With January we start a new year. I am sure that everyone is tired of the “Happy New Year” greeting and all that goes with that hoopla. Many survivors breathe a sigh of relief once that the holidays are over because the decorations come down and routines get back to a more normal schedule. Holidays can be very stressful for LOSS family members because of that missing loved one. Survivors might have had to tell people who are out of town or who might not have known about the suicide that in fact a loved one died from suicide. This telling the story over again is a revisiting of the tragic event and stirs up the beginning pain all over again. This is but one example of the painful journey that is a part of every survivor’s journey.
With the New Year behind us there is the continuing of the journey of grief for survivors. Once that first year has passed for survivors about the only thing that can be safely said is the there are no more surprises for the survivors. Every important date has passed without this dearly loved one. Dates such as all of the holidays and birthdays and anniversaries and other significant dates have been observed and hopefully that loved one was remembered on those dates. For the most part society gives grieving people one year and then it is back to business as usual. Survivors hear some very ridiculous and offensive comments such as, “You should be over this by now” or “Hopefully, you are now moving on with life”. People do not understand the pain and that the journey takes more than one year. It literally takes a lifetime. I don’t want survivors to misconstrue what is meant. To survive the loss of a loved from suicide one is going to spend the rest of their lives dealing with this experience. It does not mean that survivors are going to be in excruciating pain for the duration of their lives but it does mean that the impact of the suicide is going to be part of the future and will shape the future.
After the initial process of the grief journey where the pain is so excruciating and at times seemingly intolerable there is that period where the pain is gnawing and dull but it is still there. There are going to be some good days and there is going to be laughter and the return of a semblance of normalcy but there is still the pain in the background. For friends and extended family life has moved on and while they are still supportive of survivors there is a marked difference in the attention that is paid to those surviving the loss of a loved one. The newness of this loss has worn off and people have moved on with their lives and they presume that survivors have also moved on. In a sense they are right. Survivors have moved on but there is still that gnawing pain that rears its ugly head from time to time. It is this aspect of the grief journey that is very misunderstood. There are the lingering questions and feelings that are still a part of the lives of survivors. They are not as prominent and painful as they were at the beginning but they are still there. These questions and feelings are still being assimilated into the lives of survivors. While the question of WHY is no longer a predominant one it still pops up from time to time and survivors have to revisit this. The same can be said about the myriad of feelings that are part of this journey. The feelings of guilt and shame and embarrassment or anger have been dealt with but again they are going to crop up in the future. This is not unusual nor is it a sign that there is something wrong with how the survivor is dealing with the feelings. This is all a part of the grief journey.
Survivors often ask the question about the length of the journey. It is very important that they are given a correct response. The usual answer is that this journey is a very lengthy one. It is a normal reaction to want this painful experience to be over as quickly as possible. Survivors want to move on with their lives and all around them people are wishing that this experience can be put to rest and that it will be over. The fact is that this traumatic experience is never completely over. Will survivors become “professional mourners” for the rest of their lives? The answer is no. However, it is important for people to realize that a traumatic event such as losing a loved one from suicide is going to follow a person for a very long time. Survivors are going to remember this event for the duration of their lives. Will they get over it? Not really but they will learn to live with it. Can survivors ever be happy again? Most certainly the answer to that question is yes survivors can be happy in the future. All of this hinges on how well survivors are able to incorporate this event into their lives and into their psychic makeup. That is the biggest task of those on the grief journey. At the beginning of the journey survivors are wishing that they had never experienced such an awful thing such as losing a dearly loved person to suicide. That is one of the worst nightmares that anyone can imagine. Survivors are under the impression that they are going to feel the excruciating pain forever. They are never going to experience joy or pleasure again. This is a very normal reaction. The question that survivors ask is “how can I possibly go on living without this person in my life?” That is a very critical and crucial question to ponder. The person who died played a very important part in the lives of survivors. At the beginning of the journey survivors cannot even fathom living without this person. Without this person life for the survivors is not worth living. It is only as the grief journey plays itself out that survivors make the adjustment and come to the realization that there is life after losing a loved from suicide. This is not something that takes place quickly and easily. Life after a suicide will become fruitful and joyful only after a very lengthy and painful adjustment. There are no shortcuts and there is no pain free way to accomplishment this herculean exercise.
After the initial newness of the suicide has been experienced then the real work begins. The newness can be defined as that time period when all of the firsts take place. Once that is over then the work of going on with life begins and this takes a long time to adjust. It is during this period that patience is paramount. The survivor needs patience to allow one’s life to evolve and those around the survivor need patience to allow the survivor to make the adjustment. There is a lot of work and effort that goes into this period of the grief journey and patience is the key component needed to traverse this part of the journey.
I wish all of the LOSS family nothing but the best as we embark on the New Year. This is always a time to begin anew with all sorts of resolutions and dreams. My prayer for all of you is that your dreams and desires will reach fruition during the course of 2012. My prayers will continue for you as I spend some quiet time each day. I ask that you remember each other in the same way –especially those who have recently joined the LOSS family.
Keep On Keepin’ On,