"Grief must be a reflection of love. It is perhaps the ultimate proof of love. Grief is an uncontrollable manifestation of your belief that the lost person's existence, limited and flawed as it might have been, was worthwhile, despite the limitations and flaws even of life itself." Jordan B. Peterson.
It is with a great deal of hesitation that I pen these words. I do not wish to upset members of my family, who may read these words and find them overwhelming as they grieve. Personal loss to suicide is certainly not an easy topic to discuss.
The words herein reflect the physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles of attempting to make sense of this most painful time. As survivors of a loved one's suicide at some point, we will begin the healing process through conversation, celebrating life, and reminiscing. As we start our healing journey, let us do so with the complete understanding there is no timeline for grief.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve our loss. Although it is essential to return to our regular routines, we will do so when we are ready. Let us be mindful that the return to our everyday practices is individualized. While we grieve in our separate ways, we are not alone. Blaming ourselves for what happened is not a short-term or long-term solution. Neither is coping with unhealthy habits such as consuming alcohol to numb feelings. Crucially we are not being punished for the decision that our loved one made to take his life.
Indeed there will be dissenting voices, but we cannot control their inappropriate statements. We are responsible for how we respond or react to what is said. No matter how insensitive the comments may seem, one way we will self-soothe is by repeating the serenity prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Equally valuable is recognizing that some unsolicited opinions are likely coming from a place of genuine concern to help but are expressed in a way that comes across as insensitive.
We all make decisions. Some of these decisions are simple, and others are complicated with far-reaching consequences. For example, the otherwise peaceful evening of January 5, 2023, was disturbed in a way we were unprepared for or contemplated. The news of our loved one's passing was shocking, but the circumstances remain haunting.
On hearing the news, I experienced a mental block, “an abrupt, involuntary interruption in the flow of thought or speech … such as finding the words to express something.” At the moment, it was not just the loss of coherent thought but a sense that I was suffocating. The t-shirt I was wearing felt so tight around my neck. I decided to take a walk because the cacophony of screams over the telephone was deafening. Each cry told its own story.
The purposeful aimless walk was an opportunity to unblock my mind and regain the rhythm of breathing uninterrupted. It is likely; I walked one or ten miles. The distance was irrelevant. My breathing started normalizing, and his words, “you all don’t understand what I am going through.” The weight of those words must have been unmanageable for him. I can only imagine his loneliness and the depth of his loneliness.
His words looped around my head for what seemed like an eternity. I am unsure if my alternate thought to “you all don’t understand what I am going through” was denial. Instead, I attempted to justify and rationalize the thought he is now at peace and in a better place. I have even entertained the idea that he was just unconscious, and with a few taps on his shoulder, he regained consciousness. I realize the thought of him being unconscious is just wishful thinking.
There were phenomenal times with him around. At some point, I will reflect fondly on those times, but mentally I am not there yet. The cold reality of January 5, 2023, will not soon be forgotten. You are not an ornament, and your actions that night are permanent. I don’t blame you, but I wish you had made a different decision.
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