“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.” -Wendell Berry
I believe one of the hardest things to deal with after the death of a loved one, especially by suicide, is seeing and knowing that life goes on; our world, as we knew it, has ended. Why, then, are the people “out there” going to work, laughing, smiling, making plans, complaining? After Mom died, no matter what I was doing, I felt like my feet were in quicksand and my brain was a mass of fog. Who understood? Who cared?
At the time of Mom’s death, my first close friend in Indiana, where I’d moved 9 months before, found out that her ovarian cancer had returned and that she was terminal. There wasn’t a better friend who cared or understood or on whom I could lean. There was a bonding that words can’t explain. It was Berta who came over every day to listen, to talk, or just to sit quietly with me and hold my hand. It was Berta who took me to the grocery store and stayed by my side. It was Berta with whom I cried.
On the days I went to Berta’s house, especially as she grew more ill, I was the one who wrote out recipes for her girls to have one day. I was the one who wrote notes for her, put picture books together, and stored bits of knowledge for her girls (they were 3 and 6 when she died.)
In the five months I had with her until she died, she was my rock. How, you ask, did I manage then? Well, that’s when I learned about complicated grief. When I was grieving mom, I often thought of dad. After Berta died, she was wrapped up in that process as well. It was another woman who was a friend to us both, who encouraged me to “do more” with others. While I had my (then) husband and children and could keep busy, the company of other adults evaded me for the first few months. I don’t know how I knew enough to tell people that I was sad and why. Yet, I also said I needed to just “be” with people. There weren’t support groups back then in our area. It was a year later when I went to a survivor conference in Iowa that I learned about survivor support groups. That’s when I truly felt I could move forward. Others, too, had lost loved ones to suicide.
There is a need in all of us to be with other human beings. There is also a need for solitude. Bringing up her name and telling bits of my story helped me as well as those around me. As hard as it may be, we, the loss survivor, may have to be the one that puts other people at ease by talking about her/him. Mentioning their name validates a life that was. Their story continues as long as we remember and talk of them.
Survivors helping survivors and then helping others is key to our healing and survival. We are educating others about how to talk about death in general and suicide specifically.
“Why us?” you may be asking. My simple answer is this: “Because.” We are the wounded. No doubt about that. Our world as we know it was destroyed.
The resiliency that is within us will take a while – quite a while – to become something that will sprout again. So, we take it slow and easy. We need alone time. We need people time. On some days, just getting out of my pajamas was an accomplishment.
Come to SOS and be with us. Be who you are and who you need to be in the moment. You are edging forward…Each one of us is on a different journey that sometimes shares the sameness before it veers off again… Come to SOS. You are a loss survivor of suicide. You didn’t choose it. What you get to choose is how you will survive it…. I promise you this: You WILL survive…