SOS – Survivors of Suicide


 

 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. 

 

 

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Thanks For Sharing and Caring


 

Through my experiences with grief and the tragic loss of my husband, I have shared with people my feelings.  Friends have recently expressed actions they’ve taken and experiences they have encountered and thanked me for my openness.  I’d like to share with you what I wrote back to them and hope that it may help you or someone you know deal with life and death and tragedy. 

Thanks for your kind words my friend. 

It’s a whole new world to learn and acclimate myself to.   Friends and loved ones can learn too.   I guess that’s really the key element — for each of us to try to “understand” the other in what they feel, say and act upon, bewildering as it appears at a given moment. 
Both at counseling and from others I’ve met through similar tragedies, I’ve been told that my open manner and sharing almost immediately what I encountered have been a help to some and also has it has actually helped me.    By holding in those feelings, we don’t heal and then later on, often years later, it (the real grief) rears its ugly head in the most tragic ways usually. 

I think it’s good to share so that maybe others will identify if this should happen in their families, or circle of friends.   People need to know that they do not have to isolate themselves.   They are not alone; and they do have others around who care. 

Thanks so much for caring!

In Touch With Feelings


 

Why  is it important to be in touch with your feelings?    Because it is when we’re in touch with our own feelings that we become honest with ourselves about who we are, where we came from and where we are going.  We dare to be willing to take risks and become more vulnerable in relationships.  We cease to view life from only a black and white point of view and are more willing to recognize gray areas.  Being open to the spirit of the inner child in our soul will allow us to enjoy our life to the fullest without constraints or restrictions of how we should think, feel or act whether self-induced or received from friends and family’s words because they love us. 

We  develop better ownership of our feelings and reactions when we understand and trust our emotional responses.  Our emotional responses happen for a reason, even if that reason isn’t directly related to our current situation.   We may be reacting from old conditioning, past experiences or unacknowledged needs that have not been met. But when we take the time to explore our emotions, we can better understand the reasons behind our feelings.  Instead of reacting to whatever we are feeling, we can choose how to respond.  Get in touch with what your emotional responses are conveying to you today, and your interactions with people can be productive and more satisfying and enjoyable.

 

Currently  I’m doing my best to understand my feelings.  When I add grieving from the devastating and tragic loss by suicide of my husband, my feelings become prominent and mixed.  One thing is quite certain – the intensity, complexity and duration of feelings after a suicide is significantly shaped by how we are treated by those we encounter or look to for help.  Please re-read the prior sentence. 

Check in and be there for us.  It is most important for friends and family of suicide survivors to let us be who we have  become – people forever changed by tragedy.  Support whatever form our grief takes and believe me, grief has a mind of its own.  Of course trying to understand is okay, but just caring is enough.  Realize that you can’t possibly relate to what we’re experiencing and you don’t have to.  And it’s okay to talk about “it” because that’s all that’s on our minds.  Expect some anger and conflicting expressions towards our lost loved one as our emotions are in constant turmoil. 

Permit  any statements we make about responsibility, blame or guilt to just flow.  It will sort itself out over time.  And do mention our lost loved one – we do not want to forget them.  Most important:  avoid setting any timetable for recovery as there isn’t any.  By all means, do NOT stop seeing us.  And don’t let your own sense of helplessness keep you from reaching out to us.  We really need you as friends and loved ones to help us share our grief and to help us go on.    

Again,  it’s important to allow us to be in touch with our feelings whatever they are and to let us be whoever we are due to such a tragedy.  Life is the reality of constant change.  Some good, some not so good.  Often it’s a matter of the glass half full or half empty as to the outcome of transformation. 

Life  ends when you stop dreaming, hope ends when you stop believing, love ends when you stop caring, friendship ends when you stop sharing … so share this with whomever you consider a friend.