How I learned to re-embrace this precious gift of life

Author: Susan Carron-Demoreta

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. This article is the fourth of five stories by TAPS suicide loss survivors who wish to share lessons learned from their grief journeys. We invite you to share this story using the hashtag #SurvivorSunday. If you know or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 800-273-8255.  

I was eight months pregnant when they showed up. The officers came to the door of my in-laws’ house, where I and my two-year old daughter were visiting during her dad’s deployment. The gentlemen expressed deep regret in having to inform us that Major Paul Carron had died. It was Paul’s fifth tour in Afghanistan—and he had taken his own life. 

Susan, Paul and 2 year old daughterPhotos courtesy of Susan Carron-Demoreta

I was in shock, an empty vessel, going through the motions. It took all of my effort just to breathe. The days and months that followed are a blur to me now: the paperwork, the family and friends that surrounded us, the funeral planning, the birth of our son, the long drive to Arlington to bury my husband. Life had changed, and I felt in a constant fog. There were so many what ifs. Paul was an amazing man with such a wonderful life ahead of him. There is not a day that goes by I don’t think about him, see him in our children—aged eight and 11 today—and wish that he would have reached out for help, talked to someone, shared more, gotten the professional help he needed. But he didn’t. 

After those first weeks of intense grief and pain, things began to settle down a bit, and I was confronted with new issues I never expected. As a person of faith, I tried hard to understand how could God allow this to happen. As a mom, I wondered how I was ever going to raise our children by myself and how I was going to talk to them about their dad’s death and life. As a wife, I struggled to imagine what my future looked like now, without my mate. What was my purpose? 

Before Paul died, my Christian faith was important to me. After he died, it was hard to even step foot in a church. I was mad at God. I cried every time I heard a Christian song. I didn’t want to see happy families. I wasn’t happy. I took to reading. I prayed—even anger prayers. After a while, I realized we were going to be okay. God could take my anger, my frustration, my hurt, my pain. He was there holding me even when I was broken. It helped to talk with other people who got it. Time and prayer and crying out to God. That helped, too. Eventually, I was able to go back to church and hear those Christian songs. I know now, looking back, that I was being held all along. God put so many of my family, friends, and other survivors into my path right when I needed them. I still don’t know all the whys or why God allows bad things to happen to good people, but I do know He doesn’t allow us to walk alone. 

Then there was the question of my children. They were so little and couldn’t possibly have understood what was happening. I had no idea how I was ever going to explain all of this. I was fortunate to be mentored by other suicide loss survivors, to read recommended books on suicide loss. They taught me how to talk to children about grief, and I was able to talk to my counselor for support. Over the years, I have asked my kids what they remember about their dad and whether they have questions. Just letting them know I am here to talk, and that other loving family is available to do the same, has been enormously helpful. They know now that dad’s brain was sick, that he made a wrong choice, made his body stop working, and that it was not our fault. He loved us so very much, and he should have gotten help. It is so important to talk to children and share what we are feeling, to remind them we are not alone. 

As for my future, what lay ahead for my children and me? I had always had an idea of how things would turn out. But I could not even envision it now. All I knew is that I needed the support of others. I hesitantly reached out to TAPS. At my first seminar, I met Carla, who had also been pregnant at the time of her husband’s death. By that point, I had figured out I wasn’t alone on my grief journey, but to talk to someone who knew exactly what I was going through was a blessing. 

TAPS has been an indelible feature of my family’s life ever since. I count myself blessed to now work for TAPS as I honor Paul and support other new survivors in their grief. As a member of the survivor care team, I talk to spouses and significant others, sharing and connecting them with support. A sweet widow recently wrote to me: 

“You are really a blessing and make such a difference in the world. Don't ever stop doing what you do. Honestly, just the random texts help me in so many ways. There was one day a while back where I felt like throwing in the towel and I begged God for some sign, then you texted me. I said thank you God and said not today. So honestly thank you.”

As my family forges through each day, our lives are busy with school, soccer, swim, and vacations. Our family has grown. I went on to remarry to a wonderful man who honors Paul, loves my children, and strives to help others. I still talk openly about Paul and miss him, his sarcasm, his wit, his love for adventure. You might say that through Paul’s death I have learned the value in helping others, showing them their importance, reminding them they are loved, showing them kindness and compassion. All of these things are crucial for me, too. 

Yes, the love and memory of Paul will forever be with me, yet I live moving forward in honoring and embracing this precious gift of life.

Susan Carron-Demoreta is the surviving spouse of Army Major Paul D. Carron.

See also:

How I learned to manage 'ambush moments' by replotting my grief journey

How I learned to take ownership of my grief

How I learned to confront my despair and rededicate my life