How I’m Learning to Dance Through The Rain

I am reminded today of Garth Brooks’ song: 

The Dance

Looking back on the memory of

The dance we shared beneath the stars above

For a moment all the world was right

How could I have known you’d ever say goodbye

And now I’m glad I didn’t know

The way it all would end the way it all would go

Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain

But I’d of had to miss the dance

Holding you I held everything

For a moment wasn’t I the king

But if I’d only known how the king would fall

Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all

And now I’m glad I didn’t know

The way it all would end the way it all would go

Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain

But I’d of had to miss the dance

Yes my life is better left to chance

I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance

How true those words are.  Living through loss is difficult.  Living with and healing from a tragic loss is beyond the scope of natural understanding.  We don’t get to select which memories we will have.  And I admit that had I known my darling husband, Martin, would leave this world through suicide, I would have tried to change things and who knows what would have transpired.

However, as the song suggests, I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end.  We don’t want to experience the horrific pain that often comes after incredible joy.  But would we stop or try to prevent that extraordinary love and joy?  I wouldn’t, not for anything.

In this world, we are born to die.  An amazing beginning of birth, and a heartbreaking pain through death for those our loved ones leave behind.  Some day I hope to understand these things, but for now I accept that they occur.  And acceptance is the very factor which will see us through the anguish, pain and suffering.  Winston Churchill said, “If you think you’re going through Hell, keep on going.”  And I agree … not pleasant, but necessary.

What have I learned through this agonizing experience so far?  What must I still do to complete the healing?  Here are some facts and thoughts I’ve been through and offer all of you.

When a loved one dies, your grief may be heart-wrenching.  When a loved one commits suicide, your reaction is more complicated with overwhelming emotions.  You may be consumed by guilt, wondering if you could have done something to prevent their death.  As you face life after a loved one’s suicide, remember you don’t have to go through it alone!

  Shock, anger, guilt, despair all play a part in your healing.  You may continue to experience intense reactions months or years after your loved one’s suicide – including nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal, loss of interest in your usual activities – especially if you either witnessed or discovered the suicide, as I did.

I’ve learned to do what’s right for me, not my friends or family.  I’m living through this and I’m the one who needs patience, kindness and understanding.   We need to be gentle with ourselves and grieve in our own way and in our own time.  Don’t be hurried by anyone else’s expectations that it has been “long enough.”  Losing someone to suicide is a tremendous blow and healing must occur at its own pace!

And be prepared for painful reminders such as an anniversary, or a birthday – his is tomorrow, August 17 which is what prompted this writing.  Some days will be better than others, even years after the suicide – and that’s okay.   Healing doesn’t often happen in a straight line I’ve learned.  One step forward, two steps back sometimes.  And that’s okay!  And if you experience intense, unrelenting anguish or physical problems, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or mental health provider for help.  Depression is all too real.  As of 2007, there were
35,000 completed suicides in the U.S.   Every 16 minutes someone dies by suicide and it remains the 11th leading cause of death in this country.   It is estimated that close to one million people made a suicide attempt each year.  And research has shown that 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death, most often unrecognized or untreated depression.

Most important, I’ve learned I need to face the future with a sense of peace.  In the aftermath of a suicide, you feel like you can’t go on or that you’ll never enjoy life again.  In truth, you may always wonder why it happened – there is never closure or questions answered.  We must learn acceptance for the unknown present.  And eventually the raw intensity of your grief will begin to fade.  The tragedy won’t dominate your days and nights.  You can reach inner peace and healing without forgetting your loved one.

And I remember … all those loving memories and still would never want to have missed the
dance!  I am glad I left life to chance!