I can still see you

ATT00034If I were to have a gravestone, preferably under a beautiful tree that flowers or, at least near a Chinese restaurant, I would want the gravestone to be etched with these words: I CAN STILL SEE YOU.

Of course, this makes me laugh. It has for days as I have been entertaining myself with this very thought. My overactive imagination conjures up this scene where you visit me at my gravesite and I see you and envision that we converse energetically. At first, you are surprised and somewhat dumbfounded, but I know so much about our history that ultimately you are convinced that a) this is real or b) you are having a lucid dream or c) you are playing make-believe and it’s kind of fun.

You see, I believe that our souls are eternal and our bodies are a bit like complicated robes that we shed upon death. The brain goes dark, but the consciousness lives.

For the past few weeks I have being seeing faces again. Yes, again. When I started writing Making Peace with Suicide, I would see faces in the leaves of a tree outside my window, on the tiles of my shower, and framed in groups on my carpet. Most recently, I have had visitors around my bed in the middle of the night. My feeling is that they are looking for relief by way of connection or, possibly, understanding.

When I ask what they want, I hear, “We want to be heard.” Ok, let’s proceed. This is the gist and sense of what I have heard:

• Some loved ones who have died by suicide have expressed regret that they left such heartache and turmoil. They did not want to cause you pain; they simply wanted to end their pain.

• For some of the younger ones who have left by suicide, there is surprise and, even, regret that they are no longer here on earth. Their choice was impulsive and, often, influenced by drugs and alcohol.

• There are some who are wildly relieved to be off this mortal coil. They were ready to go. They feel complete and satisfied with nary a doubt or regret.

• And there are some who orchestrated (on a soul level) their passing and they are doing huge works of service on our behalf from the Other Side.

Our souls have unique contracts and trajectories of growth and development. Life – and death – are not always what they seem at first glance.

So, imagine, if you will, that your deceased loved one can still see you and be there with you. And imagine that your loved one is holding you close as you take your next steps on your healing path.

It’s a lovely thought, isn’t it? And, some of us, believe that it is true.

In defense of hope

I love research professor and scholar Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, for all of her important and excellent work around vulnerability, shame, and perfectionism. She is smart, funny, a great presenter (check out her TED talks) and a fellow Texan, but this small quote, attributed to Brown, bugs me:

“Hope is a function of struggle.”
~Brené Brown

That sounds so negative. Maybe there is more to this, but these words seem like they are saying if we are hopeful, then we are engaged in struggling. Really?

Ok, I get a smidgeon of what Brown might be saying, such as, when we are in the midst of struggle we hope for something better, different, new. We pin our hopes on something else; we pine for relief or a solution. And the hope itself, perhaps, becomes entwined and a part of the struggle.

Yet, Brown’s six words are snatching away a runway that gives people possibility. Hope, to me, is beyond struggle. Hope is an anchor that keeps our feet on the ground so we can take the next step. Hope allows us to feel possible and open to something new. Hope is the flame of a candle in a dark room.

Hope is the antithesis of struggle. Hope keeps our spirits up and our heart open. Hope can be comfort on a dark, scary night. Hope can be a higher-altitude way of dealing with difficulty and disaster. Hope offers potential and promise. When we are beyond tired, feeling beaten down, and the next step seems unfathomable, hope is the juice in our engine that keeps us chugging forward.

In my work with my psychotherapy clients and most especially, suicidal clients, hope is my healing ally. Hope opens a door to a bigger perspective. Hope reminds us that nothing is constant and change is possible.

The mere idea of hope, gives me hope. Hope releases the bindings of struggle. Hope says, “Heads up. Stay awake. There’s something around the corner.” Hope reminds us to trust and have faith and that Mystery is part and parcel of our human lives.

In contrast to Brené Brown, my words are, “Hope leads the way out of struggle.”