721 N. LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60654
Main Line: (312) 655-7283
Fax Line: (312) 559-1530
As we move through the summer and into the fall we celebrate Labor Day in September. That is a day when we honor all of those people who work "through the sweat of their brows".
Traditionally, we have honored those people who are members of unions. This is a great day for those involved in the labor movement. Among those honored are electricians, plumbers, carpenters and other members of the various unions. Such workers go from one task to another. They finish one job and move right on to another. Their lives are spent going from one job to another. Certainly now many workers are struggling with the economy the way that it is. Once the economy picks up they will return to the way that it should be - going from one job to the next - with very little breathing room in between. I am always amazed how such workers can be kept so busy and not tire of all of the activity that engulfs their lives. Certainly, they take time to rest but these workers are on the go a lot. They complete one task and move on to the next waiting task. That is what keeps our country going.
Survivors of a suicide are among the workers who rarely get the due credit that is owed them. The work of grieving is very taxing and draining. Survivors often say that they are very tired and exhausted from the grief process. This is a very normal reaction because the grief process drains survivors emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Every facet of one's life is impacted from the grief journey. It is very normal to feel exhausted as one traverses the journey of grief. It is very laborious and taxing. I always suggest that survivors need to take good care of themselves by getting enough rest and eat properly and try to get sufficient exercise. Self care is paramount for survivors if they are to get through the journey.
As was said earlier, some workers go from task to task. As each task is completed they proceed to the next waiting task. This becomes a way of life for them. Their work unfolds by completing tasks and then going on to the next waiting job. Unfortunately, that is not the way it is with those who are grieving the death of a loved one from suicide. The job is never done. It is literally a work in progress. I read an excerpt from a book and Rose Kennedy was talking about having lost several children tragically and how this grief process went on and on. She likened the grief like a scab that was scratched open from time to time. She said that this went on throughout her life. Every once in awhile the scab would be reopened and the pain was once again revisited and the pain was felt.
Unless people go through the experience they have no idea what survivors go through. Over the years I have frequently heard how people have mentioned to survivors that "they should be over it by now." The suicide might have occurred six or eight months ago and people expect survivors to be "over it." That is a real fallacy. People never get "over it." They learn to live with it but the pain is revisited throughout the life of a survivor. The scab is scratched and the wound is opened up again and the pain is felt. The tasks of this kind of work are never completed. It is ongoing. It does not mean that there is something wrong with the survivor. It is all about the nature of this loss. It would be nice if the grief journey would end and survivors could go on to the next task at hand. Grief does not work that way. It is ongoing.
Sometimes survivors feel as if there is something wrong with them because they are not "over this." There is nothing wrong with them. There is something wrong with those people who are of the opinion that survivors should be "over this." The experience of losing a loved one from suicide is a life altering event and this companion is going to be with the survivor for the rest of their lives. It gets easier to bear as survivors do the work of the grief journey and as time passes on but the pain and the experience of the suicide is always going to be there and there will be times when the scab is ripped open again and the pain returns. No one can predict when those events will surface but they do on occasion and when they do arise the survivor revisits the pain of long ago. This is a normal reaction and survivors should not think that there is something wrong with them or that they have not done a good job in resolving the death. This is nothing more than the normal reaction to the death of a loved one from suicide. The scab is going to be scratched throughout one's life. It could be caused by going to a wedding, a graduation or a family gathering, or any other event where that loved one is supposed to be and their absence is very pronounced and evident. There is no way to avoid such occasions except by sheltering oneself and avoiding these events. At the beginning survivors should be very selective in deciding which events they will attend. Sometimes the event demands their presence and survivors go. My suggestion is to stay at the event as long as possible. There might come a time when the pain is just too much to bear. It is ok to make a quiet exit. People for the most part will understand. Survivors can make it known that they will stay at an event as long as they are able but they might exit if the pain becomes too unbearable. The important point to know is that there is nothing wrong with the reaction. The pain from grief is the most painful experience we know as humans. Survivors should be gentle and understanding of themselves and should not push themselves beyond their capacity.
When the scab of grief is revisited survivors should be aware that this is a very normal process of the journey. Don't be frightened and don't conclude that there is something wrong with how the grief is handled. Whenever the scab is scratched it hurts and begins to bleed allover again. It causes pain. The same can be said of the grief journey. The work is never done and completed. The pain becomes a part of the life of each survivor. That is how all of this unfolds.
As always, I want to assure each member of the LOSS family of my thoughts and prayers on a daily basis and I encourage each member to do the same for each other especially for those who have recently joined our family.
Keep On Keepin' On,