As we begin a new year many of us draw up resolutions that will try to make us or remake us into better people. Most resolutions are followed for a few weeks or months and then they fall by the wayside. There are the resolutions to stop smoking or lose weight or do other types of activities that will enhance our lives such as joining a health club and getting more exercise. All of these are well meaning and made with the best of intentions. It is very difficult to figure out why resolutions are so short-lived. I was thinking of resolutions for the New Year and how such resolutions can be applied to those who are surviving the death of a loved one from suicide. I recently read a quote from Chaucer who wrote “The Canterbury Tales”. “What conclusion may I draw from this long train of argument but advise that joy should follow our grief, while thanking Jupiter for all his goodness? And before we leave this place I suggest we make of two griefs one perfect joy that shall last forever. Now watch: there where we find the deepest grief, there shall begin the cure”. Last month I wrote about giving the gift of healing and resolving the pain resulting from losing a loved one from suicide. This gift can save a life. It has saved thousands of lives and allowed people to rejoin those people who truly enjoy life.
When people experience the sudden and tragic death of a loved one from suicide these people are at the nadir of their lives. There can be nothing lower than this experience. People feel helpless and flounder about as if there is no direction in their lives. Survivors literally put one foot in front of the other and just try to get through the day and look forward to sleep which is the only relief from the indescribable pain of grief. At the beginning of this journey, life seems very hopeless and survivors despair that life will never be anything more than the unending sea of pain. As Chaucer states, “where we find the deepest grief, there shall begin the cure.” The pain of this grief is unrelenting and the journey takes place at a glacial pace. There are no measurable benchmarks for survivors to gauge how they are doing. At the beginning of this journey the smallest activities are signs of progress such as getting out of bed and facing another day of grief. Returning to work and facing co-workers is another major step on this journey. That describes the “beginning of the cure” for the survivor. As this journey unfolds there are no neon lights and flashing lights or sirens going off to record a monumental accomplishment. The “beginning of the cure” takes place as survivors make a decision of wanting to be among the living as they go forth on this journey. That is the resolution that I am suggesting for all those survivors who have lost a loved one to suicide. Life is going to be very different after one has lost a loved one from suicide. Nothing is ever the same afterwards as before the suicide. At the beginning of the journey, life is in a constant state of turmoil. Life is viewed as not being worth living. Survivors would love to join their loved ones in death and be free from the travails of grief and pain and confusion. Survivors would love to run away from life and all of its challenges. That is not very realistic. Survivors are asked to make the decision of wanting to live a life that has been transformed because a loved one has died from suicide. Life will never be the same again. There is always fear and trepidation with uncertainty but to engage in the very simple tasks of every day living is a sign that the “cure is beginning.”
As more tasks are added and one’s life is unfolding, the journey of grief is being undertaken. It takes a long time for normalcy to set in. This journey is very lengthy and very arduous. This journey is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a very courageous person to make the decision that after the tragedy of losing a loved one to suicide life is still worth living and worth grappling with the tasks of every day living. There are a lot of fears that go along with this journey. Will happiness be a part of one’s life? Will the struggle of grief ever diminish or be over? Will life ever be the same again? Those are just a few of the questions that survivors grapple with. There are other questions that survivors ask themselves. It is very normal for survivors to have a whole host of questions because this experience is so very new and the future seems so uncertain. The future is uncertain. At the beginning survivors wonder if they are able to withstand the rigors of this journey. I have never met a survivor who was not able to make this journey and make it successfully if they allow themselves to engage in the grief process and allow it to unfold at its pace and not at the pace of the survivor. Survivors are not in control of this process. Grief controls the survivor and it is going to unfold gradually and at a glacial pace. Survivors are asked to turn their lives over to the process of the grief journey. This can be very frightening because survivors don’t know what is in store for them. They have the questions and also the fears about the future. In making the decision of engaging in the grief journey survivors are turning their lives over to a stranger–the grief process. As the journey continue, both the survivor and the grief process become companions. They do not necessarily like each other but they are traversing a path together and forming a future together. The first step in the process is to make the decision to engage in this new venture. It will be the best decision a survivor can make. It can literally save one’s life. At the beginning that decision can be very overwhelming and scary. To meet other people who are on the same journey can be very helpful and hopeful. There is no magical cure on this journey and there is no easy way to make this journey. The process takes a lot of effort and energy but the results are literally life saving.
As we enter a new year I want to assure each and every member of the LOSS family of my thoughts and prayers on a daily basis. I encourage each of you to do the same for each other–especially for those who have recently joined our family.
Keep On Keepin’ On,