Weathering the Darkness

The importance that a single moment holds is beyond the power that any words could ever explain. Whether dark or bright, every second of time carries significance. Whether we comprehend that in the most vital times is not always up to us. Time is our drill sergeant and it will smoke the shit out of us whenever it decides it is right. 

On January 31, 2018 at approximately 5:45pm, my husband Garrett made the decision to end his life. That moment for him was the darkest place he had ever been. Beyond memories of war, of pain, and of the depth of his internal scars, that moment plagued him.  It consumed him and his vision entirely. Although pain was at the forefront of his mind at that instant, many things were not evident at all. This includes thinking of the impact that his final decision would have on his surviving family. 

Before Garrett passed, I had dark moments of my own. I would mentally go back to calls from my time in the EMS/Fire service that had haunted me, to painful memories from my childhood, and often to the pain of the reality of seeing my husband hurting. Now, I could fill in a calendar of days where these moments hit like a tsunami. 

One of those days is today, November 20 – our wedding anniversary. 

The first tear hit at 8:30am, when I dropped our daughter off at daycare. I felt myself flash back to 2015 when I lived in another life. Back to when I was somebody else entirely. I remembered driving to downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina to the courthouse. By 9:00am today, I had to workout so that I wouldn’t zone in on the clock, around the time we said our vows in front of the magistrate back in 2015. For me now, so many moments hit, and I feel helpless to react to them. My shield comes down and all I can do is embrace the pain. 

Would we have bought that little house on that little piece of land? Would Garrett have built and opened up his custom race shop, that he dreamed of on it? Would we have gotten a second Doberman pup? Would we have been trying for our second baby? Would I have seen him sober, happy, at peace? These moments are the ones that hit hard. That really sink in. That really remind me of the reality that life has become. Of all the days where there is love and support, today is not one. Today is the one day of the year that I feel the complete weight of all the failures that came with my responsibilities of being a spouse to an Army Ranger Veteran. This is the one day of the year that I have to face the “could have’s, would have’s, and should have’s.” Today is the day where I feel the guilt of all the parts of being a good wife that I failed at. 

All that I can do is feel the weight and remember the mission at hand, to connect people of all walks to mental health resources. To make sure that no other family has to carry this load. My psychologist tells me that many veterans feel that by ending their lives, that they are taking a burden off of their families and friends. I want anyone who is considering suicide to understand that there are resources, support, and help out there that can help you face ANY battle. Whether it is a discharge upgrade, issues with the law, financial distress, physical issues, or internal wars, THERE IS HELP OUT THERE. Ending your life ONLY brings pain for everyone else. There is no ‘win-win’ in ending it all. 

Black ink on white paper urges me to circle “widowed” as my marital status. The IRS deems that after two years following the death of Garrett that I will legally be the “head of household.” In so many areas, I am considered a “single” mother to our daughter. In so many moments, I feel completely unattached to this new reality- this nightmare that I keep waking up to. But the weirdest part of all is that time hasn’t moved in my mind. I still look to the door, as if Garrett is going to come back home. I still look at the clock at 1:15pm, when he got off of work and would call. 

The darker days are the ones where this mission drives me the most. I feel a part of Garrett push me to get more work done or to reach out to people that cross my mind. I believe in signs now, and I know that all of us need each other to survive this life and all of its challenges, and THAT IS OK. NONE of us were meant to do this alone. 

If you are hurting inside and are considering ending your life – DON’T. You may feel alone or like the pain is drowning you – I’m not arguing that. I won’t ever say that your demons aren’t real or that tomorrow is going to be as bright as a unicorn shitting glitter. But I WILL tell you, with certainty, that you matter. Whether you realize in this moment, what the significance of your life is or not, your existence has impacted the lives of so many people around you. Don’t give in to one bad moment only to leave thousands of darker ones for others to carry. 

You aren’t alone. Reach out if it is getting dark. 

Fight on, warriors.

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