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Featured this Month:

From the Desk of Jessica Mead
Friday, April 01, 2016 by Jessica Mead
“We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.” –Dalai Lama – 

It’s because of these meaningful and intimate connections that we grieve so deeply when someone dies by suicide. Someone that can bring us so much joy can cause us such pain, and ultimately our bonds and intimate relationships, are what will heal and comfort us. 

After losing someone it’s normal to worry about the safety of others and we often find ourselves thinking more about death in general. Many have never had to face such a devastating loss or more specifically deal with suicide loss (which can feel so different). When I lost my dad I hated that I thought about the possibility of other people dying. I liked my previously blissful state of ignorance to issues of mortality. Even 10 years after the death of my dad, when the thought of someone else I love dying or taking their life comes into my mind, it can feel like an intrusive and intolerable thought. I often find myself physically shaking my head to get it out of my mind. Many of us may tread lightly when entering into new relationships and find it easier to live in isolation than to risk loving someone so deeply and then risk the possibility of losing them. I often think about how the more I love the more at risk I am for loss. I am constantly reminding myself that pain and joy, love and sorrow come hand in hand, and to have joy and love you must be willing to risk pain and sorrow. 

What makes suicide loss complicated is that grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide often feels very lonely. It can feel lonely because many don’t want to talk about it for fear of being stigmatized, and others may feel like they have to defend the character of the person who died. Many survivors feel like people do not respond appropriately or that they just “don’t get it.” Grieving can be a fairly self-centered process because the pain can be so consuming that one has little space for anything else. Many survivors state that it can take all of our being just to survive in the moment. One may be able to go to work or to run a small errand but hearing someone talk about their bad day or helping with a child’s homework can sometimes seem intolerable. Other survivors may find themselves getting angry when hearing about someone else’s insignificant work issue or complaint about a living partner or child. With this amount of pain it’s hard to empathize with other people or think that their issues even matter comparatively.  Sometimes I hear LOSS members in our groups speak about avoiding certain people and situations because they just don’t have the mental space to cope with other people’s “small problems.” Grief can be a lonely place. Many LOSS members have wonderful patient friends and family who are able to weather the storm but others do not. In my five years with the LOSS program I have learned that the people who are able to transform and heal after such a tragedy are people who feel connected and have support from others. 

From the moment we are born we are connected to another human being. As infants we survive and thrive as a result of that attachment. As we develop we are constantly forming new relationships and creating our identity based on how these relationships make us feel. Being connected to other people and living things is what makes us human. What we know about grief and healing from any tragedy is that other people are vital to our healing. We need others to support us psychologically, emotionally and physically when we do not have the space to do these things for ourselves. It’s through these connections that we are going to laugh for the first time after the loss and through these connections we can begin to repair and renew our broken selves. Feeling connected is not just about having supportive friends and family; it can be about feeling connected to other living things like a beloved animal or nature, feeling attached to a certain author or blog writer, or having a sense of community and being part of something bigger. LOSS can provide survivors with a sense of community. I often hear the phrase “I am now part of the club that no one ever wants to join.” Many times survivors talk about the powerful feeling of just walking into the room of one of our support groups. This powerful feeling of connectedness can be bigger than words or hugs; people just know that they are amongst understanding and empathic people. Even the Obelisk provides a sense of connectedness and community to survivors in Chicago and all over the country. Hundreds of other survivors can be validated through the same story or article. Just knowing that another person has gone through something similar can be comforting. On April 24, 2016 LOSS will host its 25th annual BLOSSoms of Hope fundraiser. Words cannot describe the intense feeling of walking into the huge ballroom with 1000 other survivors, people all there to commemorate and celebrate their loved ones who died and to celebrate the renewed hope in their own lives. 

I hope that in those moments when you find yourself feeling isolated that you can reach out to an old friend or family member, a therapist, or the LOSS program.   Taking this step of actively seeking out another person can be a turning point in your grief. If you are not able to do any of these things know that as you read this issue of the Obelisk there are hundreds of other survivors who are already bonding with you in this very moment.


Archives:

From the Desk of Jessica Mead
Friday, April 01, 2016 by Jessica Mead
“We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.” –Dalai Lama – 

It’s because of these meaningful and intimate connections that we grieve so deeply when someone dies by suicide. Someone that can bring us so much joy can cause us such pain, and ultimately our bonds and intimate relationships, are what will heal and comfort us. 

After losing someone it’s normal to worry about the safety of others and we often find ourselves thinking more about death in general. Many have never had to face such a devastating loss or more specifically deal with suicide loss (which can feel so different). When I lost my dad I hated that I thought about the possibility of other people dying. I liked my previously blissful state of ignorance to issues of mortality. Even 10 years after the death of my dad, when the thought of someone else I love dying or taking their life comes into my mind, it can feel like an intrusive and intolerable thought. I often find myself physically shaking my head to get it out of my mind. Many of us may tread lightly when entering into new relationships and find it easier to live in isolation than to risk loving someone so deeply and then risk the possibility of losing them. I often think about how the more I love the more at risk I am for loss. I am constantly reminding myself that pain and joy, love and sorrow come hand in hand, and to have joy and love you must be willing to risk pain and sorrow. 

What makes suicide loss complicated is that grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide often feels very lonely. It can feel lonely because many don’t want to talk about it for fear of being stigmatized, and others may feel like they have to defend the character of the person who died. Many survivors feel like people do not respond appropriately or that they just “don’t get it.” Grieving can be a fairly self-centered process because the pain can be so consuming that one has little space for anything else. Many survivors state that it can take all of our being just to survive in the moment. One may be able to go to work or to run a small errand but hearing someone talk about their bad day or helping with a child’s homework can sometimes seem intolerable. Other survivors may find themselves getting angry when hearing about someone else’s insignificant work issue or complaint about a living partner or child. With this amount of pain it’s hard to empathize with other people or think that their issues even matter comparatively.  Sometimes I hear LOSS members in our groups speak about avoiding certain people and situations because they just don’t have the mental space to cope with other people’s “small problems.” Grief can be a lonely place. Many LOSS members have wonderful patient friends and family who are able to weather the storm but others do not. In my five years with the LOSS program I have learned that the people who are able to transform and heal after such a tragedy are people who feel connected and have support from others. 

From the moment we are born we are connected to another human being. As infants we survive and thrive as a result of that attachment. As we develop we are constantly forming new relationships and creating our identity based on how these relationships make us feel. Being connected to other people and living things is what makes us human. What we know about grief and healing from any tragedy is that other people are vital to our healing. We need others to support us psychologically, emotionally and physically when we do not have the space to do these things for ourselves. It’s through these connections that we are going to laugh for the first time after the loss and through these connections we can begin to repair and renew our broken selves. Feeling connected is not just about having supportive friends and family; it can be about feeling connected to other living things like a beloved animal or nature, feeling attached to a certain author or blog writer, or having a sense of community and being part of something bigger. LOSS can provide survivors with a sense of community. I often hear the phrase “I am now part of the club that no one ever wants to join.” Many times survivors talk about the powerful feeling of just walking into the room of one of our support groups. This powerful feeling of connectedness can be bigger than words or hugs; people just know that they are amongst understanding and empathic people. Even the Obelisk provides a sense of connectedness and community to survivors in Chicago and all over the country. Hundreds of other survivors can be validated through the same story or article. Just knowing that another person has gone through something similar can be comforting. On April 24, 2016 LOSS will host its 25th annual BLOSSoms of Hope fundraiser. Words cannot describe the intense feeling of walking into the huge ballroom with 1000 other survivors, people all there to commemorate and celebrate their loved ones who died and to celebrate the renewed hope in their own lives. 

I hope that in those moments when you find yourself feeling isolated that you can reach out to an old friend or family member, a therapist, or the LOSS program.   Taking this step of actively seeking out another person can be a turning point in your grief. If you are not able to do any of these things know that as you read this issue of the Obelisk there are hundreds of other survivors who are already bonding with you in this very moment.