I write about survival, connection, and hope. That can cover a lot of territory. As a writer and a survivor who lost a loved one to suicide, there are certain things from the creative part of my life that can help me survive, reconnect, and keep hoping. One of the most important is the ability to travel in the territory of the mind. I’m not talking about research here. That has its place, too. This is something else. Call it escapism. Writers and readers do it all the time. The connotations can be either negative or positive. I’m talking about the positive kind. Escapism helps sometimes as long as you don’t make your life revolve around it. Writers can’t write without it. Since I have been a writer from the age of six – literally – I can slip easily into and out of the world where my reality lives. Most people can do it instinctively though not all of them write about it. Some pursue other creative passions or volunteer. It might be part of life in other ways. Others never realize what it is that drives them in these moments.
After loss to suicide, the period of mourning is far longer than those who have not experienced that level of pain yet might think. On the long grief journey, escaping for a few moments to imagine a loved one coming home or to create brief scenarios in which the ongoing stressors of life – deep grief, financial and legal problems, relationship issues, health conditions, obligations, and thoughts of mortality – fade into the background for a brief time can be healing. The load lifts just enough to remind us that we are not our problems. We are not our grief. We are not our burdens. My sister sometimes calls that daydreaming. At other times, she calls it prayer. Whatever we call it, it is truly a time to listen, to connect with the greatest power in the universe, and to be revived. I guess you could call it an eternal filling station. As we must stop our cars for gasoline or other energy resources, so must we from time to time tune in to God.
Once that veil is lifted, strength returns. For a while, we can carry those burdens a bit better. We can hope. We can use tools to prioritize the work of living. And we can discern the difference between what is important and what is “fluff.” Fluff is like dust. We can view both as “the enemy” and limit our lives to what we can get done in a day. I’ve done that. The cost is too great. There is never an end to what needs to get done for most of us … a situation that can end up running and ruining our lives. A change in perspective can help us reconnect with something good, especially in the aftermath of suicide.
If you don’t believe this, take half a minute to watch the second hand on a clock. I would say take five minutes, but I know how busy you are. How we measure time is relevant to our perspectives (the seconds seem to move more slowly in the dentist’s chair but oh, so quickly through a lifetime if you are my age and looking back), but how we measure time seems also random. We are wired to crave knowledge, as if it would save us, so we mark off our calendars in tidy neat squares attuned to the stars and some very real science without realizing that our lives are not really within our control. It is that misconception that haunts us after great loss. Changed forever, we seek to understand. The loop of thoughts that can’t quite reach a satisfactory conclusion tells us that we or someone/something else was responsible simply because no other explanation makes sense. It is easier to keep the grindstone of grief turning than it is to accept irrational thought. We think rationally most of the time, even as mourners whose minds are clouded and flooded with so many different emotions and thoughts, but death from suicide is outside our reasoning.
Once I accepted I would not be able to follow what happened in my life to a logical end that could in any way make my husband’s suicide make sense, I gave up trying to control my situation. I found peace in faith. The God of the Universe is something I can’t fully understand either, but the One who made us tells us through 1 Corinthians 13: 12, “For now, we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am also known.” (King James Version)
Over the last years, I have heard voices of the strongest women … an industrial health and safety consultant who loves the cold of Canada and works quite well in a man’s harsh world … a life coach/hypnotist/Reiki Master awash in the love of life beside a lake … a painter whose paintings look like stained glass … a mom who takes and gives the sweetest comfort with her cups of tea … an iron warrior who believes strength can come from doing what has to be done … a climber of mountains who conquers internal and external landscapes and produces the most lifelike art … a few tiger women who keep going and helping others even when their hearts are breaking … an intrepid dreamer whose goal is to change the landscape for survivors of suicide loss worldwide … and so many more.
Men, too, and people who stagger toward me, bearing invisible wounds, and put on their coats every morning to carry on the business of work while they carry their own private pain. Their strength can astound me, and their healing takes them to places they never – like me – thought they would go. These men and women speak out against undeserved stigma and shame that still linger around deaths by suicide. They talk about mental health and behavioral/mood disorders. They understand that not all suicides are caused by these little understood conditions, by arguments or by addictions, medications or any other circumstance. And they are trying to help not only the culture of surviving suicide but also anyone who may need the information, from first responders and law enforcement officers to those who are feeling suicidal themselves.
Suicide has devastating consequences. Sometimes those who are left behind find themselves facing the feeling that they can’t go on without their loved ones. Aftercare, like suicide prevention efforts, is important. Resources for both are listed on the Resources page of this website. I believe we are all connected, and we all can make a difference. When one of us plucks the invisible strings that join us, the ripples of energy travel to all of us. This includes, somehow, the ones who have left us to join the long gone worlds of times past and the many who mix, unfettered, there. I believe they did not want to leave us and that God understood the pain they were in and healed their minds and bodies, even if it was in His eternal home instead of ours.
“Therefore, no condemnation exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8: 1-2, Holman Christian Standard Bible)