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Featured this Month:

Grief and Family Development
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 by Cynthia Waderlow, MSE, LCSW
A young sensitive teen girl was struck, along with her mother and older siblings, by the suicide death of Robin Williams.  She had grown up with him of course, as he was her Aladdin’s genie and Mrs. Doubtfire.  He was in Night at the Museum and Happy Feet and more.  And he was her beloved father’s favorite comedian.  As she watched the coverage and absorbed his loss to not only the world, but to his clan of intimates, wives and children, she related the loss to that of her own family when her father died from suicide. It might have been so much fun for Robin Williams’ children to have him for a father with his amazing antics, humor and warmth.  And she adored her own father for his witty charm and humor, his love of dancing and dedication to his family, his coaching and his church.

She was able to share how personal the loss of this gifted actor was to her family, and it brought back visceral memories of the shock and pain of her father’s unimaginable suicide.  The early work for grieving adolescents in the LOSS program is to acknowledge the permanency of the loss, recognize the nature of the death and to begin to retrieve balanced memories of the person who died.  But the deeper work of making sense, or meaning, of the loss is achieved inch by inch, over time in private contemplation and interaction with family and the world.  Interpretation of the death is only gradually constructed through exploration of everything that rises to the conscious mind of the bereaved person who is searching to understand an unexplainable loss.  So often, suicide doesn’t fit the way in which the deceased loved one was known:  loving and loved by family, a sense of humor, a stable presence.  Even after grasping that the deceased loved one experienced depression or anxiety, it still doesn’t make sense to the grieving person for him or her to leave one’s family behind in sorrow.  Wouldn’t love appear to defy the pain of mental illness?

When a young survivor’s eyes are turned toward the suicide loss of a beloved public figure who left behind a grieving family, similar in ways to so many survivors’ families, comparisons are likely to be made.  The suicides are seen as tragic because they occurred in the midst of loved ones where there appeared to be so much to live for.   It is this very juxtaposition that is the stuff of sense making, and it can be noticed and considered even at a tender age.  After a suicide loss the survivors may take guarded steps forward, but their antennas are raised for encounters with signs, reminders, truths and ignorance related to their experience.  After Williams’ death there were many waves of comment in the media, and many LOSS members resonated to the news.  For the young girl who inspired this article, the moment was held and contemplated with empathy.   Robin Williams’ death “softened” the mystery of her father’s suicide because he, too, was known for his love, his fun and affection for others.  It became apparent to her that suicide can happen in the lives of even the most loved individuals.  Her adolescent heart seemed to accept, at least momentarily, the paradox expressed by the convergence of love and suicidal action in a vital person with rapidly advancing Major Depression and Anxiety.  She conveyed her perception that her father’s suicide might look like abandonment, but actually be something much more complex.  She reached deeply into knowing that their love was real and the relationship was a treasure.  It became reasonable for her to accept that both her father and Robin Williams, who shared and lived life happily with loved ones, would not have had the intention to hurt or abandon them when a suicidal state closed in.  She had found one little piece of something that made sense to her.

While this wise young person’s actual words were kept confidential, her ability to experience and convey her insight was a strong testimony to her enduring love and relationship with her father.  She showed how grief may light on a transitory opportunity for exploration to reveal a point that is true for the grieving person.   She is unique, but not unlike every other dedicated griever who searches to find ephemeral flashes of significance that might calm the vast confusion created by suicide loss.  On the course of the grief journey a meaning making moment arose during her time, and she grasped it, as one captures one of thousands of fireflies.


Archives:

Grief and Family Development
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 by Cynthia Waderlow, MSE, LCSW
A young sensitive teen girl was struck, along with her mother and older siblings, by the suicide death of Robin Williams.  She had grown up with him of course, as he was her Aladdin’s genie and Mrs. Doubtfire.  He was in Night at the Museum and Happy Feet and more.  And he was her beloved father’s favorite comedian.  As she watched the coverage and absorbed his loss to not only the world, but to his clan of intimates, wives and children, she related the loss to that of her own family when her father died from suicide. It might have been so much fun for Robin Williams’ children to have him for a father with his amazing antics, humor and warmth.  And she adored her own father for his witty charm and humor, his love of dancing and dedication to his family, his coaching and his church.

She was able to share how personal the loss of this gifted actor was to her family, and it brought back visceral memories of the shock and pain of her father’s unimaginable suicide.  The early work for grieving adolescents in the LOSS program is to acknowledge the permanency of the loss, recognize the nature of the death and to begin to retrieve balanced memories of the person who died.  But the deeper work of making sense, or meaning, of the loss is achieved inch by inch, over time in private contemplation and interaction with family and the world.  Interpretation of the death is only gradually constructed through exploration of everything that rises to the conscious mind of the bereaved person who is searching to understand an unexplainable loss.  So often, suicide doesn’t fit the way in which the deceased loved one was known:  loving and loved by family, a sense of humor, a stable presence.  Even after grasping that the deceased loved one experienced depression or anxiety, it still doesn’t make sense to the grieving person for him or her to leave one’s family behind in sorrow.  Wouldn’t love appear to defy the pain of mental illness?

When a young survivor’s eyes are turned toward the suicide loss of a beloved public figure who left behind a grieving family, similar in ways to so many survivors’ families, comparisons are likely to be made.  The suicides are seen as tragic because they occurred in the midst of loved ones where there appeared to be so much to live for.   It is this very juxtaposition that is the stuff of sense making, and it can be noticed and considered even at a tender age.  After a suicide loss the survivors may take guarded steps forward, but their antennas are raised for encounters with signs, reminders, truths and ignorance related to their experience.  After Williams’ death there were many waves of comment in the media, and many LOSS members resonated to the news.  For the young girl who inspired this article, the moment was held and contemplated with empathy.   Robin Williams’ death “softened” the mystery of her father’s suicide because he, too, was known for his love, his fun and affection for others.  It became apparent to her that suicide can happen in the lives of even the most loved individuals.  Her adolescent heart seemed to accept, at least momentarily, the paradox expressed by the convergence of love and suicidal action in a vital person with rapidly advancing Major Depression and Anxiety.  She conveyed her perception that her father’s suicide might look like abandonment, but actually be something much more complex.  She reached deeply into knowing that their love was real and the relationship was a treasure.  It became reasonable for her to accept that both her father and Robin Williams, who shared and lived life happily with loved ones, would not have had the intention to hurt or abandon them when a suicidal state closed in.  She had found one little piece of something that made sense to her.

While this wise young person’s actual words were kept confidential, her ability to experience and convey her insight was a strong testimony to her enduring love and relationship with her father.  She showed how grief may light on a transitory opportunity for exploration to reveal a point that is true for the grieving person.   She is unique, but not unlike every other dedicated griever who searches to find ephemeral flashes of significance that might calm the vast confusion created by suicide loss.  On the course of the grief journey a meaning making moment arose during her time, and she grasped it, as one captures one of thousands of fireflies.