Attended my first Suicide Survivors meeting. There were nine of us in the support group and two facilitators. The air was replete with an edgy mood but it went well for a first meeting. Mostly because we did not have to tell our stories of tragedy – that comes next week. And participants were genuinely nice to one another. A common bond without yet talking. Next week’s meeting will be heartrending – we each have 10 minutes to tell our loved one’s story, completely.
Did you know that one person completes suicide every 16 minutes? That’s nearly four people an hour in the US alone. My research indicates that while 30,000 complete suicide yearly, 750,000 attempt suicide in the U.S. Staggering figures aren’t they? Suicide can and does happen to anyone, any time, anywhere.
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”
That sums up pretty much how I feel. Time heals all wounds is not necessarily true for survivors of suicide. Time is necessary for healing, but time is not enough. Shared feelings enrich and lead to growth and healing.
Violet, our counselor, is an older lady with a full head of white hair. She is soft-spoken and yet a tough cookie!
One group participant was having a tough time with guilt. We certainly all are aware of the guilt. But she was voicing hers, asking why the policeman couldn’t have helped and why no one seemed to have foreseen the oncoming tragedy. Violet gently kept talking with her until suddenly, in a soft voice, asked this woman to please show Violet her shoes. The puzzled woman stuck out her foot presenting her shoes. “Nice shoes,” says Violet. “Don’t think they are made to walk on water though!” Enough said. I think it’s safe to say we’re all going to love and gain much from Violet.
Violet has her own story – many years ago her mom completed suicide. Violet felt the need for counseling, but back then there were no grief counselors for suicide. Instead she was sent four different times into therapy with schizophrenics and severely mental patients. Clearly wrong, and clearly not helpful. After attempts at four different groups, she finally said enough. She worked in Corporate America (business). She changed her profession to become a licensed social worker and has many specialties she has achieved, including a licensed Traumatologist. Yep, there’s an actual name for what we’re going through. And she can help with PTSD as well. So I think that where the angels have led me is a good place to be right now – in Violet’s hands in support group.
Another thing Violet substantiated: healing is not a three day fix. It’s not a three month fix, perhaps not a year fix. She still feels the effects. In fact, she says, it has been proven that we never get over this trauma. Instead we learn to live through it. She says it’s like suffering a wound – imagine the wound we’d be showing now with this suicide in our life. And we are trying to heal the wound of suicide. Certainly not a 3 day event, or a 4 1/2 month event. It’s very understandable to me now in these few words.
The ache I feel for my late husband’s arms around me pierces like a knife. His life was too short-lived. And the questions come hauntingly when a loved one takes their own life, along with the guilt we feel for not having the super-human ability to know what the future was going to hold. And of course the regret I feel of conversations that might have been the key to helping him.
Survivors are angry and confused as we struggle in breathing. Our hearts cry out in anguish and anger in what is labeled such a senseless death. We have good days and bad days of love and friendship felt deep in our souls. We’re left with memories and moments to cling to and so many questions of how to let go.