Everybody has a story.
But becoming a story is something slightly different.
Before my husband’s suicide, my family and I were considered the All-American family. Ross and I were high school sweethearts who went to college together then moved back to Colorado afterward to raise our children. We had a boy and a girl who were thriving, a beautiful home, and a really amazing life.
We lived in a bubble.
When my husband lost his life to suicide, we went from being the Conley family to being a tragedy, overnight.
Losing Your Identity
All of a sudden, when people looked at me, they no longer saw me, Carey Conley, they now saw a story.
Anywhere I went – the grocery store, walking in my neighborhood, church – I was a story.
The way I could tell was that each time somebody I know would see me, they’d smile for a second. Then they’d remember what I’d gone through and it would wash over their face. That smile would disappear.
In its place would be that of sadness and pity.
My children and I effectively stopped being individuals. Our identity shifted because of the loss and its circumstances. We were now a story.
The New Normal
At the beginning, I didn’t know how to handle this new identity so I began isolating myself.
We stopped going to our family church altogether. Even walking around my neighborhood was a chore because the neighbors would wave and then stop me with the face.
I don’t believe that anyone meant any harm, but it was truly exhausting. Everywhere I turned, I was being forced to relive the loss over and over. Plus, I knew people were seeing me from a different perspective; one that didn’t feel comfortable to me.
In the beginning, I chose NOT to tell people while I took the time to sort out my feelings.
I moved to Arizona with my son, who’d accepted a job here, and for a long time, we didn’t tell anybody because it made it so much easier to be ourselves.
Unless you go through something like this, you don’t know how it will strip you of your identity.
But not just in other people’s eyes. You also lose a lot of your own sense of identity, of how you fit into the world anymore, because now you’re a different person.
It’s not a bad thing or a good thing. It’s just a course in life.
Creating Deeper Connections
Anytime you close a chapter, your identity shifts.
It’s hard to have and be a story.
It takes time to heal enough to share.
It took me two years to write an article about my husband’s suicide. I then asked my kids if they were ok if I put it on social media. Once I chose to share what we’ve been through, I discovered how much good it could do.
We certainly lost some really close friends and family because we became a story. They’re still trying to deal with the story themselves so they can’t deal with us yet.
But the biggest lesson for me has been that, the more we embrace our stories – especially if you have a voice to empower others – the bigger the impact you’ll make in this world.
I hope this will encourage you to share your stories more and connect with others on a deeper level.
The truth is, you have one of two options, let your story take you down or use it for good. I want to encourage you to do the latter.
Vision is Victory,