; The Love of My Life Died by Suicide, So I Wrote Him Emails For Three Years After His Death | Betches

The Love of My Life Died by Suicide, So I Wrote Him Emails For Three Years After His Death

Content warning: This article may be upsetting to read for those affected by suicide. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, which aims to raise awareness around the globe that suicide can be prevented. If you or someone you know is struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at  1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Dr. Sarah Neustadter is a licensed clinical and spiritual psychologist based in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, who specializes in spiritual growth, suicide survivor grief, suicide prevention, grief, loss, existential heartbreak, and millennial issues. Her passion lies in exploring metaphysical and existential concerns and helping others understand grief as an entryway into a deeper process of spiritual transformation. Her book, Love You Like the Sky: Surviving the Suicide of a Beloved is available wherever books are sold. Her website is www.sarahneustadter.com.   

Growing up, I was never afraid of the usual stuff like spiders, the dark, or heights. That stuff was no big deal for me. But coming of age in the 90s, I was subjected to lots of sad, tragic movies like My Girl, Legends of the Fall, Forrest Gump, Moulin Rouge, A Walk to Remember, and of course, f*cking Titanic. Whenever I’d see films about unrequited love or where one character dies in the end, I felt this weird, all-encompassing empathy and grief as if my (non-existent) boyfriend had died. And I’d bawl for hours not knowing why. And so, my biggest fear was always being in love with a man who dies before me, and then I’d be stuck living out the rest of my days without him.

Dramatic, I know. But eventually, my fear came true.

We met in our psychology grad school program and fell in love. He was my person. As long as he was alive and breathing, I had to be with him. We talked about marriage and kids, working together, and even opening up a retreat center one day. His grandmother was excited our kids would have our curly hair. So when my boyfriend took his life, shockingly, that old slumbering fear came rushing back and suddenly became my new normal. 

I had no idea how to face his death, my grief, and manage my existential nightmare—continuing to live and move forward without my soulmate. I Googled how Yoko Ono did it, but found nothing. I looked for books that dealt with suicide-related grief and how other women handled being effectively widowed at such a young age, but couldn’t find anything meaningful or relevant.

So I had to figure out how to navigate this traumatic and tragic kind of grief all on my own and piece myself back together again. I turned to writing. I wrote emails to him for the better part of three years after his death, reliving our whole love story. And I sent them to his old email address, out into the void of cyberspace. 

So how did writing emails help?

Writing was an act of remembering.

Remembering is an important component of grieving. I wrote down all my memories of us because I didn’t want to ever forget anything.  I knew that over time my memory would get fuzzier. I wrote to document our relationship, so that I could never and would never forget him, what happened, and what I had lost.

The task was daunting and arduous. Each time I sat down, I relived all of the beauty and all of the tragedy. It was like pulling myself under a tsunami of grief every time. But it gave me the opportunity to grieve all those little moments—like kissing in a windstorm on a dirt road in Oklahoma, or fishing in the rain in Texas, or singing down the aisle at Whole Foods in our town of Mountain View, California. All those memories needed their life, needed to be remembered and fully processed. The cliche “the only way out is through” is especially true when it comes to grief. Facing the thousands of moments of loss by writing about them, and then facing all the little hopes and dreams of our future together helped me grieve wholly and deeply. It was never easy, and I made sure I had a therapist and meditated daily.

Writing was a way to connect and keep our conversation alive.

Engaging in a tangible and physical act of communication such as an email format helped bridge me to him in some metaphysical magical way—reaching his spiritual stratosphere, if you will. I believed he still existed in this cyberspace, and emailing him kept the conversation alive, even though rationally I knew he could never write me back. I asked him questions about what happened, how to go on without him, and how to make sense of his death. I shared my heartbreak and my agony; I begged him for relief from my pain. 

Writing, ultimately, was healing.

My writing allowed me to become a psychological detective, piecing together the mystery of why he took his life. By writing every memory down, I was able to connect the dots and understand what was right there before my eyes and how I missed the signs. I taunted myself over and over again with all the millions ways I wished I could’ve gone back in time and saved him. Eventually, I gained a deeper understanding as to what led to his death, which helped soothe my mind and allowed me to accept it. 

Writing was a way to make meaning of my loss by helping others.

I also wrote with the intention of one day compiling the emails into a book for other young women and men, like myself, going through something similar. I had to believe that my loss wasn’t for naught, and that hopefully my going through this excruciating crucible could be for some greater reason. 

It took several years of writing, grieving, working with a therapist, and exploring a lot of different healing modalities, but in the end, I was able to face my biggest fear and live through it. And now I thrive to tell that it can be done, but I can’t stand those sad 90s movies. I’ll pass on A Star is Born, thank you very much.

If you’re going through grief or a death of any kind—a breakup or trauma—firstly, reach out for professional support. Find the right therapist who can support you through your pain. And if you’re so inclined, write your heart out. Write as a way to feel your feelings fully, be with them, and eventually release them.

If you or someone you know is struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at  1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Dr. Sarah Neustadter is a licensed clinical and spiritual psychologist based in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, who specializes in spiritual growth, suicide survivor grief, suicide prevention, grief, loss, existential heartbreak, and millennial issues. Her passion lies in exploring metaphysical and existential concerns and helping others understand grief as an entryway into a deeper process of spiritual transformation. Her book, Love You Like the Sky: Surviving the Suicide of a Beloved is available wherever books are sold. Her website is www.sarahneustadter.com.   

Images: naomi_august / Unsplash; sarahneustadter.com;