Unveiling Truths, Connecting Communities

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From Grief to Purpose: Finding Hope After Losing My Wife to Suicide

From Grief to Purpose: Finding Hope After Losing My Wife to Suicide
Photo Courtesy: Alicia Nolan

Have you ever lost someone so close to you that it felt impossible to imagine a future?

I am Alicia Nolan, and I want to share with you my story.

My wife was my best friend. We spoke from the moment we woke up in the morning to going to sleep at night, whether I was home, traveling, or deployed. She was my person. And because we were so close and connected, I never thought in a million years that she would take her life. And I knew that we were going to be together forever. I never doubted it for even a moment that our love would last us the rest of our days.

When she was gone, and I accepted that she was not coming back, the overwhelming feeling of absolute debilitating hopelessness set in. I didn’t know how to move on or even envision a life without her by my side. There were moments of not wanting to move on at all without her laughter, her wisdom, her partnership. But thinking about my friends and family and what I’d be putting them through really just forced me to somehow find the strength to sit with the unrelenting pain of my wife dying by suicide. That was my new and devastating reality. Something that would never change no matter how many days or years passed. My best friend, my entire world, had chosen to abruptly end her life; and I wasn’t enough to make her want to keep living. I also knew in the hollows of my grieving heart that I would never find someone to love me as much as she did, with her whole vulnerable soul. I knew it wasn’t possible to ever recreate what we shared, and I started also accepting that I was going to be alone forever now. That what we had was so rare and precious enough that it would be impossible to truly fall that deeply in love again.

I relied heavily in those early days on my community that surrounded me. Their presence, empathy and care in my darkest moments gave me at least a tiny flicker of hope to cling to. I also decided in a fog of grief that I desperately needed a dog to be my companion in solitude (she’s become my rock) – to have a living, breathing something around that I was responsible for feeding, bathing, caring for. My puppy got me outside walking every morning and night, which provided some lifegiving structure when I struggled to muster motivation. I wish with my whole heart I could say there were intrinsic, soul-rooted forces that started organically pulling me forward. But with unprocessed trauma and abandonment issues already, along with fitting squarely in the category of an anxious attachment style (I encourage everyone to learn about and find out what their attachment style is), I could only numbly rely in survival mode on those outward sources of accountability and routine. But somehow, perhaps miraculously, through showing up to support groups and therapy sessions again and again, I have begun over time to learn how to somewhat love myself. And started to believe, almost against my will, that I am still worthy of love and laughter and passion projects; that I yet have innate purpose here on this confusing Earth. I discovered glimmers of that new purpose as I turned back to serve others struggling like I have. 

Slowly my “new normal” started to form to where I stand today: solid ground hard won through walking step by step a winding path of grieving and gradual acceptance. My mission now of raising awareness for suicide prevention and mental health advocacy fuels me daily. It is emotionally rewarding beyond words, feeling I am directly helping spare other families this agony I would not wish upon my worst enemy. I have found kindred spirits and a new community that uplifts me. And miraculously, I am even embracing a tender new relationship with someone extraordinary – a woman who sees me and values me simply for who I am now, not viewing me primarily through the lens of this tragedy that happened in my past. In her smile I feel irrationally again like one of the luckiest people alive, overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift of such intimacy, vulnerability, joy – something I never imagined still had in store for my life. 

My days now have glimpses of contentment and inspiration, though I still miss my best friend deeply. I share my story because there is light and purpose waiting, even on the other side of the darkest grief. Progress often hides behind pain. Keep moving forward. More importantly, take care of yourself – feel what you must feel, rest when exhausted, then reach out again for hope when ready. Listen to your body and spirit. But keep stepping intentionally toward the light; it will dawn again even now, if you let it.

To learn more about L;VE’s mission or shop the mental health advocacy collection, visit www.choosetolive.org


Published By: Aize Perez

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