As we enter May one of the most celebrated days in the month is Mother’s Day. That is a day when Hallmark does a landslide business. People get cards with all types of messages that praise the values of Mothers and the importance of a Mother’s love in the lives of various family members. The day is filled with all types of accolades and surprises for Mothers. That day is a banner day for restaurants and brunches. It is a day when Mothers are treated in a very special way. She is literally “Queen for the day”. It is also a day that is very painful for Mothers who are grieving the death of a child from suicide or any other form of death. It is a day that is also very painful for those people who are grieving the death of a Mother or Grandmother from suicide or any other type of death. It is also one of the busiest days for cemetery visitation. It is a day that is filled with very tender emotions and feelings. Love and tenderness are often two of the most celebrated aspects of Mothers.
The heart is often connected and symbolizes love and tenderness. The head is more logical and objective. It processes and comes to conclusions that are based on the data and external factors that are presented. The heart processes and comes to conclusions that are based more on the feelings and attitudes of the person. Both are part of the human person and neither one is right or wrong. They just are what they are and they assist survivors as they traverse the grief process. People grieving a death from suicide have many different types of reactions and feelings resulting from this death. I am proposing that these various reactions be divided between the head and the heart. The head comes to one conclusion and the heart comes to a different conclusion. These conclusions began from the same starting point but ended up in different places. For example, the head states that a lot of work went into helping this loved one and this loved one still took their life. The head knows that a lot of effort went in to caring for this loved one. The heart says that there should have been more done and that everyone failed this loved one. The head and the heart are fighting with one another and coming to different conclusions. This is not a question of which one to believe –either head or heart—but that there are two elements of the grieving person giving input in the grief journey. Should the grieving person believe the head or the heart? I don’t know the answer to that question. I am just pointing out that these two parts of the human person are providing input during the grief process.
Another example of the head vs. heart scenario is that the survivors should have known that this loved one was in such pain and that the survivors did nothing about it. The head can conclude that the loved one was not forthcoming about the desperation that they were feeling at the time of their death. The heart is concluding that the survivor should have known the desperation that this loved one was experiencing. One might ask how this can be known if this loved one was not going to share the level of pain or the complete desperation that they were feeling at the time of the suicide. Survivors are at a loss to answer this question but the heart is saying that they should have known. Who does the survivor believe? Is the head right or is the heart right? I don’t think that there is a correct answer to this question.
Another example of the war between the head and the heart is about the type of intervention that was given to this loved one, if in fact there was some intervention. The head says that there were competent professionals treating this loved one, and that the intervention seemed sufficient at the time. The heart might say that the intervention was not enough, and that the loved one still took their life. There should have been more interventions and different interventions to try to save the life of this loved one.
Another example of the head/heart battle is the issue of the love that was part of the relationship between the person who took their life and the survivors of this person’s suicide. The head states very clearly that this loved one was loved very much by various members of the family. There were the normal interactions with this person and sometimes the interactions were very positive and sometimes they were negative. This goes on in every family and goes on in most relationships. Few relationships exist where all interactions are positive or all interactions are negative. Overall, this loved one was loved deeply by the various members of the family. The heart says that the loved one was not loved enough. The heart is saying that survivors failed this loved one because their love was insufficient to keep this person alive. If the survivors had loved this person more they would never have taken their life. They would still be among the living.
From my experience at the beginning of the grief process the heart usually wins out in all of these scenarios. The survivors generally conclude that the person completed suicide because of a lack existing on the part of the survivors. More should have been done to help this loved one. Better interventions should have been used to assist this loved one in their time of need. More patience should have been employed in interacting with this loved one. The list goes on and on. This loved one needed more and better interactions from the survivors. As the grief process progresses successfully, the head begins to win. Survivors are able to step back and conclude that this loved one was loved a lot and the survivors did the best that they could do with the information that they had at the time. The survivors were not knowingly neglectful of this loved one. Were the survivors perfect? Obviously not, because no one of us is perfect. It was not the lack of perfection that caused this loved one to complete suicide. It was an illness that gripped this loved one that caused the death. The head can make this final conclusion after the heart won the initial battles. This battle between the head and the heart is pretty normal in the grief process. Allow it to happen and let it unfold in its time.
As always, I want to assure the members of the LOSS family of my thoughts and prayers during my daily quiet time. I encourage each and every one of the LOSS family to do the same for each other – especially for those survivors who have recently joined our family.
Keep On Keepin’ On,