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Butterfly in the Woods.

They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods.” -Edith Wharton

It comes to us as a revelation at first—an astonishment— almost an occasion of guilt. We can be happy! Maybe we thought it would not happen, that our life would be forever colored with pain, that no moment would be free of it. There is a way in which we are right: no moment is ever free of the life history that has preceded it. And we don’t want that.

One of the things we sometimes fear— need—lessly- is that, having lost the loved one, we will lose the memory of the loved one as well. That will not happen. But we will lose, or be released from, the overhanging cloud of gloom which for a while may seem our daily portion. Part of that is up to us. We can decide not to be happy again-but we can do it if we want to.

How much better— and how much more a tribute to the one we have lost—to walk out from under our cloud, so that when we come upon a butterfly in the winter woods, we will be able to see it! Lifted with Love from HEALING AFTER LOSS, by Martha Whitmore Hickman

My dad died from emphysema in 1977, my mom died from depression in 1979, and my husband, Bill, died from multiple organ failure in 2021.

I’ve said many, many times, “Grief calls to grief.” (Certainly not an original statement.)

The overwhelming grief that we experience following ANY death is part and parcel of the entire grief process; death by suicide, however, always stands apart and alone. “They had a choice…” After so many years in the field of suicidology, I have come to believe that, at the moment when death has been decided, there were no more choices.

I believe that our loved ones tried many other ways to settle/solve/ help their depression. When I work with clients today, we lay out options. Suicide is always Option Z, and we start with Option A. Do we really come up with 26 options? No, BUT, we come up with between 5-7. Number 7 is suicide. It has to be because that’s what they’ve been grappling with. Telling another human being that “suicide isn’t an option” is kind of useless it’s their life.

In the “old” days, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, may have had a client sign an agreement that they would not take their life before calling the above helpers. The signature on that paper may be true AT THE MOMENT THE CLIENT SIGNS IT. It could NOT be true once they leave that office.

Moving beyond that, for all of us who have loved ones die, there truly does come a day when joy and happiness returns to our lives. It surely doesn’t come all at one; there will be smiles, quick laughs. We may feel guilty. Life has a way of moving us along, through the pain, and back into some kind of “new normal”. It takes a while for that to occur. We never forget our loved ones. We hold memories. We have pictures. We tell stories. The one true fact I hate is that life ends in death.

Premature death is suicide and homicide. People die at all ages. People die. THAT I don’t like.

The last paragraph of the part I took from the book talks about “a butterfly in the winter woods.” My daughter, Jen, as many of you know, sees her grandmother in the form of beautiful monarch butterflies. She sees her dad, Bill, as a cardinal. I see my mom in the eyes of people I know. I see Bill in the deer in our backyard. in time It is a tribute to all of our loved ones that we carry them in our hearts, we talk about them, and we often see them in other forms.

They did not want to take us with them. The best gift we can give back to them is to live our best life and grab happiness as we see it.

Gloom has no value of itself. It’s fine to be happy.

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