Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable

On the 19th of September 2011 my life changed forever. It was on this day that my soul mate and partner of 15 years, Steve, suicided.

Up until this point in my life I had what others would consider a blessed life – no major tragedies, no major losses, just getting on with everyday life with the love of my life. Suicide was definitely NOT part of my life.

I now know that it is impossible for anyone to experience suicide first hand and NOT be changed forever. My life is now divided into two distinct phases – before and after. Some days I struggle to remember the person I was before I joined the club that nobody wants to join. It seems like a different world to me.

My ‘new normal’ has a gaping hole in it, black with grief and longing for a person I will miss forever. Conversations that will never take place, experiences that are now mine alone. Suicide is isolating. All I have now are the memories, which are a bittersweet mix of the most wonderful to the most traumatic.

It would be several years before my path led me to Roses in the Ocean. Up until that point, I was living life as best I could – doing the ordinary things we all need to do. At that point I did not realise the power in my story- I just thought it was my average life. Little did I know that my life was far from average and my lived experience could provide knowledge and support for many people in so many different ways.

Through Roses in the Ocean I did the ‘Our Voice in Action’ and ‘Voices of Insight’ training. It was here that the true value of my story was realised – and I became determined to use my voice.

It was as a result of this training and my relationship with Roses in the Ocean that so many doors have been opened for me. I have been fortunate to be involved in many ground breaking projects in the suicide prevention sector. I have told my story in a variety of public forums. I have been invited to consult with several organisations. Each of these opportunities gives me great satisfaction that my lived experience can make a difference, and that we can learn from the mistakes of the past to make positive change for the future.

It is never easy telling my story, and it takes a lot out of me, but knowing the impact that it can provide gives me the strength to keep going.

It was also through Roses in the Ocean that I was able to meet others in the same situation as me – touched by suicide. It was here that I felt truly heard and understood and no longer alone. The power of numbers, the combined voices of lived experience – a truly amazing experience. I have met a group of amazing women, who are now firm members of my inner circle – even going as far to commemorate our friendship group with matching roses tattoos. To have that support from people who truly understand is invaluable.

So raise the combined voices of lived experience – join forces with others in the same situation. Learn the power of your own lived experience. Break free from the isolation – talk and be heard. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, for it is in the fragility of human emotion that lies the true power.