I can barely take care of myself? I remember being physically exhausted after packing for a weekend. It took me three days to do one load of laundry. I felt like I would be doing a disservice to my students if I did go back to work. I believe what makes me a strong speech-language pathologist is my heart and, unfortunately, my heart was just not in it for the first time in my life.
I think I explain my reasoning well in the email I sent to my fellow educators and, of course, I found this to be a perfect opportunity to bring awareness to mental health. Instead of reiterating what I wrote I will share it here.
To my work family-
I am writing to let you know that I gave my letter of resignation to the superintendent on Friday. It was a very difficult decision and was not done in haste-as I literally waited until the last day possible. I consulted with some other survivors of suicide and they shared with me that if I have the means to take time to heal and navigate my next path in life, do it. So I am following my heart and doing what I think is best for me at this time.
I have been taking this time to really understand suicide and mental health and have found that it has been helpful for me to be open about it. An illness of the brain should be treated just as we would treat any other type of illness, including cancer, heart disease, etc. There continues to be a lot of stigma in regards to mental health and my hope is that being open and honest about it will eventually reduce that, at least a little. Admitting that we may be experiencing depression or anxiety and seeking out medical help or counseling does not make us weak people–it makes us human. If you or any family members would like to talk about this, I am very willing to share my experiences. While this event has turned my world upside down and I miss my sweet, handsome Shawn Michael every single minute of every day, the opportunity that I could one day help someone else, gives me hope.
I am so incredibly grateful for the time I have spent here. I have gotten to see amazing changes in the students I have serviced and that has brought me such incredible joy and pride. And more importantly, I have gotten to work with the best and most caring people.
I am not sure what my next path in life will bring, but now I have the time to figure it out. I know whatever I choose to do, I will be okay because now I have the best, most loving angel watching over me. I am learning every day that grief is not a process that truly ends, but will get easier with time. Be kind to all those you meet, find the positives in all that you do, and make sure you tell all those you love, that you love them.
Thank you all so much for the cards filled with sweet messages, phone calls, texts, gift basket, dog toys and treats, money towards the memorial fund, and especially for the love and support you have shown me.
Love to you all,
So My Advice (For what it’s worth)-
Follow your heart and do what is best for YOU and your grieving process. Everyone handles loss differently. I was fortunate enough that I was able to take the extra time that I needed; I know not everyone is able to. This is what felt right for me and my journey.