As we celebrate Labor Day each year this is often seen as the end of the summer months and the beginning of the autumn part of the year. Students return to school and the more relaxed atmosphere of the summer months takes on a more rigid schedule of work, study and appointments – not that summer is devoid of work or appointments. People are gearing up for the more drab months of the impending winter months and the cold and mess of snow and the shorter days and less sunshine. We all go through this each year and each year it seems as if we are going through this for the first time. We long for the summer months which are more relaxing and laid back. Summer will come again in a year’s time but many of us want to return to that unencumbered atmosphere which accompanies the summer months. Unfortunately we must endure the dreariness of the winter before we can experience once again the joy and light heartedness and the carefree atmosphere of summer.
One of the preoccupations of the winter months is to think back upon those pleasant times of the nicer weather when life was more enjoyable. Unfortunately, we can’t spend all of our time just daydreaming of the more enjoyable times when the weather was more to our liking. We are forced to look at the more realistic time of where we are presently and adjust to the time of the year in which we find ourselves. There is nothing wrong in engaging in the daydreaming of times when life was less hectic and more laid back. The fact of the matter is we also need to live in the present and put up with the unpleasant weather and more dreary days of winter and late autumn. We can think back when the weather was more pleasant and look ahead to when the weather will be more pleasant but we also need to live in the present and put up with all of the challenges that our life presents.
There is also a lesson to be learned in the grieving process. Once someone has lost a loved one to suicide survivors are met with the harsh reality that life has now been drastically changed and the way that life was lived has now been permanently altered. During the initial stages of the grief journey survivors long for that life that was so pleasant before the suicide altered their life. Survivors longingly cry for that life that was even if there were some challenges and rather difficult issues to contend with. The life prior to the suicide was quite pleasant and relatively pain free. Now that a suicide has entered into the lives of the survivors everything is different and the “old life” has disappeared. The prior life is nothing more than a dream or a chimera. That portion of a survivor’s life has abruptly come to an end and this new pattern of life is emerging with the awful reality of the suicide of a loved one. Survivors had no say in the way that their lives are now emerging. No one asked their permission to have this nightmare become part of their lives. They are truly victimized and now have to contend with this new reality that has become part of their existence. This is truly no small task to master.
Survivors have the choice of either living in the past and dream of the way things were and live in the fantasy of wanting life to return to the way it was prior to the suicide. Obviously, that is not going to happen. The alternative is to look at life as it is becoming with the pain of losing a loved one to suicide and all of the issues and feelings that go along with that realization. In other words, to look at one’s life as it is and to make the adjustment that is necessary in order to want to keep living. Survivors are challenged in this regard because at the beginning survivors are not sure that they want to continue on with life without this treasured loved one. To live in reality is to admit that this loved one is gone from this life and is not going to return as they were prior to the suicide. The life of these loved ones is gone forever and the life that the survivor knew prior to the suicide is also gone forever. That is a very harsh reality to absorb and this usually takes place at the beginning of the journey of grief. That is a very painful truth to admit into one’s life but it is one that is necessary if the survivor is to have a realistic approach to the grief process. This is not an easy admission to make because survivors for the most part liked their lives even though the life was not perfect but there was a certain rhythm to their lives and there was a certain amount of predictability in life. Once the suicide has become part of the life of the survivors all predictability has vanished along with the lives of those loved ones. There is a sea change in the lives of survivors. The normalcy of life has been snatched away and survivors are met with searching for new and different opportunities for hope and joy that every person needs in order to want to continue living. At the beginning of the grief process there does not appear to be any hope or reason to want to continue to go on with life. It does take some time for these opportunities to unfold and that is why survivors are challenged to have patience as they enter the grief process. Sometimes survivors have to search long and hard for these opportunities but they will appear as survivors engage in the grief journey.
It is ok to daydream and wish that life was different and wish to return to when life was more carefree and trouble free. There does come a time when people are asked to return to the tasks at hand and to struggle with the vicissitudes of life that engulfs all of us. Some have more struggles than others but none of us lives in a “struggle-free” life. The challenge that survivors of a suicide have is to seek for opportunities that will instill hope and bring some joy into their lives. It is futile to live in the past because that part of life is over. The new opportunities are ahead and it takes time and a lot of work to have these new and different opportunities reach fruition. Survivors are asked to be creative and patient as they venture forth into their future lives. Survivors need encouragement and strength as they forge forth into a future that is uncertain and in unchartered waters and sometimes very scary. The opportunities are there waiting to be discovered. Survivor’s lives will be changed as they venture into the future without this loved one. Survivors need to be courageous and fearless as they create their future utilizing the opportunities that are presented. This no small feat but the rewards can be very enriching and the future of survivors depends on their willingness to utilize these opportunities and see what lies ahead. It can be scary and it also can reap rich rewards. Don’t be afraid to try.
As always, I want to assure each and every member of the LOSS family of my daily thoughts and prayers during my quiet time. I encourage all members 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,