Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dear Rick

Dear Rick,

So much has happened in the 3 years since you've been gone. I'm living another life now, but it has equal parts new and old. It's a good life. I've never been stronger, never been happier.

I'm getting married next month. I feel like everything is right and awesome. When you and I got engaged, I was 22. This time, I'm 32. I've learned so much in the last 10 years. This time around, things feel so different and so much more authentic. I know you won't take offense to me saying that.

When Jeff and I went to get our marriage license at the courthouse, we paid $50 for our collaborative second chance. "Is this your first marriage?" the worker asked from behind the big main desk.

"No," said Jeff.
"No," I said as I shook my head.

We passed her Jeff's divorce decree and your death certificate, our permission tickets to a new marriage. It felt strange to be in the courthouse. The last time I was there was to file the Will after you died.

No one really talks about you anymore. It's as though any newfound happiness I have is supposed to erase the sadness of the past. It isn't true, of course. You existed. And just because I'll be a wife again soon doesn't mean I was never a widow.

I have a dog, Rick. I always wanted a dog. Jeff and I adopted her together in September. The cats are 7 now and as entertaining as ever. I wonder sometimes if they remember you or if their little memory banks are only able to handle so much information at one time.

Jeff and I bought land in Center Valley. We are building a house there where our family can have more space. It's hard to believe that in the next year I'll be saying good bye to this house where I've lived for 10 years. You and I lived here together and things happened here, good and bad. Even the very bad. It's time to go.

I laugh so much, Rick. I laugh all the time. I sleep well and I eat well and I enjoy all the people who are in my life. I love my job and I think I'm good at it. Everything I went through when you died helps me do a better job every day. I feel so lucky to have had the experiences I've had...even though some of them were profoundly painful.

Remember when we were married and I trudged through graduate school while working full time? Well, this year I made the drive to DeSales every week, just like before...but this time, it was to teach. I became an graduate school instructor and taught a whole class of MSW students. I even talked about you. About grief after a suicide. About post-traumatic growth and all the healing that can happen after trauma.

I'm acquiring two step-daughters, Rick. They are fun, smart, and beautiful. It's so great to be able to do all the things I've always wanted to do with kids. My life is one of family bike rides, family vacations, family breakfasts and dinners, days of family swimming, and a lot of games. It makes me smile.

My nieces are 4 and 6 years old, Rick! I can't believe how big they've gotten since you saw them. They love playing with my soon-to-be step-daughters. My mom and dad's house is the place to be. We all have fun there.

I still run and sing to de-stress when I can. I still write to express myself. I still think of your suicide note, your incredible emotional pain, and the horror of the day you died...but not as often. I don't have nightmares anymore. 

I've met so many great people since you've been gone. They didn't know you. They only know me. Some of them know what I've been through. Some don't. My resilient grief sometimes precedes me. There are people who know my story before I meet them. The power and reach of my writing is often more immense than I realized. 

Believe it or not, I think you've saved several lives, Rick. I have received many an email, message, or letter telling me that because of you...because of me...the person(s) writing will always choose life. It's touching. There is meaning in the horrible loss. 

Grief can't be cured or fixed or gotten over. But healing does happen.

Healed (verb):
- to restore to health or soundness
- to ease or relieve
- to set right; repair

I truly feel that my life has been restored to health and soundness. I don't have to fake or fabricate anything. I don't have to paint a positive picture. When I say that everything feels right and awesome, I mean that with every breath I breathe and every bone in my body. I don't have any fear. I have never felt this way. 

My pain has been eased and relieved by the inner workings of my own heart and soul, the tender care of others, and the amazing experiences that have shaped me over the last 3 years. I am not stressed, I am not hurting, and I am not waiting and waiting for something good to happen. The good is all around me.

Life is right. It is repaired. I feel fully in charge of my own life. I turn 33 this year and every year seems better than the last. I am open to possibilities, restful each night, fulfilled by my work, and so very loved at home.

I want you to know that I'm more than okay, Rick. Life has been good to me in your absence. Thank you for anything you helped send my way. 

Love, Arielle