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Featured this Month:

From the Desk of Deborah Major
Saturday, March 01, 2014 by Deborah Major
Suicide’s unexpected and violent intrusion into our life space throws everything up in the air, the way we imagine an unexpected explosion might propel objects out and away from its central force. Cherished beliefs about oneself, the future, and how the world is supposed to operate are suddenly called into question. Nothing is as we thought. Everything feels unstable, chaotic, random, and unjust; at least in the beginning of the grief journey. This is where many survivors find themselves when we first meet them in our support groups. We suggest that LOSS members come back to the groups for as long as it feels helpful, regardless of how long that is, because in these groups you will find yourself among a nurturing network of other survivors, at varying distances from their loss. It is not unusual to meet in the same monthly group new survivors whose loss was barely three months ago, together with those whose loss occurred one, two, four, seven years ago and beyond. We have heard from new survivors that it can be frightening to enter the room and find group members whose loss was many years ago. We think this fear comes from assuming that the survivor whose loss occurred ten years ago feels the same way as the person whose loss occurred three months ago. This is rarely, if ever, the case. People return year after year because they have something to contribute to others and also because there is something present in the circle that they came to receive.

Survivors of suicide are faced with a daunting task: the virtual reconstruction of their life space: revising or endorsing new assumptions, constructing new beliefs, finding new paths. When our core beliefs are called into question by devastating tragedy, when assumptions we relied on are torn to shreds, we have a choice about how we respond. We might view this as an opportunity to engage the very questions that so painfully arise. More than one LOSS member recently said, “I don’t think I can go on like this. What’s the point?” Many survivors arrive at the “What’s the point?” question somewhere along the journey. While often raised in a casual way, it points to deep existential questions about the meaning of life itself. Terrible tragedy invites us to question deeply, “Given what has happened, what is the meaning of life?” And importantly, “What is the meaning of my life?” For some survivors these are matters of faith, and the answers come to them through religious beliefs and practices that guide them along their grief journey. There is a growing body of research that documents the helpfulness of having such an underpinning of deep faith. But this is certainly not for everyone, and as a nondenominational program, we do not presume to prescribe it. In any one group you might find yourself sitting next to someone who is deeply religious, or someone who espouses no religious beliefs, and everything in between. We see this as part of the beauty of LOSS. The shared experience is not the espousal of a particular set of religious (or other) tenants, but rather the determination to help all comers emerge from the most painful tragedy of their lives. In a recent meeting where one member openly asked of her fellow survivors, “what’s the point?” several people around the circle moved to respond. The responses were all different, and while I can’t say that the content of any one person’s response was what the questioner was hoping for, the point from my space in the circle was that so many people wanted to respond that we literally ran out of time trying to get those responses aired. Some responses came from members who had lost a loved one recently, others from members who had lost their loved one more than a decade ago. I can still envision the faces and feel the energy and investment in the voices of the speakers. They offered answers that had deep personal meaning to them in response to a very big question. There is a collective wisdom that comes to the forefront in the group experience. Sometimes the wisdom is about the content of participants’ viewpoints, but more often it seems to be about the process that takes place between people. Having experienced in a visceral way the disruption of the world as it was understood before the suicide, survivors seem to know that they may not impose an authoritative view of any Truth about death, about grief, or about the future. Rather, in groups, members “feel their way along” together, as a community of grievers whose shared aim is to tolerantly and respectfully offer up the possibility of a new future where survivors receive and offer up hope to one another. In such a setting no one person’s comments are superior to any other’s. Rather, it is through the process of respectfully sharing the space, of listening to and talking with each other, that new realities gradually begin to emerge. There is really no way to predict what life can emerge from the beginnings of despair (no way to predict how any one person will answer the question, “What’s the point?”). Many, but not all of you know of the new prevention programs that have emerged, the survivor websites and blogs, the new relationships that began around these tables. This is new life that no one person hands to any other, but rather new life meanings that are created together, side by side, in the moment. It reminds me of a greeting card I recently received from a LOSS member. On the front was a drawing of Winnie the Pooh walking hand in hand with Piglet, and Piglet whispers, “Pooh!” to which Pooh replies, “Yes, Piglet?” “Oh, nothing, I was just making sure you were there.” For 35 years we have been here to listen, and more importantly, to connect you to each other. LOSS would not have survived 35 years without your willingness to risk choosing us as the place where you could come to grapple with life’s deepest questions, to find new meaning, and as a place where you would turn to extend your hand to survivors coming behind you. I wish I could state with confidence that the need for LOSS would disappear within the next 35 years, but suicide statistics as they currently stand belie this wish. We can only survive for those coming behind you with your continued interest and participation in LOSS. Are you there?


Archives:

From the Desk of Deborah Major
Saturday, March 01, 2014 by Deborah Major
Suicide’s unexpected and violent intrusion into our life space throws everything up in the air, the way we imagine an unexpected explosion might propel objects out and away from its central force. Cherished beliefs about oneself, the future, and how the world is supposed to operate are suddenly called into question. Nothing is as we thought. Everything feels unstable, chaotic, random, and unjust; at least in the beginning of the grief journey. This is where many survivors find themselves when we first meet them in our support groups. We suggest that LOSS members come back to the groups for as long as it feels helpful, regardless of how long that is, because in these groups you will find yourself among a nurturing network of other survivors, at varying distances from their loss. It is not unusual to meet in the same monthly group new survivors whose loss was barely three months ago, together with those whose loss occurred one, two, four, seven years ago and beyond. We have heard from new survivors that it can be frightening to enter the room and find group members whose loss was many years ago. We think this fear comes from assuming that the survivor whose loss occurred ten years ago feels the same way as the person whose loss occurred three months ago. This is rarely, if ever, the case. People return year after year because they have something to contribute to others and also because there is something present in the circle that they came to receive.

Survivors of suicide are faced with a daunting task: the virtual reconstruction of their life space: revising or endorsing new assumptions, constructing new beliefs, finding new paths. When our core beliefs are called into question by devastating tragedy, when assumptions we relied on are torn to shreds, we have a choice about how we respond. We might view this as an opportunity to engage the very questions that so painfully arise. More than one LOSS member recently said, “I don’t think I can go on like this. What’s the point?” Many survivors arrive at the “What’s the point?” question somewhere along the journey. While often raised in a casual way, it points to deep existential questions about the meaning of life itself. Terrible tragedy invites us to question deeply, “Given what has happened, what is the meaning of life?” And importantly, “What is the meaning of my life?” For some survivors these are matters of faith, and the answers come to them through religious beliefs and practices that guide them along their grief journey. There is a growing body of research that documents the helpfulness of having such an underpinning of deep faith. But this is certainly not for everyone, and as a nondenominational program, we do not presume to prescribe it. In any one group you might find yourself sitting next to someone who is deeply religious, or someone who espouses no religious beliefs, and everything in between. We see this as part of the beauty of LOSS. The shared experience is not the espousal of a particular set of religious (or other) tenants, but rather the determination to help all comers emerge from the most painful tragedy of their lives. In a recent meeting where one member openly asked of her fellow survivors, “what’s the point?” several people around the circle moved to respond. The responses were all different, and while I can’t say that the content of any one person’s response was what the questioner was hoping for, the point from my space in the circle was that so many people wanted to respond that we literally ran out of time trying to get those responses aired. Some responses came from members who had lost a loved one recently, others from members who had lost their loved one more than a decade ago. I can still envision the faces and feel the energy and investment in the voices of the speakers. They offered answers that had deep personal meaning to them in response to a very big question. There is a collective wisdom that comes to the forefront in the group experience. Sometimes the wisdom is about the content of participants’ viewpoints, but more often it seems to be about the process that takes place between people. Having experienced in a visceral way the disruption of the world as it was understood before the suicide, survivors seem to know that they may not impose an authoritative view of any Truth about death, about grief, or about the future. Rather, in groups, members “feel their way along” together, as a community of grievers whose shared aim is to tolerantly and respectfully offer up the possibility of a new future where survivors receive and offer up hope to one another. In such a setting no one person’s comments are superior to any other’s. Rather, it is through the process of respectfully sharing the space, of listening to and talking with each other, that new realities gradually begin to emerge. There is really no way to predict what life can emerge from the beginnings of despair (no way to predict how any one person will answer the question, “What’s the point?”). Many, but not all of you know of the new prevention programs that have emerged, the survivor websites and blogs, the new relationships that began around these tables. This is new life that no one person hands to any other, but rather new life meanings that are created together, side by side, in the moment. It reminds me of a greeting card I recently received from a LOSS member. On the front was a drawing of Winnie the Pooh walking hand in hand with Piglet, and Piglet whispers, “Pooh!” to which Pooh replies, “Yes, Piglet?” “Oh, nothing, I was just making sure you were there.” For 35 years we have been here to listen, and more importantly, to connect you to each other. LOSS would not have survived 35 years without your willingness to risk choosing us as the place where you could come to grapple with life’s deepest questions, to find new meaning, and as a place where you would turn to extend your hand to survivors coming behind you. I wish I could state with confidence that the need for LOSS would disappear within the next 35 years, but suicide statistics as they currently stand belie this wish. We can only survive for those coming behind you with your continued interest and participation in LOSS. Are you there?