Often times people mention that adolescents have the greatest life and lifestyle. Those years are depicted as carefree, and people in those years of adolescence are very much into themselves. I recently spoke to a mother of two adolescent girls who said that they are very much self-centered. It is all about them and they seem to forget that there are other people in the world around them. The world of an adolescent is all about texting and hanging out with their friends and dating and going to school functions. Little is mentioned about the growing pain of these years. My take on those years is that they are very confusing and there is the growing pain of adolescent years. There is a real spurt of growth in boys and girls as they enter into the years of young adulthood. There are a lot of decisions that have to be made such as college and what type of courses will be studied, as well as what type of a career will suit the young adult. How is one going to spend a majority of their life? This is a very important part of adolescence because it is going to shape the rest of their life. That is why it is referred to as the growing pains of adolescence. There is a lot of pain involved as an adolescent searches for just what he or she wants out of life and what direction their life is going to take. Because of all of this soul searching and decision-making, these years are not really the happiest years of one’s life. These years are a mixture of being self-centered as well as seeking direction on just how one is going to spend the rest of his or her life.
Last month I wrote about the transformation that takes place in the grieving process as one grows into a somewhat different person. Part of the grief process is the grieving the person that used to be and now has changed due to the fact that they have experienced a death of a loved one from suicide. There is a real change in the survivor and the survivor goes through the growth pain of becoming a new and different person. This can be analogous to the growth pain of the adolescent. I think that with any type of growth there is pain involved. This type of growth takes place throughout our lives and when we grow we experience pain because we are leaving behind something and are venturing forth into something new. The real challenge of a survivor of a completed suicide is now that this awful experience has altered a life what is to be learned from this experience and how might the survivor grow from this nightmare. This is the real crux of the initial grief process. There are all sorts of adjustments to be dealt with. What is life going to be like without this significant person? How is the survivor going to make it without this dearly loved one? There are a lot of initial steps that need to be taken just to survive. In the mix of all of this is the very important question as to how a survivor is able to grow into a better person because of the pain and devastation that resulted from a completed suicide of a loved one. Survivors would readily say that they would just as soon be their old self just to have that loved one back in their lives. Survivors generally were very satisfied with their lives and long to have that old life again. Unfortunately that is not going to happen. The suicide of a loved one is a watershed experience that permanently alters the life of all survivors in such a way that life is never the same once a suicide of a loved has occurred. This permanently alters a family system and the way survivors view the world around them. After the initial stages of the grief journey have taken place, and this can take several months or even a few years, survivors are met with the “Now what?” of the grief journey. That is the next part of the life of the survivor. How can this dreadful experience be the source of growth for the survivor? That is the aspect of the growth pain of the next phase of the grief journey.
Very often I ask survivors whom I am seeing on an individual basis this question: How are you feeling? How is the pain? Virtually every survivor responds that the pain is awful and sometimes teeters on being intolerable. Survivors also respond that they are feeling very bad. My response to these responses is, “That is good”. I clarify my response so that I am not misunderstood. I am not glad that the survivor is in this awful pain and is feeling so bad. As long as the survivor is in this pain, I am assured that the grief journey is taking place. The only way that the grief journey can progress is that this awful pain needs to be felt and processed through one’s emotional and psychic makeup. There is no other way for the grief to be resolved. It must be felt with all of its awfulness. There are times when survivors think that they are losing their minds because the pain is unrelenting and so long lasting. I think that this pain is also part of the growth pain of a new evolving person. As was said earlier, there can be no growth without pain and this pain is part of the newly evolving person. During this part of the grief journey survivors need to ask themselves just how they are going to positively grow from the pain that they have endured during the long stage of the initial stage of the grief journey. I could not possibly enumerate all of the wonderful examples of positive growth that I have witnessed during the past thirty-two years. I am sure that many of our veteran members of the LOSS family can say the same. I have witnessed incredible growth, and seen lives that have been recreated after the devastation of the suicide of a loved one. All of these positive happenings would be given back in a moment just to have that loved one back. But since that is not going to happen the end result of all of this pain are a newly constituted person and a rich life that resulted from the growth pains of a suicide. Miracles do happen.
As always, I want to assure each and every one of the members of the LOSS family that I remember you in my thoughts and prayers on a daily basis during my quiet time and I encourage you to do the same for each other–especially those who have recently joined our family.
Keep On Keepin’ On,