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With the holidays upon us I was reflecting on some of the more pleasant memories of holidays past. The one activity that brings back some very happy moments is “The Nutcracker Ballet”. I am sure that many of you have seen it or heard the wonderful music. It is one performance that seems to capture all of the sentiments and feelings of the season. The principle figure of the ballet is one who is caught up in the fantasy and the dreams of the Christmas season. The fantasy aspect of the whole performance is something that catches my attention and allows me to forget some of the travails of life and live in the fantasy of the young woman. It can be very helpful for all of us to lose ourselves in the fantasy world of dreams for awhile during the holiday season. It brings adults back to childhood fantasy and dreams. This is a sound therapeutic exercise as long as we get back to reality before too long. We can’t lose ourselves in the fantasy world of dreams for too long. We eventually get ourselves back to the real world where we spend most of our waking hours. This is reality. This is the world in which we live. One of the harshest realities for survivors of a suicide is the admission that a loved one found life too painful to continue living and came to the conclusion that suicide was the only way out. There are a lot of false conclusions that survivors come up with the admission that this loved took their own life. One of the false conclusions is that the love of the survivor was not enough to keep that loved alive. Unfortunately this love of the survivor was not enough to instill hope and serenity to this tortured soul. The pain of mental illness had engulfed this person to such a degree that suicide became the only answer and the only solution to the pain. The suicide has absolutely no relationship to the love that survivors had towards this loved one. If love was the issue then this person would never have completed suicide. This love is not only expressed in the aftermath of the suicide. It was very evident prior to the person taking their life. Countless survivors have expressed the idea that they should have known the pain that their loved one was in. This loved one appeared very happy and carefree in life. One of the limitations that we have as humans is that we are not entitled to peer into the soul of a loved one. It is in the soul of people that joy and pain resides. If we had the opportunity to gaze into the soul of a tortured person we would be able to see the despair and hopelessness that a loved one was experiencing. It is only in the soul that such pain is experienced. We are human and we have very defined limitations and one of those limitations is that we can perceive only what is on the surface of the loved one. A lot of people keep things buried in their souls and do not allow people to penetrate the inner workings of the soul. No one is a soul reader. We can only get an idea of what is going on in one’s soul if that person reveals the happenings of the soul. Many people are too embarrassed or ashamed to reveal the inner workings of their soul either because they are afraid of the reaction or that they are confused about these feelings. Whatever the reason for not sharing it is very presumptuous for survivors to conclude that they were at fault for not knowing the extent of the pain that their loved one was in.
Depending on the relationship that survivors have with the deceased person can lead survivors to come to the conclusion that they should have known the inner workings of a loved one. Parents can conclude that they should know what feelings their children are experiencing. Parents should know when their children are in pain and should know how to take the pain away from these children. Again, parents are going to know their children are in pain only if these children share with the parents the pain that they are experiencing. Maybe the parents do know that a child is in pain but the parents fail to realize the extent of the pain. Parents might conclude that the pain is a very minor experience in the life of a child. Parents are not able to gaze into the soul of this child and see that the pain is literally life threatening. This is not the fault of the parent. Spouses also feel as if they should know all of the inner workings of their spouse. Unfortunately, there are times when a spouse cannot share the inner workings of their souls with their soul mates. Again, the cause for not sharing could be shame or embarrassment. Like anyone else, spouses are not able to peer into the soul of their spouse. One more false conclusion that survivors can experience is that because this loved one died from suicide this makes the survivor a bad person or an uncaring person. Nothing could be further from the truth. People do not make the same conclusion if a loved one dies from cancer or heart disease or is killed in an automobile accident. Because it is a suicide survivors can draw false conclusions and engage in unrealistic and false conclusions. These “fantasy-like” conclusions can be very upsetting to survivors and impede and complicate the grieving process. One of the most important first steps in the grieving process is the admission that the death was the result of a suicide. Once that conclusion has been definitively decided then the rest of the grief journey can begin with all of the ensuing feelings that accompany the journey. Once there is the admission that the death was in fact a suicide one of the most important battles is over. There are many reasons why survivors might want to conclude otherwise but it is important to call it what it is –a suicide. There is a sense of calmness once that conclusion is made. There is one less battle for the survivor to engage in.
For people grieving the loss of a loved one from suicide can be very difficult during these holiday times. It is important that this loved one be remembered in an appropriate way. To ignore the reality of the death does a disservice to this loved one as well as to the family. The remembrance can be very simple and unencumbered. It is a recalling that a loved one is no longer here but they are not forgotten. Their presence is no longer apparent but they are still a member of a family and this should be acknowledged by some type of a ritual.
As always, I want to assure each and every member of the LOSS family of my thoughts and prayers on a daily basis. I have quiet time each day to recollect and remember. I encourage all of the LOSS family to remember each other each day –especially those who have recently joined our family.
Keep On Keepin’ On,