Too often suicide is met with judgment, criticism, shame, and taboo. Suicide is the result of a confluence of stressors, circumstances, and experiences. It is an individual response to pain of every shape, size, and dimension. Suicide leaves a rippling wake of shock, horror, and grief. Isn’t it time we pull suicide out of the shadows and meet it with compassion?
It is hard, exhausting, and excruciating work to make sense of the un-sensible and to unpack and repack a life that you have held with such love and affection. You will need time and space to work through all the layers of feelings as you remember and revisit all that you experienced and shared with the one you lost.
Loss requires time, time to accept the unacceptable and time to feel the undulations and reverberations of your loss. There is no time limit—grief takes as long as it takes. Grief opens you up in ways you never thought possible. Unexpectedly, you will find yourself remembering other losses in your life as well. Grief builds upon grief; like pearls strung on a necklace, every loss becomes connected close to your heart.
Trauma is also a cumulative experience. We hold traumatic events in our cellular memories. They are not forgotten. And like grief, a new trauma can trigger feelings from a prior trauma. This is important to consider, as suicide is both a traumatic and grief-filled experience. The double whammy of grief and trauma can sometimes be so overwhelming that it is hard for you to stand or eat or sleep or even make simple conversation. Dealing with a suicidal loss requires extreme gentleness as you wade through the minefields of emotional residue.
Understand that grief can be crazy-making. Your world is upside down and nothing makes sense. You have lost the terra firma upon which you have grounded yourself. Now, everything is up in the air. There are no more givens or constants; everything seems like a variable. One ER nurse told a grieving mom, “Do not be surprised if you hear the voice of your daughter. It is not abnormal to hear voices of the deceased, especially at the beginning.”
There is no one way to grieve and deal with loss. It is such a difficult process of both accepting the unacceptable and letting go of your most cherished. It takes time to deal with the layers and work your way back to solid ground.
Be gentle and take precious care. You are not alone.
This year, I have been talking about the interface of suicide, addiction and trauma. You can image my surprise and delight when those wonderful folks at Step 12 Magazine wrote a swell 4-star review of my book, Making Peace with Suicide: A Book of Hope, Understanding and Comfort. Thank you, Step 12 Magazine! I am over the moon and so grateful for both the good words and bringing this important topic forward.
Author Adele R. McDowell combines practical guidance with spirituality and a deep understanding of pain and grief, and trauma and its impact.
Adele has packed every aspect of losing a loved one to suicide into a single insightful, meaningful edition which should be read again and again.
Personal accounts of those who have attempted suicide, sometimes multiple times, from people who have leaned over the edge of the abyss but didn’t jump, show us how moving away from suicidal tendencies requires conscious choice and deliberate action.
Adele helps readers understand the complex factors involved when people choose to take their own lives, making it abundantly clear that society needs to find better ways to talk about and understand why people become so desperate to escape that they choose to end their own lives.
PS Click the Step 12 Magazine cover for more information on their wonderful publication.