Piece by Piece

Updated: Feb 11

Piece by piece my heart has healed.

September 10, 2015 my first husband ended his life via suicide on my Grandpa's land.

Piece by piece.

My Grandpa's land. He could have gone anywhere else but this is where he chose to go. And at first that brought me peace and then it mostly just brought me way more pain because it's where I grew up running through wildflowers when I was a child and now those beautiful and cherished memories are stained. Or they were stained....time does heal some wounds, dear friends. For years I would only go to that land with my children. I was too afraid to go there with the rest of my family....too afraid of them looking at my face for a reaction or sadness or pain. And last summer I went down there with my entire family and if they searched my face? I didn't notice....I didn't mind because all I felt was that same girlhood happiness of being on that beautiful land amongst the trees. I didn't think of death or the horror that had once happened there. I haven't forgotten but it doesn't stay in the front of my mind anymore. God has given me mercy. Mercy to sometimes be able to forget. And we all deserve that boundless grace.

Piece by piece.

I seen him the morning he died. He didn't go to work and he wouldn't tell me why. For over two years....this was his behavior so it wasn't "off" or "odd" to me. I am now honest that yes, he was depressed and yes, he was often angry and said mean things and he was also often afraid in the dark of the night. I don't know "why" he took his life. Only he knows that. I only know that to heal and keep living I have to set down the questions, forgive, break the chains, and move forward. I now know that it isn't my fault. That none of us are responsible for another adult's life. That we can't truly know what someone is thinking or what they are secretly planning.

Piece by piece.

My children have seen me stand at a grave and scream. They were 4 years old and 23 months when this tragedy happened. My children have seen me in a heaping mess in the dark basement crying like a small child. My children have seen me struggle and fight through the dirt. They have seen me abandoned. They have seen me forgive and they have seen me live forward and let go. They will never read a goodbye letter because we never found one. No "I'm sorry."...and no, "forgive me." ...only long sad years of silence until we found our light again. That is what suicide does. It leaves you screaming in the silence.

Piece by piece.

Grief sometimes does heal slowly with time. Time covers over the rough edges and we build new memories that fade out the painful ones. We come to acceptance and this is all it really means when people say, "Give it time."....They know that as time passes we have to make the choice....Accept or hang on. Hang on and we dig ourselves further into the dirt. Accept and we are given the breathe of new life.

Piece by piece.

I had to relearn how to be human again. Relearn how to laugh at friends jokes and not cry in the grocery store checkout line. I had to find my once happy self again. I had to relearn basic social skills because grief and trauma of this magnitude will leave you feeling like an alien amongst basically everyone else out there. At first you don't know another woman who's husband shot himself on a Thursday.....and then almost 5 years later you know thousands and it hurts your already cracked heart to have to even know that information.

I remarried last summer and being loved and cherished has healed my heart....piece by piece. No, I won't tell you that you can become widowed and getting married again will "fix" everything that goes on in your heart. Except it does heal a magnitude of things that are small and nameless to outsiders but so significant to your daily life and ability to live joyful and content. This is suicide inside of my story.....suicide grief, suicide widowhood and it is just a bit different than other pains and tragedies. Being loved again after feeling abandoned? It has stitched up some of my trauma. It has made me realize my worth again. The moment I chose to tell fear to take a long hike and I said "I do" to the man I now call my husband? In that moment God took away so many layers of my hurt, so many layers of "Why me?", so many layers of the night terrors and the loneliness and the feeling lost and horribly broken. I sold my home, moved to a new town, and stepped into chapter number one of the next part of my life. I made the hard choice to not live inside of that painful story anymore but I didn't run away. I stayed in that house for years and I fought and I cried and I healed and then I packed up our suitcases and closed the door with grace in my heart. It was one of the best decisions of my adult life. My children have now seen me loved. They see me kiss my husband in the kitchen. They see him bring me home flowers and they see us hold hands. They see that I was once broken and oh so very sad and angry and now I am cherished and cared for and I sing in the car again. They see me whole and happy and it means everything to me that they will now grow up with a Mom....and a Dad.

Piece by piece.

Yes, I am a strong woman. And I'm also human.

Yes, I healed my trauma all on my own before putting my heart out there to love again. My current husband didn't fix me or heal me.....LOVE did that. Love has the power to clear up the pains of yesterday. Love has the power to make you feel brave and honest, strong and free. And it doesn't mean that you forget that it all happened. It only means that the very painful past doesn't control your daily no longer has the power to make you feel weak and unworthy.

Piece by piece.

This year will mark five years of my story. Five years since my world blew to pieces. Five years of fighting and crying and five years of overcoming and letting it all go. And in some ways it feels like it happened yesterday...I can conjure up that day very quickly in my mind.....and in many other feels like it was another lifetime and for that I am grateful. I don't want to spend the rest of my hopefully 50 years on this earth replaying that horror over and over and over. I've endured enough. I deserve peace and happiness and I deserve for my mind to be calm and content.

You can overcome anything, dear friends. You are still alive.

Will it be quick? Your healing? No. I like to be honest with you....even when it's hard to do so. I wanted to die and I wailed until I threw up for hundreds upon hundreds of nights. I thought life had cheated me and then one day......I decided to stand up in the grave I had dug myself and I climbed out. "Enough is enough...I have suffered enough."... I told myself. Life didn't cheat me. I cheat myself and my kids if I stayed down in that dirt hole. We cannot control what happens in our lives. We cannot control if another person will leave us. We can control how to put ourselves back together. We can make the choice to forgive and that forgiveness often needs to be extended over and over and over when our trauma bubbles and burns once again. Forgiveness doesn't make what happened ok. It only sets you free from the darkness of it all.

Piece by piece I have healed my very shattered heart and I have made the choice to live, to love, to let go and move forward.

I'm no longer afraid of absolutely everything. I now look both ways before I cross the street because I do not want the bus to hit me. I want to live. This is my story and I'm not ashamed of it anymore.

I have learned so much within my tragedy. Many things I never wanted to learn but they are burned into my soul forever. I know how much a funeral costs. I know the varying prices of caskets, I know that after you are gone most of your belongings will fit into only a box or entire life in one box, and I know how to stand at a wake and funeral and let the tears drip down my face while I am in fact....completely silent to that young little children aren't afraid. I know how many children have been left behind by suicide....I never wanted to know that. I never wanted to hear my children say, "How could he just leave me here, Mama? How could he leave me...I'm his baby? I don't think I want to like him anymore. Maybe one day I will want to think about him again." I never wanted to know that dogs grieve too...if you kill yourself? Your dog will cry for you for an entire week in the middle of the night. And then they, too, will move forward. I never wanted to feel how painful it is to throw out a toothbrush, or to feel so unloved and forgotten, and I never wanted to receive the phone call from the mortuary, "I'm so sorry it's been almost two years but we have his clothes still in a plastic bag. Do you want them?" I didn't want to know how strong I am that I said "No. I don't want the clothes. They don't hold any of my healing."

Piece by piece.

I have learned how to pick myself up, walk away from every piece of my past, and start a completely new life.

I have learned........piece by piece.....that God often gives the hardest battles to his toughest soldiers. I am a warrior, a wounded healer.

I have learned that the human heart can be smashed to bits and it can heal and it can open up and love again. It's how God designed us and it's pretty amazing when you witness it for your own self. All those stories really are true....if you fight and if you set down the past...God will restore what you lost. You will be restored to a brand new you....possibly to the person you were always, always meant to be.

Piece by piece.

I didn't choose this life. It was chosen for me and so far...I think I've done pretty dang good with the cards I've been handed. I've played the heck out of them for the goodness of other humans. I've opened up my life and my story for the world to read and I've never regretted it for one split second. I have friends around the world....a couch to crash on in almost every city and my heart is overflowing with that authentic love and friendship. All from being brave and raw and writing what was on my heart without fear. Amazing.

Piece by piece.

A phoenix rising from the ashes......and piece by piece we must learn to let those ashes go so we can live again and no longer retreat to dark basements to wail and pound on cement walls.

Piece by piece my heart is healed.

I am grateful for my life.

I am grateful for my second chance at love and marriage and to live out my dreams.

I want to live until I'm very old with very long grayish white hair and I want to tell my stories around campfires and on stages and in churches and in living rooms. I want you to know that you can rise up. I want you to know how loved you are through it all. I want you to believe that you aren't really alone.

My trauma from this tragedy will stay with me forever.

It keeps me afraid of the dark and tight corners. Afraid of bumps in the night and trusting other humans and choosing the brave thing over the easy thing but I won't ever again allow it to make me believe that I should jump in front of the bus before my time. I won't cash in my life. I will never abandon my children.....I will never abandon myself.

Piece by piece I have learned that humans are so resilient and we are also so very fragile. It's ok to be both.

Keep fighting through your storm. No matter what happens you can start new. Give it time. Let others love you. And please know that God loves you.....even when you're in the dark.

Love always, Nik

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Copyright Nikki Bonkoski 2020

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