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During the month of April two of the major prophetic religions celebrate major feasts. Those embracing the Jewish faith celebrate Passover and those embracing the Christian faith celebrate Easter. These two feasts commemorate important events in the lives of those who follow and worship in those traditions. While the celebrations recall the end results of the traditions the paths to these end results encompassed a lot challenges and pain. The Jewish people were on the journey to the Promised Land and were forced into exile and were enslaved by the Egyptians, and as a result were subjected to a lot of persecution and violence. Passover recalls how the Jewish people were spared from death as the angel of death passed over their homes. They were to mark their homes with a special mark so that the angel of death would pass over these homes and spare the first born an untimely death. This untimely death would have been one more piece to a painful past. Jewish people recall this blessing from Yahweh. Christians recall the Resurrection of Jesus. This is a very joyful event. Jesus was raised from the dead as a sign that He was uniquely blessed by His Father and His rising from the dead is a sign that He was the Messiah and holds a very special place within the Godhead. He in fact is the second Person of the Triune God. Jesus got to this place of honor only after he suffered the ignominious humiliation of being crucified on the cross. In order to get to Easter He had to endure Good Friday. Each of these religions recall happy endings but these happy endings were preceded by challenges and pain. There would not have been happy endings without the pain and challenge that the Jewish people endured or what Jesus endured.
What does all of this have to do with members of the LOSS family? All of you know of the devastating effect that a suicide has on a family and on individuals of a family. The pain is excruciating and can appear to be unbearable at times. The pain is unrelenting and constant. At times survivors think that they are going crazy and that they are going to lose their minds. The completed suicide consumes survivors at the beginning of the grief journey. It seems to define survivors and nothing else matters except that a loved has taken their life. In the aftermath survivors feel as if they are being destroyed and that their lives are ended as well as the life of their loved one. Family life as it was before the suicide has been destroyed. Is life worth living and continuing? That is a very difficult question to answer. Survivors want to die to escape from this pain. Sometimes survivors have suicidal ideations but more often they would welcome death just to be free of this pain. Does this sound familiar?
Could there ever be something like a "happy ending'? I am of the opinion that the journey of grief is never completely over so there is no "ending" of the journey. Is it possible that there can be happiness after the death by suicide of a loved one? I think that this is not only possible but very probable if survivors work during the journey of grief.
What has to be done? The various feelings that emerge during the initial period of the journey have to be identified and felt and dealt with and wrestled with. Sometimes survivors feel as if they are being swallowed up by these feelings and are being suffocated by them. This is a normal reaction. It is very difficult to do this alone. A lot of times it is very helpful to check out the feelings with a LOSS group or to speak with someone who has the experience of grief from suicide. It is also helpful to share feelings with someone who walks in your shoes.
I have witnessed survivors having happy times such as a wedding or the birth of a grandchild or the graduation of another child or the remarriage of a person whose previous spouse took their life. There are happy events in the lives of people who have lost a loved one to suicide. Happiness did not come about automatically. It came about because these survivors worked very hard in resolving the grief that results from a suicide. We often hear that "time heals all things". I disagree with this statement because time in and of itself does not do the healing. It is time and a lot of work and a lot of pain and a lot of tears that will result with happiness returning to a survivor's life. Survivors need to have a realistic outlook on life. If a survivor is attempting to get back the life that existed before the suicide occurred then that person will always be frustrated because that part of one's life is over forever. There is no turning back the pages and getting the old life back. The old life died with the death of that loved one. That does not mean that there cannot be joy again. There can be joy but it will be a different type of joy. There will be happiness but it will be a different type of happiness. The death of a loved one from suicide is a pivotal event. By that I mean that nothing is ever the same after the suicide as before the suicide. This does not mean that there will be no happiness. There can be and there will be as long as survivors traverse the journey and resolve all of the feelings and issues that are a part of that journey.
As Passover and Easter are observed and the joy and happiness of the various gatherings set the tone let's be mindful that the same tone can be had in gatherings of people who are surviving the suicide of a loved one. The subsequent lives of survivors are altered but not destroyed or ruined. Lives are recreated and enhanced and there is happiness in the lives of survivors. The resulting happiness occurs after a very arduous and perilous journey. Survivors always wish that their loved ones had never taken their lives and would give anything to have their former lives back. Since this is not going to happen the next best thing is to enjoy and relish the happiness that results from successfully resolving the issues that plague every survivor.
As always, I want to assure each and every one of the LOSS family of my thoughts and prayers and I encourage you to do the same for each other –especially those who have recently joined our family.
Keep On Keepin' On,