Embracing the Unexpected
Amber Lea Easton
When I set out to write Free Fall, I had only one intention: to let anyone else experiencing the same circumstances know that they weren’t alone. You see, when my husband committed suicide, I had just turned thirty-seven and had two young children. Every book on widowhood that I discovered only focused on the elderly and none touched on surviving suicide. There I was—suddenly a single parent who had put my career aside to be a stay-at-home mom who worked for “fun money” and who inexplicably wore a scarlet S for suicide on my forehead—and I needed to navigate this new normal without any guidance.
Despite having a good intention for writing it, I hesitated. People close to me asked an important question, “Why dredge all of that up again?
It took me eight years to be strong enough to open the journals written during that timeframe. Tearstained pages filled with raw anger, confusion, and sorrow slammed the past into my face. But the more I read, the more I knew I needed to write Free Fall for other reasons. I also needed to face that horror again so I could finally let it go.
I didn’t expect to feel that. I’d thought that I’d come so far in my journey, accomplished so much, and had truly moved beyond it. In most ways I had…but those journals reminded me how lost I’d been, how much I’d stuffed inside for the sake of the children and social expectations, and I couldn’t ignore the pain I felt.
But the pain was different than what it had been during the time. I read my words as a compassionate observer to the woman I’d been then. I felt the fear again, but now I experienced it from a place of peace. I traced every tearstain with my fingertips and felt my heart ache in sympathy for the scared and sad woman I’d been.
That’s when I knew I had to go through with writing it. Compassion filled my heart, not just for myself, but also for my husband who lost his battle with his demons. Suicide carries such a stigma—compassion is a word that’s often lost in discussion, not just for the person who died, but also for those closest to that person. Even today, I receive questions about how much I loved him and if I’d ever let him know. Blame. Not compassion. The idea of shedding light on a dark subject pushed me toward the keyboard.
Now my compassion extends to readers who have unexpectedly reached out since Free Fall’s publication with stories of their own about loved ones lost. The fact that they feel so free to share with me after reading my memoir expands my heart in ways I’d never anticipated.
Writing a memoir is bittersweet. I’m sure it’s that way for most people who dare relive the past without blinders on about their behavior. The trauma of surviving the suicide of a loved one is something I would never wish upon anyone and hope to never experience again, but it has strengthened and deepened me in ways I never expected.
Thank you Amber for sharing this with us. What do you as a reader think when you reflect on your life, could you go through the most painful episodes again? Relive them and turn them into a book worth reading?
Amber did with FREE FALL