During the month of April two of the Prophetic religions celebrate major feasts. Jewish people celebrate the Feast of Passover and Christian people celebrate the Feast of Easter. The one common element of these two feasts are that they are hopeful celebrations. For people who are Jewish they are commemorating the fact that Yahweh saved them from death by the enemy. The Angel of death would pass over the homes of Jewish people who had the appropriate marking on the door post. These people were spared from death by the hand of Yahweh. For Christian people the fact that Jesus rose from the dead was a foreshadowing of their own final resurrection from the dead. They were led to believe in life in the hereafter. There is hope beyond the grave. For Jewish people they are led to believe that Yahweh will watch over them when they are threatened by the enemy.
People who are grieving the death of a loved one from suicide oftentimes feel as if their lives are completely devoid of all hope. Their lives have been destroyed because they have been impacted by the unmentionable –a loved one has deliberately ended their life. There is no hope for any kind of a future and the initial pain that grips survivors is going to be felt with the same intensity until the survivor dies. For the survivor life as it was is over and there is no hope for the future. This feeling is very real and very frightening. Why go on living? That is the question that survivors ask themselves. At the beginning of the grief journey life seems to be bereft of any hope. Survivors have to search for minute situations which can provide a glimmer of hope. Family members and close friends can provide that glimmer of hope when they are there allowing the survivor to ventilate the feelings of hopelessness that become part of the lives of the survivors. These people are there to listen and lend support and offer words of encouragement. Obviously, these people cannot take the pain away but they can be there in the initial aftermath just to listen and comfort. Such people are signs of hope that the survivor is not alone and that there are people who care and understand. No one can fully understand the feelings of a survivor unless that one has gone through a similar experience but people who allow the survivor to ventilate their feelings provides a safe environment in which the survivor can express their feelings of hopelessness. Survivors need to make such expressions because that is what they are feeling at that moment. They don’t need to hear that there are other children to look after or that this survivor can marry again in the future or any other comments that are made to make the survivor feel better. The fact of the matter is that during the initial phase of the grief journey there are no words that have the power to make the survivor feel better. The sign of hope is that there is a coterie of people who will allow the survivor to express their feelings without responding or attempting to make the survivor “feel better”.
As survivors traverse further along on the grief journey there are other little signs of hope such as the first time that a survivor has a good laugh or is able to go out for a social evening and actually have a good time. Initially the survivor might feel guilty because they should not be having a good time because they lost a loved one to suicide. After awhile survivors get used to being able to have a good time without the ensuing feelings of guilt. It takes a little time to get used to this but this is another sign of hope in the life of the survivor. As the survivor moves further on the path of grief there are other hopeful signs such as someone who has lost a spouse having a desire to begin dating again. This could be a whole new experience for the survivor but it is a hopeful sign. Other hopeful signs are wanting to venture out and get involved with the activities that used to engulf a person but fell by the wayside due to the suicide. These activities could involve school or work or just going out with good friends. Survivors reengage with people and begin to socialize with family and friends. It is very different from the way things were prior to the suicide. Life is very different compared to the way life was while that loved one was still a part of the life of the survivor. Nothing will ever be the same again.
One of the areas of life that is devoid of hope is when a survivor tries to recapture the life that they had prior to the suicide. That portion of the life of a survivor is permanently over. Survivors can be very frustrated if they try to regain that life. They can long for that life and make many attempts to regain that life but for the most part that chapter in the life of the survivor has been completed and will never be recaptured. Repeated attempts to get that life back can lead to frustration and embittered feelings. In order to be able to move on it is best for the survivor to be grateful for the life that was experienced with that loved one and to come to the conclusion that that portion of life is over and to look for opportunities that will enhance one’s life in the future. It serves no constructive purpose to live in the past and to wish that the past would somehow recreate itself. That won’t happen. That is magical thinking. In order for a survivor to have a fruitful future and a life that is going to be fulfilling a survivor needs to actively pursue opportunities that will bring joy and fulfillment. It is risky and survivors have to be willing to take the risk in order to have a hopeful future. The opportunities are not just going to happen. They have to be pursued and sought out. Certainly survivors have to be cautious. They have been hurt to the very core of their being and they should pursue such opportunities with caution and as much foresight as possible.
The future can be scary and threatening. Anytime people enter the unknown there is an element of fear but the alternative is to retreat to the comfort of one’s home and not to venture out – the home is very safe. In order to have a bright and hopeful future survivors need to pursue new adventures and be willing to take the risk. Those willing to take the risk will be rewarded with a rich future –different but rich. As always, I want to assure each and every member of the LOSS family of my thoughts and prayers on a daily basis during my quiet time. I encourage you to do the same for each other –especially for those members who have recently joined our family.
Keep On Keepin’ On,