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Thoughts on Halloween

During the month of October, America celebrates Halloween, the second most decorative event in our country after Christmas. It is amazing to see all the decorations around houses and surrounding areas. People are going all out. When I think of Halloween, I think of masks and I also think about how flippantly people depict death.

When I think of masks, I think of the masks that people put on in masking their real, desperate feelings. Over the years, I have heard it said countless times that the person who completed suicide gave no real signs they were contemplating wanting to end their life. They hid this fact from everyone.

One would think that someone thinking about taking their life would give off some sign or message, but people in this desperate state often don’t give off signals. Why? It could be that they do not want to be stopped and fear if they shared what was going through their minds, their plans would be thwarted. People contemplating suicide have lost faith in medical intervention and counseling, thinking it would be futile.

Another reason people might not share their innermost thoughts is that they are too embarrassed or ashamed of having such thoughts. They are fully aware of the stigma attached to mental illness. Yet mental illness is an illness like any other illness, and there should be no shame attached to this illness. Mental illness attacks a different part of the person. Instead of attacking the heart, or some other vital organ, mental illness attacks the mind and the brain and the soul.

When I think of masks, I also think of the masks that survivors wear to hide their grieving process. My suggestion is that survivors be honest when asked how they are doing. Survivors don’t have to give every detail about the grief journey nor should they give the impression that everything is fine. One can admit the grief journey is painful without unloading every detail.

Still another aspect of Halloween is the flippant approach to death. There is nothing flippant about death. Survivors can become quite upset when they see dummies hanging from trees or other parts of a neighborhood. If some scene is particularly upsetting to a survivor, a gentle reminder to a neighbor could be warranted. My suggestion is that when the scene can be removed or altered, survivors should take the initiative and express their feelings. People are generally very sensitive to the situation and will either remove or alter the scene. Survivors do not have to suffer in silence.

Survivors look at the world through very different eyes. Halloween decorations may trigger painful memories, especially in the early years after the loss. With time, as survivors incorporate the loss into their psyche, sensitivity to graphic decorations tends to lessen.  

As we head into fall events and the holiday season, my thoughts and prayers are with all survivors.

The Possibility of Life after Death

The event that opened my eyes to the possibility of life after death was something that happened about four years after my son left this world. It was late summer, and I was on my way to work. It was foggy that morning. The visibility was only about 20 feet, and I was traveling on a country road. I was nervous but not terrified. I was more afraid of a deer jumping out of the fog than anything else. Unfortunately, that was not the case for the driver of the pick-up truck that came barreling out of the fog – on my side of the road, driving way too fast for the weather conditions.

I had a split second to decide to move off the road and take my chance that the ditch wasn’t as deep as it looked, or let the other driver hit me head-on. I chose the ditch, and it was even deeper than I thought. I remember looking out the side window – seeing only grass and mud in the bottom of the ditch – thinking “I’m going to roll over,” and praying for help. Then I heard my son’s voice say, “Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll help you.”

A feeling of utter peace came over me and the next thing I knew I was back on the road and stopped. I got out of my car, knees shaking so badly I could hardly stand, and walked around it to see how much damage had been done. I was amazed. Not a scratch! In fact, it didn’t look like it had ever been off the road. I remember getting back into the car, thanking Josh for helping me, and thanking God for answering my prayer for help. I still had about 20 miles to go to get to work, and the rest of the drive was uneventful. Or at least, I guess it was. I don’t remember it.

When I got to work and parked, one of my co-workers came over and asked me what had happened. I told him about my accident but couldn’t help but wonder how he knew something had happened. He pointed out that both my front tires were completely flat! Not only did my son keep me from being injured, he helped me get my car to where I could get the tires fixed.

This was a major turning point for me. I began reading everything I could find about life after death because, in that moment of panic, I became a believer. Could it have been my imagination? Feel free to believe that if you wish … but I know better.

Our loved ones watch over us and know when we need them the most.

Finding Strength in Uncertain Times

Last week, I stopped reading the news and began to seek ways to calm and center myself. I suspect I am not alone in doing this. Things had become too scary. Too sad. Too out of control.

You may have similar feelings. Members of our forum tell me they are worried about the safety of their families and friends, their jobs, and the economy. Reports of infection and the mounting death rate seem surreal – like something we would see in a disaster movie – but certainly not in real life.

People everywhere, are dealing with issues resulting from COVID-19. Some have lost jobs and wonder how they will pay the rent or buy groceries. Some have had to forgo important medical treatments and worry about that. Some are homeless, unable to shelter in place. Some are separated from loved ones. And still others go out in the world every day to provide care – returning each night, hoping not to infect their families.

Suicide loss survivors in the Alliance of Hope community are reaching for strength right now. Many – especially those newer to loss – were already stressed, traumatized and grieving. Many have lost access to in-person support and counseling.

I along with all of you have been searching for ways to cope, steady myself, and serve in ways that comfort and empower. It was only today, when I looked back at other challenging times in my life, that I saw a way through for myself. I will share it with you and please know, I invite your insights and want to know how you are making it through.

I Am Counting Angels.

I am counting those who come forward in kindness, with love, and generosity. Those who offer to help or who extend a kind word or deed. I am focusing on how extraordinary human beings can be.

The first and only other time I have done this was 18 years ago when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I wrote about it at the time – it is very personal to me, but I am glad to share it with you now:

“As I look back now, on my mother’s illness, I have realized that it was less than four weeks from the time she was officially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer until the time of her death. 

“My mother knew that her cancer was terminal. She received hospice services at the end of her life. Those last four weeks were both the worst of times and the best of times. They were the worst of times in that we bore witness to a cancer that robbed her of her strength and independence and eventually took her life. They were the best of times in that we bore witness and were able to participate in an extraordinary outpouring of love and kindness … from family, friends, neighbors, caregivers, and strangers. We sometimes said that we were ‘counting the angels landing around my mother,’ because that is how it felt.

“During those final weeks, my mother received many messages of love and acknowledgment from across the country as cards, phone calls, and unexpected visitors arrived daily. My mother was weak … too weak usually to visit or return a call … but my daughters and I told her of every message and read her every card. We told her of all the friends who were reminiscing about her good deeds to us. We told her about all the people who said that she had made a difference in their lives. We told her of the family members who called daily, who wanted to fly in to be with her, who offered money for her care if it was needed. And we told her how much we loved her.

“My mother was humble and surprised by ‘the fuss.’ I explained to her several times that the outpouring reflected the love that people had for her kindness and compassion. It reflected an appreciation for her life of service to others … and for her wisdom. She didn’t say much. She was weak. But do I believe that by the time she died, she realized how fully she was loved.”

Counting angels got me though that time of incredible loss. This too is a time of incredible loss and uncertainty, yet it is also a time in which the best of human beings is visible – if we look. I am going to focus on that. I can’t go far outside, but I can go deep within myself. I can seek to strengthen my own connection to the eternal and my ability to remain kind in difficult situations.

So, this is what I am doing. I hope you will share with me what you are doing, by leaving a comment on this post. Together, as a community born of loss and anchored in kindness, we are stronger.

Meeting the Challenge Together in the Spirit of Compassion

I see the media as an institution that often thrives on creating fear. What sells newspapers? Bad news!! When was the last time you have watched the news or read a paper that was mostly about feel-good stories?

For this reason, I listen to the media with half an ear only. And I’ve long-gone learned to not be so much invested in the world and its beliefs. There are a whole lot of other things that we should be worried about but are never spoken of. This is the circle of life and we don’t have a whole lot of control over it.

Hopefully, these headlines will ease within a couple of months or so. In the meantime, take care of yourself, do what you need to do to be healthy, focus on the good because focusing on the fear will make you more inclined to get sick too.

I’d like to share with you something I read on Facebook this morning by Abdu Sharkawy. He wrote:

“I’m a doctor and an Infectious Diseases Specialist. I’ve been at this for more than 20 years seeing sick patients on a daily basis. I have worked in inner city hospitals and in the poorest slums of Africa. HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis, SARS, Measles, Shingles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria – there is little I haven’t been exposed to in my profession. And with notable exception of SARS, very little has left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or downright scared.

“I am not scared of COVID-19. I am concerned about the implications of a novel infectious agent that has spread the world over and continues to find new footholds in different soil. I am rightly concerned for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised who stand to suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge. But I am not scared of COVID-19.

“What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world. I am scared of the N95 masks that are stolen from hospitals and urgent care clinics where they are actually needed for front line healthcare providers and instead are being donned in airports, malls, and coffee lounges, perpetuating even more fear and suspicion of others. I am scared that our hospitals will be overwhelmed with anyone who thinks they “probably don’t have it but may as well get checked out no matter what because you just never know…” and those with heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia and strokes will pay the price for overfilled ER waiting rooms with only so many doctors and nurses to assess.

“But mostly, I’m scared about what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, open-mindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested.

“COVID-19 is nowhere near over. It will be coming to a city, a hospital, a friend, even a family member near you at some point. Expect it. Stop waiting to be surprised further. The fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives. But our own behaviors and “fight for yourself above all else” attitude could prove disastrous.

“I implore you all. Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education. We have an opportunity to learn a great deal about health hygiene and limiting the spread of innumerable transmissible diseases in our society. Let’s meet this challenge together in the best spirit of compassion for others, patience, and above all, an unfailing effort to seek truth, facts and knowledge as opposed to conjecture, speculation and catastrophizing.

“Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts.”

About the Author

From Our Forum

From Our Forum

The Alliance of Hope online forum transcends time and distance, offering a culture of kindness, hope, and understanding to people who have lost loved ones to suicide. Operating like a 24/7 support group, our forum is supervised by a mental health professional and moderated by a trained team of loss survivors. Members can read and comment, share their stories, and connect with other suicide loss survivors.Read More »

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The Mystery of God

During the month of April, two of the prophetic religions celebrate important feasts of their religious beliefs. Jewish people celebrate Passover. For the last couple of years, I have been invited to Passover and was able to participate in the meal, as well as in the ritual of the Seder. For me, it is a very prayerful experience. Christians celebrate the Feast of Easter which is the major Feast of the liturgical year. Christians celebrate the triumph of Jesus over His Death when we remember that He was raised from the dead. These two feasts delve into the mystery of God in God’s interaction with humans.

Over the years, God has become very mysterious to me. I attribute this perception to two things in my life. The first aspect is the aging process. I think that as we grow older God becomes very mysterious. We wonder about the happenings in our world and we seek answers as to why certain events take place in the world such as war, poverty, starvation, mental illness, and suicide.

The second event that has impacted my faith in God has been my work with people whose lives have been impacted by suicide. This ministry has had a profound impact on me. My faith in God has grown immensely. It has become so profound that I cannot put it in words. My belief in God has been enriched by the pain and healing that I have witnessed in the lives of suicide loss survivors. That might sound strange but it is true. Obviously, I don’t relish the pain that is part of the grieving process, but as I have journeyed with survivors my belief in God has grown exponentially. As I said before, words can never quite capture just how this has occurred but it has occurred.

One of the great theologians of the twentieth century refers to God as “Holy Mystery.” … No one can ever quite grasp God. God is incomprehensible. … Our minds are too finite and small to absorb the concept of God. As often as we try to understand, the effort fails because God is too much for us to absorb or get our arms around.

I remember a conversation I had with a father who asked why God would allow his son to take his life. The man was very religious and had a deep faith in God. His question is one that I have heard countless of times over these past 35 years. I have pondered this question myself as I have witnessed the devastation that a suicide has on an individual and a family. Over the years I have concluded that this is part of the mystery and that is what I shared with this father as he struggled with the various feelings that are part of the journey of grief.

For me, these are not just words that God is a mystery. I have come to believe in these words. Does that make faith easy? Absolutely not. Faith is not an easy activity — and faith is not going to make the grief journey an easy endeavor. It does add a dimension but it can never take the place or become a substitute for the grief journey. Faith can be a companion for those people who are on the journey of grief but it can never take the place of resolving the various feelings that are a part of the journey.

Sometimes a person’s faith is diminished or destroyed by a loss. Obviously, faith is not going to play a big part of this person’s journey nor is faith going to play a part in the grief journey of someone who has never had faith or who lost faith somewhere along the way. Does that mean that people without faith are going to struggle forever with their grief? Absolutely not. People without faith can and do resolve the pain of grief but in a somewhat different fashion. No one is without any hope of finding relief. This journey is long and arduous but it can be completed and have a happy ending – different but happy.

Some people get angry with God as the result of losing a loved one from suicide. This can be a normal reaction, especially for someone who believes that God has a part to play in all of the happenings of the world. Personally, I don’t believe that God plays a role in every happening of our world. My belief is that God does not control nor direct all of the events in our individual lives and in the world, yet at the same time, God journeys with us throughout our lives. Why do awful events happen in our world? I don’t have an answer to that question but I don’t blame God for all the bad in our world. Why does God allow such horrible things to occur in our world? That is all part of the mystery of God. God is the great mystery of our universe and I can honestly say that I am immensely intrigued by God and look forward to being engulfed by God in the hereafter.

As always, I want to assure each and every one of the members of the LOSS family of my thoughts and prayers during my quiet time and I encourage each and every one of the LOSS family to do the same for each other – especially for those who have recently joined our family.

Keep On Keepin’ On,

Fr. Charles Rubey

The Healing of Sorrow – When Someone Takes Their Own Life

In many ways, this seems the most tragic form of death. Certainly it can entail more shock and grief for those who are left behind than any other. And often the stigma of suicide is what rests most heavily on those left behind. Suicide is often judged to be a selfish act. Perhaps it is. But the Bible warns us not to judge … I believe this is one area where that Biblical command especially should be heeded.

I think our reaction should be one of love and pity, not of condemnation. Perhaps the person was not thinking clearly in his final moments; perhaps he was so driven by emotional whirlwinds that he was incapable of thinking at all. This is terribly sad, but surely it is understandable. All of us have moments when we lost control of ourselves, flashes of temper or irritation, of selfishness that we later regret. Each one of us, probably, has a final breaking point–or would have if our faith did not sustain us. Life puts more pressure on some of us than it does on others. Some people have more stamina than others. When I see in the paper … that dark despair has rolled over some lonely soul, so much so that for him life seemed unendurable, my reaction is not one of condemnation.

It is, rather, “There but for the grace of God…” and my heart goes out to those who are left behind because I know they suffer terribly. Children in particular are left under a cloud of “differentness” all the more terrifying because it can never be fully explained or lifted. The immediate family of the victim is left wide open to tidal waves of guilt. “What did I fail to do that I should have done? What did I do that was wrong?”

To such grieving persons I can only say, “Lift up your heads and hearts. Surely you did your best. And surely the loved one who is gone did his best, for as long as he could. Remember, now, that his battles and torments are over. Do not judge him, and do not presume to fathom the mind of God where this one of His children is concerned.”

A few days ago, when a young man died by his own had, a service for him was conducted by his pastor, the Rev. Warren Stevens. What he said that day expresses, far more eloquently than I can the message I’m trying to convey. Here are some of his words:

“Our friend died on his own battlefield. He was killed in action fighting a civil war. He fought against adversaries that were as real to him as his casket is real to us. They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of his energies and endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of his courage and strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed him. And it appeared that he lost the war. But did he? I see a host of victories that he has won!

For one thing — he has won our admiration — because even if he lost the war, we give him credit for his bravery on the battlefield. And we give him credit for the courage and pride and hope that he used as his weapons as long as he could. We shall remember not his death, but his daily victories gained through his kindnesses and thoughtfulness, through his love for family and friends, for animals and books and music, for all things beautiful, lovely and honorable. We shall remember the many days that he was victorious over overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought he had left, but the intensity with which he lived the years he had!

Only God knows what this child of His suffered in the silent skirmishes that took place in his soul. But our consolation is that God does know and understands!”

His Essence Is Still With Me

I find myself posting quite often that I “lost” my son to suicide. I also find myself posting often about my firm belief that Tandi is with me. I’ve been wrestling for a while with the idea that those two seem to be mutually exclusive.

Did I lose my son or is he with me? It seemed to me that both couldn’t be true – that either one or the other must be true, but not both.

As I’ve struggled with this seeming inconsistency, I have begun to realize that both are indeed true. I lost Tandi in the sense that his physical presence is no longer with me. But his physical presence, his body if you will, doesn’t describe the essence of who he is.

If I were to describe him, I could describe him physical: 5’3″, brown skin, dark hair, dark eyes, athlete, hunter, skier, etc. I could easily come up with an accurate description of who he was physically, and we have a ga-jillion pictures as proof of that description. But I’d be describing who he was, not who he is.

I could also describe him as the essence of who he is: loving, great sense of humor, kind and gentle, a peacemaker with friends and family, etc. Who he was is indeed “lost” to me. But who he is – the essence of him – his personality, his spirit, his soul – is not lost. Who he is constitutes the intangibles that make him Tandi, whose things I can’t physically touch and feel but are clearly there.

As hard as it is to accept and find peace with losing who Tandi was, I’m thankful that I will never, ever lose who he is. May each member here never lose the essence of who your loved one is.

About the Author

From Our Forum

From Our Forum

The Alliance of Hope online forum transcends time and distance, offering a culture of kindness, hope, and understanding to people who have lost loved ones to suicide. Operating like a 24/7 support group, our forum is supervised by a mental health professional and moderated by a trained team of loss survivors. Members can read and comment, share their stories, and connect with other suicide loss survivors.Read More »

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Remembering Loved Ones During the Holidays

As long as there are rituals these loved ones will always be a part of our families and part of a family system. They are gone but not forgotten.

As we enter the month of November, we begin the holiday season. For grieving people, this is a very painful time of year because a loved one has died. When a loved one has died from suicide the family system has been permanently altered by a seemingly senseless act that with the proper intervention might have been prevented.

I am a firm believer that families that grieve together stand a better chance of coming to grips with the grief as compared to family members who go off and grieve on their own. With the holidays approaching, I suggest that families gather together and have some type of ritual to remember that loved one who found life so painful that they could no longer endure the pain of mental anguish. The ritual is a vehicle whereby a loved one can remain a part of a family, albeit in a different type of presence.

Their presence is more mystical than physical, but they are present all the same. They remain a part of a family system even though they have gone to the hereafter. They still have a name and are loved by the survivors and have been a part of a family so why shouldn’t they have a part in family festivities? Will there be tears as they are remembered? Probably yes. Tears are OK. Will these tears ruin the festivities for the rest of the participants? I hope not. The alternative is to fake it through and not mention this loved one’s name even though this name is on every person’s mind and this person is very much missed.

I suggest that families confront the issue head on and then get on with the festivities. Address the missing person directly and have some tears and then move on with the celebration. To avoid this loved one can lead to guilt and remorse that this cherished name and person was avoided and ignored. That is too high a price to pay along with the normal guilt and remorse that oftentimes accompanies a death from suicide.

Some family members might choose not to participate. That is OK. It might be too much for them to endure. They should not be penalized because they avoided the ritual. It is important to remember that people grieve differently.

Overall, I am a firm believer that as we remember our loved ones through rituals they continue to be a part of a family system. Remember that a tragedy worse than losing a loved one to suicide is if these loved ones were to be forgotten. As long as there are rituals these loved ones will always be a part of our families and part of a family system. They are gone but not forgotten.

It takes some creativity to get a ritual together. The ritual can be very simple as a toast before a meal and wishing this loved one peace and goodwill. The person’s picture can be displayed in a prominent place of honor. A candle can be lit in memory of this loved one. A song can be sung or played in memory of this person. A prayer can be offered or a scripture passage can be recited…. The important point is that these loved ones are remembered during these holiday times. Will the gatherings be ruined by such a ritual? I don’t think so. The first few holidays without this loved one take on a very different tone and are very painful. Every succeeding holiday is different because this loved one is missing. The ultimate goal is to be able to remember this loved one without going to pieces. This takes time and a lot of practice. The rituals help in the practice and allow family members to develop a comfort level with this missing person.”

Excerpted from:”From the desk of Father Rubey, Obelisk Newsletter, Nov 2005. Father Charles Rubey is the Founder and Director of the LOSS Program, The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

A Visitation Dream: My Dad or Just My Mind?

Normally my dreams are very traumatic as they show vivid replays of what might have happened on that fateful night three months ago when I lost my dad to suicide. Last night was different.

I have been struggling the past few days to the point that I got in touch with my bereavement support worker. She arranged to come and see me yesterday and the flood gates completely opened. I let so many things out that I have not spoken about to her yet and then at the end of the hour and a quarter, although tired I actually felt some relief.

Around 6:15 this morning I had a dream that I was back at my dad’s house in South Africa. It had been cleaned thoroughly and everything of Dad’s was back in its place. A few things were in a different place, but nevertheless it was all tidy and calm. As I was saying my final goodbyes (like I did on the final day I visited the house), my dad came through the door. I burst into tears and he just held me (just like he did when I last said goodbye to him at the airport after our final visit to see him). He kept saying ‘my little girl’ (as he did whenever I was upset) and kept holding me tightly.

Then my partner shouted to tell me people were coming in cars on to the farm. I came outside and it was police cars with lights flashing and the people who got out were shining flashlights towards us and the house. I walked onto the driveway and collapsed crying on the floor. I looked across back towards the house and the doorway. Dad was sitting in a chair by his outside table. He looked so relaxed and calm, not smiling but peaceful somehow.

My tears felt like they were then put on for the police as I knew dad was there–like it was his and my secret. I knew he was there, but no one else could see him. I woke up after that and began sobbing uncontrollably because it was so real. The comfort I felt when dad held me, made me feel safe–though I knew it was a dream because I kept saying to dad in my dream that it was. He gave me the ‘daddy hugs’ I have been longing for and I could feel how calm and peaceful he was.

Now I don’t know whether this was dad visiting me–to let me know he is at peace and give this broken heart and mind some comfort, or whether it was my own mind trying to put things into some kind of order. Either way, although I have felt extremely sad today, I do feel like I have mourned my dad and not just focused on what he did. I feel more peaceful. This gives me hope that my mind is working to protect me and not against me right now.

Survivor Experience: Twelve Seagulls

It was April and a little boy died. His spirit went to Heaven and from there he watched his mom. She was very sad.

The little boy thought and thought and then he had an idea. He went to brother seagull and asked him if he could borrow his seagull body to go fly and visit his mom. Brother seagull agreed and the little boy flew down, down, down and found his mom taking a walk.

He called to her “mom, mom!” But his mom didn’t recognize him. His voice was a seagull voice. She looked up, then went on her way. She was still very sad. The little boy kept coming back day after day calling “mom, mom!” and each time his mom looked up to the sky, saw a seagull and then went on.

After some time, the mom wondered why she kept seeing seagulls. She had never noticed them before. They were beautiful, their white wings against the sky. Their calls sounded very sad to her. As sad as she felt. Seeing the seagulls made her feel a little better though. She felt comforted.

The mom thought of her little boy each time she saw one, so one day the mom said “God-if a seagull is the spirit of my little boy let me see a dozen of them! Then I will believe.” God went to the little boy and told him what his mom had asked for. The little boy again asked brother seagull if he could borrow his seagull body and if eleven of his brothers could go with him to visit his mom.

They all agreed and the next day when his mom took her walk they flew down and said hello. They circled above her and the little boy called “mom, mom!”. This time when his mom looked up she saw in amazement all the seagulls. 12 of them! And she smiled! The little boy still comes sometimes to visit his mom. She smiles every time she sees him. She is not so sad anymore.

About the Author

From Our Forum

From Our Forum

The Alliance of Hope online forum transcends time and distance, offering a culture of kindness, hope, and understanding to people who have lost loved ones to suicide. Operating like a 24/7 support group, our forum is supervised by a mental health professional and moderated by a trained team of loss survivors. Members can read and comment, share their stories, and connect with other suicide loss survivors.Read More »

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Peace After a Loss

In a recent article, Eckhart Tolle relates being told by a grieving father: “My sons drowned in the sea ten months ago. I did surrender, but when I felt the peace and calm coming over me, it felt wrong. It was not right to feel peace and calm with such a loss.”

Eckhart Tolle responded compassionately, “The natural way of healing after the death of a loved one is suffering at first, then there is a deepening. In that deepening, you go to a place where there is no death. And the fact that you felt that means you went deep enough, to the place where there is no death. Conditioned as your mind is by society, the contemporary world that you live in, which knows nothing about that dimension -your mind then tells you that there is something wrong with this. But that’s a conditioned thought by the culture you live in. So instead we can recognize when this happens, when that thought comes -recognize it as a conditioned thought that is not true.”

Read the rest of Eckhart Tolle’s response.

Beyond Surviving

November 29, 1999. Alan and I had been seeing each other for a year. We were in love. We were planning a life together. But this night, just before we went to sleep, he said he felt a kind of terror inside.

He had just graduated from law school and had been hired by one of the top law firms in Los Angeles. But he hated the job. His passion was for helping people in need–especially children, and the law firm wasn’t giving him any satisfaction. I told him that he should start looking for general counsel positions in some of the non-profit organizations working on the causes he cared about.

That Tuesday night, I got home early and waited for Alan to get home to have dinner. But he didn’t call and he didn’t come over. My repeated phone calls to his office and cell phone went unanswered.

Just after 9:00 PM, the phone rang. It was his roommate: “Danny, Alan has hurt himself very, very badly. The paramedics are here. I’ll call you as soon as I know what hospital we are going to.”

Five minutes later, the phone rang again. It was Alan’s roommate once more. “Danny, I have some bad news. We’re not going to the hospital. Alan’s passed away.”

A friend drove me over to Alan’s apartment. There were EMTs and police there. I was in a state of total shock. I didn’t go into Alan’s room. They explained to me that he had suffocated himself. As I saw them roll the gurney in to take Alan’s body away, I started yelling, “I don’t want to see him in a bag. I don’t want to see him in a bag.” I went into another room and closed the door. I could hear the banging of the folding legs of the gurney. I heard the wheel squeaking as they rolled Alan past the door of the room I was in. It made me sick.

I didn’t go to the wake. I didn’t want to see Alan embalmed. I didn’t want to see that beautiful face with make-up caked all over it.

The first week was hell. Hours seemed to take months to pass. All I had any motivation to do was calculate the math for the time I had left on earth to endure the pain. I’m 39 years old. I just made it through a week. If I live to be 80, I need to do this 2,132 more times. I guess I can do that.

Friends sent me books about suicide. Night Falls Fast by Kay Jamison was especially helpful.

I once heard a minister say that when we are most broken, we are closest to God. One of the things that got me through the days was a paranormal sense of perception. I could see synchronicities that either never existed before or that I never noticed. It seemed like Alan was present–speaking to me. I was walking one day with a friend who was also grieving the loss of his partner. He stopped as we were walking and reached down into the gutter. He picked up a medal that had an angel on one side and an inscription on the other that said, “Angels shall guard thee.” He said I should have it. I wore it around my neck for the next seven years. Not more than a few weeks after he gave it to me, I was driving to the marina to meet Alan’s mother who had flown in for a visit. Driving down the 405, a rainbow appeared–the first I had ever seen in twenty years of living in Los Angeles. Alan loved rainbows. I told his mother the story of the medallion and showed it to her. Her jaw dropped. She opened her purse and pulled out a medallion identical to it–not close, but identical–that a friend had just given her.

I began to heal slowly. I let myself have my process, and I let myself heal according to my own schedule, and no one else’s. I didn’t pay attention to people who would say, “Aren’t you ready to move beyond that?” I knew I’d be ready when I was ready and not a moment sooner. I was kind to myself and I gave myself all of the patience in the world.

Two years after Alan died, I decided to launch a huge fundraising event to take suicide out of the closet and put it on the map. I had already invented the AIDSRides and the Breast Cancer 3-Days–events which had raised hundreds of millions of dollars for those causes. The new event was called, “Out of the Darkness,” and it would be a 26-mile walk through the night to raise money for suicide prevention. You had to raise a minimum of $1000 in order to go. 1200 people walked and netted 1.3 million dollars for the cause.

One year after Alan died, I met the kindest, sweetest, gentlest man I have ever known. Jimmy and I have been together now for eight and a half years, and six months ago, through the miracle of surrogacy, we had triplets–three beautiful babies, two girls and a boy–Annalisa, Sage, and Rider.I think fondly of Alan, but my heart has healed. The days of thinking my life was over have given way to the knowledge that my life has just begun.

I am filled with a sense of one powerful, singular truth, which is, if you just stay in the world, have patience and have faith, anything is possible–absolutely anything. God’s imagination is infinitely more powerful than our own, and if we just stay here, we will get to watch her play with it, and the most unthinkably beautiful things will unfold in our lives.

Just before our children were born, my friend who gave me the medallion that I’d worn around my neck for seven years gave me three beautiful little silver crosses, one for each of our kids. Now I wear them around my neck. Angels still guard me, but Jimmy and I have three little angels to guard on our own.