How did she die?

This is a Really Real Widow Post

Parker dying is a dividing point in time for me.  So today, while talking to my mobility driver about my hair, I told him how I colored it all sorts of colors before, but that after my wife died, it’s been pink, and then pink with a purple stripe, ever since.

Of course, he says he’s sorry to hear that she died.

Which I either ignore, or respond with “me too” because how else am I really supposed to respond to that.  I grew tired of thanking people for that sentiment about a week after she died.

I know they don’t know what else to say, and honestly, I do the same damn thing when I hear that someone has become a widow, but . . .

I’m getting away from the point of this.

The next thing he says is “How did she die?”

Now, her dying wasn’t the point of the conversation about me dying my hair.  It was just something I said in passing to denote the passing of time, the moment I switched from a lot of different colors, to one uniform color.

“She died by suicide.”

*SILENCE*

“How did she die?” is the question everyone wants to ask, but suicide is the messy answer that no one really knows how to respond to.  It’s the cause of death no one really expects someone to say out loud.  Even with the stigma around mental illness disappearing because more and more people are speaking their stories and living their truths, death by suicide still has this ick factor to it when I drop that bomb on people.

Oh shit.  Did she really just say that?  Now what?

I’m getting better about not mentioning my widowhood.  I don’t whip out my widow card every chance I get anymore, and I don’t feel the need to use it as a dividing mark in time, most of the time.  But, it’s also frustrating, because for me it is such a big mark in time, it’s such a big part of my existence and who I am.  There is such a big defining line of Before and After and sometimes I feel like I need to explain to people that things changed at that point in time because I became a widow.

But really, I would save everyone a lot of trouble if I’d learn to keep it to myself.  The more I disclose the more they want me to disclose and then I get frustrated over their reactions.

I can’t control their reactions to my story.

But should I have to hide my story so they avoid the shock over my answers to their questions?

It’s a hard line to walk.

Early on, I needed the shock value, I needed the sympathy.  I needed to be different and to stand out as one of the few, the widows, us who have been through this hell.  I needed people to know because as much as I hate hearing “I’m sorry to hear that” I needed people to hear my story and my pain.

Now it isn’t about that, I don’t think.  Now, it’s mostly just habit.  I dyed my hair lots of colors, and then my life was forever changed and I realized I didn’t need to avoid pink because life was too short, and pink became the symbol and the armor that helped me survive.

Now the pink hair is just trademark me.

The same mobility driver called me Punky Brewster and I think that fits.

But for a very long moment, he was silent at the mention of suicide.

And then he felt it was okay to ask me all kinds of questions about what lead up to it.  Questions I felt okay answering because I want people to know Parker’s story, and my story, but sometimes the questions are exhausting.

The reactions are exhausting.

I’m learning when I should speak my full truth, and when I can speak without sharing it all.  Who deserves the whole story and who just gets small parts of it.

I don’t always have the energy it takes to speak my story.

And even when I have it, I don’t always have to spend it.

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