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We Don’t Have to Let Them Go

There are many words that are used when a person is grieving. Words such as “closure,” “letting go,” “moving on,” and “getting over it.” I believe those words do not really help much. I think they put too much pressure on the grieving person, giving them yet another thing to do as if the grief itself was not a large enough task.

How can we “let go” of a child who has passed? How can we have “closure” when our parent succumbs to suicide? How can we “get over” a lifetime relationship that began with young love? We don’t have to “move on” or “let go” or have “closure” and we certainly do not have to “get over it.”

Our relationship will continue. They will always be dear to us because even though they have left, our love for them does not die and we hold their memories close to us.

We can hold on to them by remembering. Remembering not only the struggles but also the good times. We can learn to live our lives like they could not.

So, as far as getting over it? How can we “get over” raising and loving a child? Or nurturing a loving relationship with a spouse? How can we “get over” losing a parent or sibling or friend? Wouldn’t it be nicer, and much more realistic, to just take them with us? To keep loving them from here.

Eventually, we will integrate this experience into the rest of our lives. We don’t have to let them go. We can choose to rebuild our lives and take them with us, not just in our minds, but in our hearts.

About the Author

Wisdom From Our Community

"Wisdom From Our Community" posts originally appeared on the Alliance of Hope Forum for Suicide Loss Survivors and are reprinted with the permission of the authors. Our 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 Healing Power of Connecting with Others

In those awful first few weeks, the Alliance of Hope gave me a way to say how devastated I was feeling, to tell the story, to voice my anguish. My ‘real-life’ support system (family, friends, and community) is great, but I just never felt comfortable showing them how broken I felt. I was – and still am – inconsolable. Here, on the Alliance of Hope Forum, I found other voices that commiserate and are painfully honest, but also encouraging.

This space has allowed me to vent, to work through questions with others, and to get out of my own head, engaging with other survivors and hopefully giving back the support I have received. At the four-month mark, I’ve seen so many new members join. I’ve read so many stories of unimaginable heartbreak, perseverance, and hope.

As sad as it is to learn how startlingly prevalent suicide is in such a deeply personalized way, my newest healing revelations have come from seeing myself and my lost loved one mirrored in so many others. Connecting with others whose background, age, and other traits may be different but whose suicide loss is an eerily similar journey has helped me to quiet my own guilty replays, paralyzing regrets, and unanswerable questions.

The path to acceptance has gotten a bit easier now that I can see so clearly how many others share this same tragic road. Not just the sadness and grief, but the confusion, betrayal, frustration, longing that goes along with loving and losing someone who ended their own life, suffered from depression and/or addiction, or maybe just had a really hard time with life.

I can’t blame my guy now that I know he wasn’t the only infuriating irresistible mix of sensitive, giving, loving, impulsive, delusional, and destructive. I can’t blame myself knowing that other parents, girlfriends, siblings, friends, and others were ultimately unable to avoid the same terrible outcome despite their efforts.

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for telling their stories, sharing their pain, baring their souls. It helps.

About the Author

Wisdom From Our Community

"Wisdom From Our Community" posts originally appeared on the Alliance of Hope Forum for Suicide Loss Survivors and are reprinted with the permission of the authors. Our 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 »

2 Comments on The Healing Power of Connecting with Others

Book Review: Healing the Hurt Spirit by Catherine Greenleaf

Have you ever wished you could wake up each day to a gentle voice whispering words of comfort and encouragement in your ear? With Catherine Greenleaf’s Healing the Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations for People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide, you can.

Starting on January 1st and proceeding through the entire year, Greenleaf presents a new topic important to survivors, offers a short (one page or less) discussion, and ends with a healing affirmation. For instance, her topic for August 3 is “Home Sweet Home?” and her affirmation is, “My home is my sacred sanctuary. Today I will do what I need to make it sacred once again.” Other topics include “Suicide and the Media,” “Speaking the Truth,” “Rage,” and “Emotional Attachments.”

The author also offers a few memorable slogans. My favorite is, “If you want to heal, you have to feel.”

While fully acknowledging the pain and grief that suicide can cause, every word in Greenleaf’s book offers hope and healing. She also shares her own experiences as a suicide loss survivor.

As we begin the new year, take a moment to consider Healing the Hurt Spirit as a gift for yourself. Whether you’re a new survivor or you’ve been dealing with your loved one’s death for years, this wise, comforting book will help you take the next steps in your healing process, one day at a time.

Gray with a Touch of Pink

    It’s an overcast morning and my mood feels very much the same.
    Pensive and reflective.
    Gray with a touch of pink.
    Certain Sunday mornings arrive heavy for no particular reason, full of familia.
    Rolling thunder in the distance, longings emerge with memories that always come with a tear and a smile.
    Gray with a touch of pink.
    I try not to let it be primary, but necessary it is, gray is a color that represents my grief.
    I’ve come to learn to sit with it. To learn from its hues and fades, always emerging a tad bit stronger.
    The gray leads way to blue and the pink that represents Hope always remains.
    Perhaps I’ll always be gray with a touch of pink, but pink is my primary.

    About the Author

    Maria Sallese

    Maria Sallese lost her 26-year-old son to suicide in 2019 and joined the Alliance of Hope forum shortly after. She finds hope and healing through writing and wishes to help others by sharing her words. Maria can be reached at: sallese.maria@gmail.comRead More »

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    The Complexity and Consequence of Suicide

    When I started this journey – on the day my life simultaneously exploded and imploded – I received kindness, support, questions, and a few judgmental comments about the selfishness of my partner. I was also asked why he had done it and how I had not seen it coming. I heard that it was silly of me to think it was my fault and was told that I should try to think about something else. 

    Two days in, and everyone was an expert.

    And there’s the rub: there are often too many opinions, too few facts, and low levels of real understanding for those in the throes, from those on the outside of the situation. Ten years in, I say to anyone who cares to listen that I believe suicide – the act itself as well as its impact on others – is one of the most complex experiences that anyone can or ever will go through. 

    There really are no hard and fast rules to make sense of it. There is no handbook for those who complete the act or for those who reel from the loss, shock, and horror of it all. The reasons our loved ones ended their lives are complex. There is no one reason or situation. Instead, there are nuances and constantly reframed realities. It’s a melting pot of emotion and moment-to-moment experience. 

    The way we feel and grieve is equally complex. We are left with assumptions and it’s messy. We have low levels of real knowledge or verifiable fact because the only one who knows why is no longer here to explain it for themselves. 

    I am a veteran survivor of the consequence of Suicide.

    Heidi Botterill

    I am no longer defined or managed by my experience, yet losing my spouse to suicide has significantly contributed to who I am today and who I will become tomorrow. It has been nearly a decade since his death. During many of those years, I was controlled, managed, and overwrought by guilt about what I did do, what I might have done, or what I should have done. 

    Now, with time under my belt, I can honestly say it just isn’t that simple. As survivors, we want to simplify the tragedy into a tidy narrative, but none of what our loved ones experienced is easily understood. We must learn to live with unanswered questions. 

    Our journey as survivors calls for endurance, self-empowerment, and self-care.

    It also takes nonjudgmental support from those who can understand what we are going through.  

    Perhaps as we heal and benefit from nonjudgmental support, we also can begin to extend that same kind of support and understanding to those for whom we grieve. Perhaps in time we can learn to trust, honor, and accept the choice they made, even though we do not understand or agree with it. 

    Our loved ones remain within us. They have shaped us.  

    It is my honor to be a moderator and contributor to the Alliance of Hope, and it is my privilege to hold the space for others who are traversing a complexity we were never trained for and I doubt will ever fully understand.

    Heidi

    Dealing with the Holidays after a Suicide Loss

    Finding hope and happiness can be hard for new survivors during the holiday season.  The first Thanksgiving and Christmas – just 7 months after our son died – felt more like an obligation than something we wanted to do. We had lost our voices and were struggling to express how we really felt. The world had moved on for everyone but our immediate family. 

    We stumbled through that first holiday season with a mix of tears and profound grief. That winter, our life shut down. We didn’t take control of those first holidays.

    Instead, we went through the motions as other people wanted us to. We went to Thanksgiving dinner at a relative’s house, put false smiles on our faces, and tried to pretend we were thankful – but our son was missing. No one said his name to us at first. We felt alone in a room filled with people who loved us. They were just clueless and struggling too.

    We put up the Christmas tree and cried as we held the handmade ornaments our son had made over the years. What had been a cute addition in years past was now a painful reminder of his absence. We discussed if we should hang his stocking by the fireplace with the rest. (We did and still do!) We were lost and we knew we had to do something better in the future. 

    With holidays just around the corner, it is time to think about what you want to do this year. When you lose a loved one to suicide, it is impossible to celebrate as you have in the past and expect things to be the same.

    You are missing someone, and that is the elephant in the room. Some family and friends will want to discuss the person who is missing from the gathering, and others will avoid mentioning their name. You may not have the strength to participate in formal events. It comes down to doing what works for you. It is hard to feel happy, merry, or thankful right after you lose a loved one to suicide. The sadness and pain can be overwhelming.

    I always thought the lyrics to a song called “Better Days” by the Goo Goo Dolls captured how I felt about the holidays right after our son’s death. The lyrics read:

    “And you asked me what I want this year

    And I try to make this kind and clear

    Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

    ‘Cause I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings

    And designer love and empty things

    Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days.”

    Here are some tips and ideas to help with the holidays ahead:

    Talk among your immediate family about how you are all feeling and what you are up to. Don’t let anyone push you to go to an event that you are not ready for. Not everyone has to attend. Do what you think will give you the most strength and energy. That may be different from what other people tell you or push you to do. Only you truly know what you are up to doing for these events. 

    You don’t have to do the same activity as you have done in years past. In fact, trying to do the same event without the missing person may only make things worse. You can do something different: have a Thanksgiving breakfast, just have desserts, have a coffee tasting, or go out to a restaurant. You can take out all your photos and leave them around for people to talk about, ask people to bring stories, videos, or photos of your loved one to share with the group. Or you can stay home and have a quiet day. For a few years, we shifted to just stopping in on family and friends for only coffee and dessert after the event was mostly over. That allowed us to see everyone, but not feel the pressure to stay the whole time. Folks just want to see how you are doing.

    If you attend a gathering, it may help to have a “friend” in the room – someone with whom you can speak honestly. Your trusted ally can help get you out of uncomfortable conversations.  They can be your “wingman” for the day, and provide any added strength and support you might need. 

    Have a “Plan B” – just in case. You may wake up and find you don’t have the strength to follow through with your original plans. That’s when you shift to “Plan B.” It is not a failure; it is just a different choice for the day. It might be something as simple as a walk in the park, stopping by a house of worship, or visiting someplace that gives you strength and happiness. People know you are grieving and will understand that you might need a change of plans for that day.

    Avoid hosting the event at your home. If you suddenly feel overwhelmed, it is hard to disappear if you need a quiet moment. Consider letting someone else host the event this year. You deserve a break.

    Don’t hesitate to mention and acknowledge the person who is missing around the table. There are many ways to do this. Some people go around the table and ask each person to tell a short, positive, or funny memory about the person who is missing. Some people make a remembrance jar that can be used at any family event. Some folks even set a place at the table for the missing person and place a picture or candle on their plate. Here is an article about doing a candle lighting ceremony

    It all comes down to healing the way you need to and acknowledging that those around you are also healing.

    One more important tip: avoid alcohol or other intoxicating substances during these events. You need to stay sharp and manage your emotions, even though folks around you are having too much. There are always people in the crowd that will say the wrong thing and you want to be able to respond or walk away with a clear head. Alcohol can also lower your energy and just make your day worse. It is never a good idea to get lost in a drink when your emotions and grief are causing you pain. 

    And last, remember it is only 24 hours. Most survivors start thinking and worrying about the events long in advance. Be kind to yourself and know that you will wake up the next day and the sun will rise once again.

    Twelve Things that Have Helped After the Suicide of Our Son

    It’s been two years and three months since our son, Adam, died by suicide. I’ve spent some time thinking about what has helped me deal with the loss. Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to capture everything that came to mind. Here are 12 things that have helped me (in no particular order):

    1) Supportive people who allowed me to cry and express emotions freely. One of the best gifts I received after our son died was from a close friend who showed up on my doorstep with a box of Kleenex. The gesture said it all.

    2) One-on-one counseling with an understanding & empathetic therapist. My husband and I have seen Katie a couple of times a year off and on over the past decade for various reasons. Marital tune-ups, help with a major decision in selling our house/moving to a new city, and most importantly, support in dealing with our son’s mental illness, which emerged in 2015, as well as continued support after his suicide death in May 2019. We met with Katie a few days before Adam died, plus the week after. Her assurance that we did everything we could was priceless! Although it still took my heart many months to catch up with my head regarding the guilt battle, her insights and words still resonate with me today.

    3) Support groups. I was very lucky to be able to attend a grief group at my church for several months (pre-covid). We went through Alan Wolfelt’s book, Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart. I highly recommend this book. I also attend meetings with Friends for Survival, a national non-profit that provides peer support and resources to those who have lost someone to suicide. Currently, there are monthly Zoom meetings going on, which are helpful.

    4) Books. I’ve read about 30+ grief-related books, some specifically on suicide loss, others just on general grief. The most helpful were Wolfelt’s book (above), My Son . . . My Son . . .: A Guide to Healing After Death, Loss, or Suicide, by Iris Bolton, I’ll Write Your Name on Every Beach: A Mother’s Quest for Comfort, Courage and Clarity After Suicide Loss, by Susan Auerbach, and A Grace Disguised, by Jerry Sittser. While all the books I read had some “nuggets” of wisdom, these four have underlining and yellow highlighting on just about every page.

    5) TedTalks/Other Talks on YouTube. In the first few months after our loss, nighttime was the worst. It was near impossible to quiet my mind down so I could fall asleep, even with prescription sleep meds. I found some very helpful TedTalks on grief, as well as other faith-based talks/interviews with individuals who have gone through catastrophic loss. Hearing other people’s stories helped me to know that I’m not alone and gave me much-needed hope. Many nights, I fell asleep to these talks while lying in bed with my iPhone in hand.

    6) Music. Although I enjoy all genres, faith-based music has been especially helpful (Pandora at home, K-Love in the car). It keeps my mind focused on the positives.

    7) Alliance of Hope (AOH). A family member recommended AOH right after Adam died, but it was a couple of months before I began to explore the website and resources. … I started with the blog, and eventually landed on the Alliance of Hope Forum. I created a profile, posted on the “Introduce Yourself” link, then got sort of stuck. I kept trying to welcome others, rather than joining in on the forum links and topics below. I finally settled on two links: “What Helps?” and “Community Connections, For Parents Who Lost Children.” Though there are many other topics I can relate to, I’ve given myself permission to stick with just these two for now.

    8) Journaling. I’ve been a lifelong journaler/writer, so this outlet has been extremely helpful in processing many things, not just loss. From time to time, I revisit my old journals and can see where I’ve been, and what progress I’ve made, and identify areas where I might still be stuck. A journal can be a great listener, offers zero judgment, and is available 24/7.

    9) Spending time in nature.  Walking, hiking, and visiting the beach have all been very therapeutic. I feel the most connected to Adam when I’m outdoors because he loved nature so much.

    10) GriefShare emails. I subscribed to receive daily emails from GriefShare for a year, which provided encouragement and reminders of the recovery process. These emails were very brief, which was nice.

    11) Time off from work. Three days of bereavement leave is certainly NOT adequate for any loss. I used two weeks of sick leave to at least get through the memorial service. Then I had to briefly return to the office. Lucky for me, I only had to be there about three weeks because I had a major surgery scheduled the month after Adam died, so I ended up being off another five weeks post-surgery. During that time of rest, I was able to read, listen to music, cry, and cry some more.

    12) Talking about my son with those who knew and loved him.

    Thanks for letting me share! I hope my experience will be helpful to others.

    The Wreck and Everything Else That Happened

    At the deepest level, I think what happened to my husband, to me, and to our children was something none of us could control. It happened to us all.

    One day after one of his doctor’s appointments, we were going home on a busy interstate highway. He was driving. Suddenly, a wreck happened all around us. I don’t know what caused it. But we were in the middle of a bunch of cars flying around out of control. One huge SUV literally flew off the ground, rolling over and over toward us. It was too close to miss us. Then all I could see was its enormous undercarriage flying within feet of our front windshield.

    I don’t know how he got us out of there without being hit. That’s how I think of my husband’s suicide except only I made it out. The wreck and everything else that happened until his death (it was a lot) were terrible, but they were working parts that took on a life of their own. He tried to drive us through it. I tried to help. But it was ultimately not in our power.

    After his death, I was left at the mercy of gravity and physics just like I was that day on the Interstate. The life I had known was over. I stayed in a limbo world for a couple of years before I could begin to find my way back to life. From there it was still a long journey.

    I understand your longing and how you could feel the way you do. We can’t have the old life back. I wish we could. But we can hold on and knit together something new.

    Jan

    Mourning Complicated Relationships

    Grief isn’t always about lost love.

    Even the most loving relationships can have complicated moments. The grief you might feel when a tumultuous relationship suddenly becomes one-sided has its own set of complications.

    Most relationships aren’t perfect. There are bound to be disagreements, confusion and conflict even with those who are closest to you. We want to believe all of these complications will be resolved before we die, but the truth is that there are no guarantees. Death can come at any moment, and some interpersonal issues will never be resolved. 

    Even in happy, loving relationships with no significant issues, grief is a complicated emotional mess. But when the relationship itself was chaotic or dysfunctional, the grief of having unfinished business can be tormenting for the one who survives.

    WHAT IS A LOSS?

    Losing someone means not only the end of their physical body, but the end of their continuing presence on earth. Though you will carry part of them with you forever, their advice, perspective and support are gone. 

    Grief has been described as love that has nowhere to go. When you love someone who is gone, that love goes inward and is expressed as grief. Love and hate are passionate emotions that live in close proximity to one another. A complicated relationship embodies this love-hate paradox. When love-hate has nowhere to go, it also moves inward, creating a very troubling and intense kind of grief.

    WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE SAY ‘COMPLICATED’?

    Even the best of relationships are challenging. Even between individuals who have cared for each other for decades, personality differences and preferences complicate all relationships. When the relationship included trauma, estrangement or strife of any kind, death gets even more emotionally arduous. 

    The emotional reaction you will have to a death is impossible to prepare for. There’s no way to gauge how your grief will manifest, no matter how expected the death was. However, it’s likely grief will be more tormenting if you didn’t know where you stood with the person prior to death. Unfinished business is the most haunting factor in grief.

    Romantic relationships fall easily into the category of complicated relationships. One of the most common obituary-writing challenges is how to include a divorced spouse in the life story in a respectful and discreet manner. Those that had on-and-off-again relationships, or endured abuse at the hands of a partner may also experience an inner conflict when the other party dies. 

    But intimate relationships aren’t the only source of conflicted grief. Children whose parents deteriorated due to Alzheimer’s or dementia also face complex feelings at the time of death. Seeing a change in a loved one’s personality affects the way grieving people process the loss, causing many to focus on ‘good’ years rather than the later ones. Family or friends that often quarreled or experienced times of estrangement may also experience difficulty in accepting and processing the loss.

    THE GRIEVING PROCESS

    When things get really tough with another person, many people share the same knee-jerk reaction. Wishing the other person would die, or simply go away, is a natural response to prolonged frustration and anger. You probably don’t really wish them harm; you just want the pain they bring you to end. 

    But when this person dies, this insincere wish takes on a more ominous meaning. First of all, it’s important to remember that simply wishing someone would go away does not contribute to their death. Regretting ever making that wish does not mean you took the deceased person for granted for the whole relationship, or that you are a bad person. It simply reflects the turmoil of one point in time. 

    Even if you know this on a cognitive level, it’s difficult to shake these feelings when you’re grieving. Other feelings that might loom around the loss are anger, guilt and dissonance between the grief you expected and the grief you actually feel. Though you may have prepared yourself for this moment, it might be marginally more or less difficult than you expected. 

    Another surprising reaction many people have is complete and total ambivalence to the death. It might not hit you that the person is really dead for some time. But it’s also possible that you feel so torn over the death that you can’t determine how you feel about it. Not being able to pinpoint your feelings makes them harder to handle. 

    STRATEGIES FOR PROCESSING COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIPS

    There are endless ways to grieve, and this holds true in complicated relationships too. Here are some strategies to unravel your complicated feelings when someone passes away:

    Name the difficult emotion you are experiencing. 

    No matter how ugly it sounds, it’s not conquerable until identified accurately and honestly.

    Determine how emotionally invested you are in the death.

    It’s okay if this death doesn’t cause a grief reaction. You don’t need to manufacture pain in the absence of grief.

    You may be more devastated by this loss than you ever imagined. Be honest about how much it hurts.

    Remember both the good and bad times as accurately as possible.

    Relationships come in all shades of gray. Look back over the history of the relationship with a critical eye. Remember the person’s good qualities, and the reasons for the relationship. Then recall the times the relationship was complicated or tumultuous in as good of detail. There are reasons you are feeling conflicted about this death, and they’re worth exploring. Did you react as well as you could have under the circumstances? Are there things about yourself that you can improve on going forward?

    Forgive yourself, and the other person.

    Agree to let go of the unfinished business you have with the deceased person. Your relationship with them will continue long after the death, but you should embark on this grief journey with as clean a slate as possible.

    ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS

    While you can process your feelings any way that makes grief easier on you, it’s important to accept the reality of how you feel about the loss. When someone with whom you had a complicated relationship dies, you could feel a wide range of emotions, including ones that are difficult to accept, like relief and guilt. 

    No grief is easy to navigate. Start with honesty and compassion for both yourself and the deceased person as you begin to make sense of the world without them in it.

    A Stranger in My Own Life 

    My life. 

    Everything is familiar. But everything is strange.

    I live in the same house. But it doesn’t feel like home. I have watched this show. But it now seems different. I’ve sat at my table a hundred times. But I now feel like a visitor. My bed is my own – with indentations fashioned from my own body. But it’s now cold and impersonal. I’ve sat in the quiet of my living room. But it’s never been so loud. I go run familiar errands, but someone else controls my body.

    The plans for the future had been made. But now they’re shredded and blown away with the wind. I converse with the same people I’ve always known, but I don’t feel like the same person. I may do the same hobbies, but I can’t quite shake the unnerving feeling I am crossing over into what is no longer mine and it casts a pall over my enjoyment.

    My life.

    It’s all familiar. But nothing is the same.

    The most puzzling emotion in widowhood is feeling like a stranger in your own life. The feeling of “home” is now a foreign concept. You can almost watch yourself going through the motions, but feel utterly detached from it all.

    Even the most routine things now bear an unrecognizable scent. Many things are the same. And yet, nothing is. I’m like a transplant, thrust into an alternate reality.

    It takes years to filter through all the residual change. It’s not just life that has changed. I, also, have changed.

    There are facets of my life that remain the same, but no longer fit with the new me. There are facets of my life that remain and can blend with the “me” that I’m becoming.

    There are parts of who I am that fit with my old life, but no longer fit with my new. There are parts of me that still fit and are morphing to adjust to my new life.

    There are so many nooks, so many crannies, so many details, so many pieces of who I am and what my life was that I must sort through, give up, redefine and reforge. It’s a lot of work.

    During this long, arduous adjustment, I am left feeling like an actress cast into the wrong show, arriving at the wrong set, confused with where I fit.

    It’s not just a simple act of moving forward. Moving forward insinuates continuing. If only it were so simple as to just take another step on the path I was on. But that is impossible. Grief isn’t so simple. Widowhood isn’t moving forward. It’s actually starting over.

    My life is no longer my life. I am no longer me. I cannot move forward because the future I had is no longer there. I must shift, dunk, crouch, retreat, crawl, go around, sidestep, jump over, and many other verbs to find my new path before I can function in the simplistic “move forward” motion.

    As an amputee must relearn some of life’s most simple acts, like tying a shoe or walking, so must a widow/er. Simple things like balancing the bank account, shopping at the grocery store, cooking, daily conversation, and other such things, all tilt on their axis. Social activities become a huge undertaking that take years to relearn because everything about us has changed or is changing.  Our purpose in life must be redefined. Goals are forced to change. House maintenance must become second nature where it wasn’t before. Hobbies are often cursed with too many heartstrings and we are left to forge new ones. Our self-identity was stolen, and we must take the leftover pieces and try to form a new picture.

    Alisha Bozarth
    Alisha Bozarth

    Yet, one of the single most important aspects of healing I’ve seen for myself is the willingness to create that new life. To Redefine. To Remold. To Relearn. As painful as it is to let go of the things that summarized “us,” it is necessary to begin letting go so the “me” can emerge. It is part of healing. It is part of forming a new existence.

    There is nothing more confusing than feeling like a stranger in my own life. And so, healing necessitates the formation of “new.” A new that I can sink my roots into again.  A new I can accept with its new definitions, new goals, new capabilities. A new me.

    So I can feel at home in my life once again.

    I Am Not My Grief

    A while ago a friend asked why I use a pen name whenever I submit a written piece about grief and loss. Although I never thought about it before, I said that “I am not my grief. Loss is only a small portion of my life. Using my real name would mean that people would immediately identify me with the loss of a child instead of getting to know me as the whole and healed person that I am today.”

    I am not my grief and haven’t seen myself as a bereaved mother for many years. Although I lost a piece of my heart and soul, I am still not my loss – purely because I’ve grown beyond that.

    But it didn’t start out that way. Early on this grief journey, I was angry at everything that dared to breathe. I felt like a victim. I was angry that Life/God/The Universe/Something Bigger Than We Are, took my child away. I was angry at the Angel of Death who had the guts to come into our home, rather than the neighbour’s or one in the next town over.

    In the beginning, I also asked: “Why ME?!?” Why did God deal out emotional pain that I surely wasn’t equipped to handle and surely not strong enough to survive? During the first months, I spent more time sobbing on the floor than being upright and vividly remember wiping a tear from my dog’s eye with my soaked tissue.

    Why me? For a couple of months, I was a willing and participating victim until I stopped asking “why me” and started to ask, “what now?” Rock bottom is always a good place to start to rebuild. When I was told by a professional that “I couldn’t,” I rebelled and fought back because nothing is ever impossible. Our thoughts and beliefs can be the biggest prison. What we believe is how our lives will be and sometimes it is necessary to re-examine what we’ve been taught.

    Ever so slowly I realized that I’m not my child and that I’m not dead yet (although I prayed for it on many occasions).

    Later came the realization that I’m not my grief either. Moving away from feeling hopeless and victimized and feeling that life “owed” me something or that life is somehow unfair, changed everything, even though I was still very deep in a pit of depression at the time.

    A “forever-grieving state of mind” was a label that didn’t fit comfortably. I did not want it to become my identity, or the first thing others would think when we meet. It is not something I pull out at every occasion so that the other person can feel sorry and give me special treatment, but when I do take my tender heart out for inspection, I always share that it is possible to wake up after a loss like this and someday heal and thrive too.

    I have learned that when sadness comes to visit me, all I can do is say “I see you.” I spend some time with it, see what it wants to teach me, and examine it through journaling or talking to a friend. I don’t push it away, I own it, and because I own it, I can let it go.

    Everything changed the day I decided that this is a lesson of some sort and not a punishment. The secret of change is where you focus your energy. Is it to fight what you cannot change or is it to (eventually) live a life of wholeness?

    When you let go of what you think life owes you, you are free to fly.

    It wasn’t until I was able to let go of how I thought my future should look like (two children with their growing families), that I was able to create the one I’m living today. Accepting that some things do happen over which we have no control leaves space for growing beyond grieving.

    I am not my loss or grief, and you aren’t as well. The only difference between lifelong grief and healing is whether you are willing to take ownership of your pain and work towards healing it. Healing that gaping wound is mostly a spiritual journey which also means taking responsibility for our lives and decisions and cultivating the opportunity to grow beyond our perceptions.

    Building a bridge between being a bereaved parent and a healed individual didn’t happen overnight or by itself. Separating the community’s beliefs and my own desire to heal was very necessary in order to move forward.

    “There is freedom waiting for you,
    On the breezes of the sky,
    And you ask, “What if I fall?”
    Oh, but my darling,
    What if you fly?”
    ― Erin Hanson

    About the Author

    Wisdom From Our Community

    "Wisdom From Our Community" posts originally appeared on the Alliance of Hope Forum for Suicide Loss Survivors and are reprinted with the permission of the authors. Our 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 »

    7 Comments on I Am Not My Grief

    Navigating Halloween After Loss

    October is here. I find myself wondering how summer went by so fast. There is a crispness in the air now that lines the edges of even the warmest days. Trees in my yard have started to turn. Flowers are wilting … and up the street, one of my neighbors has orange lights strung through his yard.

    Each year, many of my neighbors decorate for Halloween. Back in the day, when I was young, we simply put a pumpkin out. Things are more elaborate now. Last year, I’m told that Americans spent over eight billion dollars on Halloween decorations alone, not counting costumes and candy. Many look forward to October 31st, planning costumes for themselves, their children, or their pets, but those who are grieving often feel an added ache of loneliness. Their loved one is not there to help, to participate, and to enjoy.

    Over the years, at support groups, I’ve heard many newly bereaved survivors say they are disturbed by some of the particularly grotesque decorations that pop up in stores and around their neighborhoods. I can understand that. Three years ago, that neighbor who is now working on the orange lights built a real graveyard in his yard … with grave robbers, half-finished … looking like they left in a hurry. Ten years before that, my new next-door neighbors, unaware that my stepson had hanged himself the year before, installed a dummy hanging with a rope around his neck, off the front of their roof. (To their credit, when my daughter mentioned our loss, they immediately took it down.)

    For newer survivors especially, Halloween is often a holiday to be “endured.” 

    New survivors have little emotional resilience and are in no mood for a party, especially one involving blood, gravestones, or gore. They struggle with intense emotions, often feeling suffocated by their feelings. Generalized anxiety is frequently high for new survivors. They have experienced real-life horror and are often haunted by their dreams. Many are troubled with symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

    It will not always be that way. Things do get easier with time, but in the beginning, each landmark day brings a deepened awareness of one’s loss.

    On another note, I was recently told by an Irish friend, that Halloween has its origins in Ireland’s Celtic past: that it was an important fire festival, celebrated on the evening of October 31st, and into the next day when flames of old fires had to be extinguished and ceremonially re-lit by druids. In many respects, it was a festival like our modern New Year’s Day in that it carried the notion of casting out the old and moving into the new.

    Today Halloween doesn’t carry that connotation. Our culture focuses on candy and costumes, which for the most part, results in a lot of fun. There is no reason, however, that we as a survivor community can’t hold in our awareness that we are rekindling our fire and that of others around us… and moving into the “new.”

    The Bravest Act

    Louise was normally a confident passenger, happy to sleep while I was driving long distances. But on this occasion, she couldn’t settle and sat watching the road ahead anxiously. It was 2 AM and we were driving a strange hire car in the dark on unfamiliar Sicilian motorways, returning to our holiday villa a couple of hours south after a long, happy but tiring day trip to Mount Etna and the chic resort of Taormina. I was tired, feeling unwell, and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Louise was alert to the risk of an accident. Three months before she took her life, her will to live – her instinctive desire for survival – was strong. This was not somebody who treated life carelessly. She valued it and did not want to die.

    Before I met Louise, my attitudes towards mental illness and suicide were probably typical of those of the population at large; they were signs of weakness, a deficiency in character. I probably even fell back on the tired old cliché that sufferers simply needed to exercise a degree of resolve and ‘pull themselves together.’ While many people were enduring ‘real’ physical ailments, I could find within myself little patience or understanding for something as complex and intangible as a troubled mind. Only the vulnerable and needy experienced mental ill-health. Suicide was a form of cowardice.

    Nothing, I now know, could be further from the truth. Louise was as far removed from my antediluvian stereotype as it is possible to be. Independent, resourceful, and a natural optimist, she loved life with a passion that puts most of us to shame and lived it every day with a glorious, inspiring sense of hope, opportunity, generosity, and vigor. Louise was, quite simply, the happiest person that I have ever met. She would frequently cuddle up to me at night and simply declare ‘I’m so happy.’ The light in her eyes did not lie.

    But neither did it tell the whole story. For reasons unknown to all but those closest to her, Louise suffered periodically from anxiety and depression throughout her adult life. At the age of barely 18, she demonstrated remarkable insight and maturity when describing something of this state of mind in a school leavers’ booklet so acutely that it was instantly recognizable to me when it was brought to my attention after her death, 22 years later.

    To battle a debilitating darkness of mind for a lifetime is extraordinarily exhausting and requires incredible bravery just to summon up the strength and the will to keep going. I saw the daily struggle during those periods when Louise was unwell, when her head was, as she described it, so full of a cacophony of destructive and doubting thoughts that it was impossible for her to escape, to switch off.

    I saw how much energy this consumed, how it corroded self-belief and led to uncertainty, indecision, and restlessness. I saw and admired Louise’s openness and honesty in confronting the illness and the way in which she sought to take responsibility for it and identified and pursued means of throwing it off. I came to understand how little a part reason or logic could play in soothing such troubles, the futility of rationalization.

    I came to learn that mental illness is as real, insidious, and dangerous as any other one that sufferers have no more control over than they would cancer or multiple sclerosis.

    And I came to be in awe of Louise’s resilience and fortitude, not only in enduring the illness but fighting back, never allowing it to define or limit her. To be the person that Louise was, to achieve what she did both professionally and personally, even had she been always completely well, would have made her very special. But to do it all despite the recurring illness made her quite remarkable.

    That same bravery followed Louise right to the very end. I know, both from conversations beforehand and the content of her farewell letter, that Louise saw what she was doing as a pragmatic answer to her mental torment. In her muddled thinking at the time, she also looked upon it as a means of releasing me from the stress and challenge of a wife with mental illness.

    Louise had enough spirit and tenacity to fight the darkness hard, right up to the very last moments. As that episode in Sicily illustrated, her survival instincts remained strong. She didn’t want to die and had no comforting vision or expectation of an afterlife to fall back on – her Christianity always focused on the grace in this life. But having identified what seemed to be a practical solution she acted on it for her sake and, as she thought, for mine.

    Here I must split my mind in two. There is no romance or redemption in suicide. It is always messy and tragically wasteful. It leaves loved ones with unique emotional scars. I still cannot easily fully describe what I witnessed. Not because I lack the words but because I am afraid of setting the tightly held memory free to roam. Even though I understand why Louise was driven to take her life, where the bleakness of thought and outlook had led her, and that I understand it was not an act of free will because of the malign power exerted by the illness, I am still taunted by the cruel needlessness of it.

    Nevertheless, it is possible, even while loathing the act and the shattering consequences, to recognize the logic that sat behind Louise’s decision and the incredible courage, generosity, and determination it must have taken to arrive at this point and then follow her thought processes through.

    We tend not to think of suicide as a rational act. Even here I have talked of Louise’s confusion and muddled thinking. But rationality is the luxury of a healthy mind. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to avoid the grip of darkness are in no real position to sit in judgment on what makes sense from deep within it. Oblivion must appear to be at the very least a viable alternative to life when you are so tortured, know that you have been tortured in the past, and believe that you will go on to experience the same torture over and over again in the future.

    Within the context of her illness as it was affecting her at that moment in time, Louise’s desire for escape from the pain was no different to that of somebody with a severe disability who seeks a form of assisted dying.

    The tragedy came in the temporary nature of that pain, the certainty of eventual respite if she had only been able to hold on a little longer.

    But regardless of how wrong and misguided we – who are well – can see the act to have been, it was a far braver and more selfless thing than I or most of us would ever be capable of. The easy option would have been to continue to try to muddle through but, as always, Louise went a step beyond, to do what she thought was necessary and right. And typically, even during her distress, she was thinking of others, applying herself to what, in her mind, was the best outcome for me and attempting in her last moments to protect me from its immediate impact.

    Louise was not, therefore, guilty of weakness, cowardice, or selfishness. On the contrary, she was the strongest and most giving person I have ever been privileged to know. Her determination in her long battle against mental illness and her monumental courage to follow through with such a drastic solution are testament to her remarkable character. Louise died in the way she lived: courageously, practically, and imbued with love and generosity of spirit. Her only fault, it turned out, was that ultimately, she was too brave.

    Of Stones and Ripples

    To live a life of meaning is to know that nothing is ever set in stone.

    Stones – they can be used to build bridges or be a source of destruction. They can trip us up, placing obstacles in our path, or be the foundation of a new beginning. They can be collected as remembrances of new places we visit and memories we make. They can be polished, smooth, turned into ornaments. They can be rough and jagged, worn down by the elements. They can weigh us down if we try to carry too many of them on our own, a truth we know all too well.

    And …they can mark a final resting place. An eloquent monument for a loved one we’ve lost, whose death didn’t have to be. Mother Theresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

    We who loved you are the ripples. The continuing legacy to that stone your life cast. And it is in those ripples that we must find you and carry you forward. This headstone will stand for eternity. It is heavy like grief yet strong like the human spirit, it will not wither. Neither is it left untouched by passing storms. It is not where we find you, but where we instead honor you. It is where we come to remember, to cry, to talk, and to feel as if we are with you. As we strive to move forward in a world without you, one where so many others know the same pain that you felt, suffering in silence, and feeling alone, I offer you one last promise:

    Your life and death won’t be for nothing nor be without meaning. No stone will be left unturned. No matter how deeply rooted they are in shame or stigma. If even one life can be saved from telling our story, then the ripples of your legacy, your life, and even your loss will be without end.

    Choosing to Live After Suicide Loss

    “Face the darkness. Stare it down. Own it. As brother Nietzsche said, being human is a complicated gig. So give that ol’ dark night of the soul a hug. Howl the eternal yes!” Chris Stevens (Northern Exposure)

    In the aftermath of loss, many survivors enter despair so painful and intense that they lose all hope for a day or twoor more. For most survivors, this does not represent inherent or latent mental illness, but the depth of the trauma and loss they have incurred.

    On the Alliance of Hope forum, we see many posts from survivors who have begun to have suicidal thoughts themselves:

    • “This emotional pain is so severe it takes my breath away and leaves me feeling that I too would be happier dead.”
    • “A shrink, the suicide hotline, my friends and family, and this forum are keeping me alive while every nerve ending is screaming GO TO HIM.”
    • “I’m tired of the senselessness, of the waste, of the pain. I want to rail at all of this, but I don’t know who to yell at. And sometimes, I just want to be done with it all. Sometimes, I just want God to take me home.”

    Sometimes people weather the initial loss of their loved one but are swept low by a second or third trauma that comes their way soon after the first. This happened to me 26 years ago. Within a few months after the death of my stepson, my husband told me he was leaving our marriage. This had not been on the horizon before the suicide. With no warning, family, social and economic structures slipped from under my feet. I could not eat. I could not sleep. I could not see a future of anything but loneliness and despair. The pain I already felt exploded geometrically and I began to think about how to end my life.

    This had never happened to me before. As a counselor, I knew I needed help and asked for it. I created a circle of support: a psychiatrist, a counselor, an acupuncturist, and friends to be with each evening after work so that I was not alone in an empty house.

    I was committed to life getting better. Some part of me was choosing to do things that might make life better. The rest of me was scared senseless.

    In the well-known book Seven Choices, Elizabeth Harper Neeld describes points of decision in the grief journey that follows traumatic loss. She describes a journey that takes place over months and years, noting that at various points we must choose to suffer and endure, to look honestly, to act, and to engage in the conflicts that arise in order to gain freedom from the domination of grief.

    Choosing to move toward freedom from the domination of grief does not mean that we love or miss the deceased any less. It means that slowly, we have mustered our courage and moved back into the world. Most survivors will tell you that little by little, they moved back with greater wisdom, courage, and compassion for the pain and discomfort of others.

    It is important to know that with time, the pain does diminish and transform. Survivors take ground, inch by inch – in incremental steps forward. The loss does become integrated into who we are. It becomes a part of who we are, and it influences us in ways we never expect.

    If you are feeling alone, please reach out. If you are feeling hopeless, please reach out. One of the most remarkable things about suicide loss survivors is their compassion and willingness to support others who are going through traumatic loss. Find the courage to connect with others at a local support group or tap into the strength of the community on the Alliance of Hope Forum for Suicide Loss Survivors, at any time of the day or night.

    Please know, you are not alone. Thousands have experienced suicide loss. They have fought their way back into life and you can do that too. New survivors often say they have “joined the club no one wants to join” … and that is understandable. Yet, in truth, the survivor community is one of the most compassionate and wise communities around. In the aftermath of loss, those things that commonly divide us fall aside. They become inconsequential. We connect with kindness, guided by our humanity.

    The 7 Lies Depression Tells

    Grief is a normal reaction to losing something or someone that we love. It’s not a pleasant emotion. We hurt. We cry. We get angry. But eventually, we also heal.

    Sometimes, grief transforms itself into something far more ominous: depression. Depression is a mental health problem that hijacks your brain and imitates your voice to fill your head with doubt, confusion, and lies – the same lies that our loved ones probably believed when they took their own lives.

    If you’ve slipped into depression, watch out for these seven lies. Don’t take them at face value. They are not your mind talking but an illness that preys on the psyche just as cancer preys on the body.

    Whenever these lies slink into your mind, fight them. Drag them into the light of reason and watch them crumble. Talk to loved ones who understand and who will support you. Reach out to your clergy, a therapist, a counselor, or a doctor. Don’t for one moment give in to the following, vicious untruths:

    1. You have always felt this way. Depression has no memory of the time before it existed. As far as it is concerned, this is your “normal” state. But you know better. Seek out happy memories. Look at pictures that make you smile or wear a favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you bought when you were feeling particularly good. If you can’t remember better times, ask others to remind you.
    2. You will always feel this way. Again, depression has no concept of a time when it will not exist. Fight this lie by doing small things that bring you pleasure – working in your garden, taking your dog for a walk, listening to music you love, or taking a relaxing bath or shower. These small acts of self-kindness will not cure your depression, but they will remind you that happiness is possible and is probably closer than you imagine it to be.
    3. Things can only get worse. Depression delights in terrifying us with catastrophic thoughts. Don’t get dragged in by this trick. Someone you love very deeply has just died by suicide. That’s probably one of the worst events you will ever go through in your life. If you lived through the event, trust that, slowly, your life will improve.
    4. You are worthless. This is a lie that we suicide survivors tend to believe wholeheartedly. After all, the depressed voice says, if we’d only been a better [friend, lover, parent, brother, child, etc.] our loved ones would still be alive. Baloney. The song, “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical Les Misérables says it best: “There are dreams that cannot be, and there are storms we cannot weather.” Sometimes, no matter how much you love someone and how much you do for them, you cannot give them the will to live. It’s tragic, it’s terrible, but it’s not your fault.
    5. Everybody would be better off if you were gone. Almost everyone who dies by suicide believes some version of this lie. “My friends won’t have to worry about me anymore.” “I won’t be an embarrassment to my family.” “I’d be doing everyone in my life a favor.” I have yet to meet a suicide survivor, however, who felt as if their loved one had done them a “favor” by ending their lives. Did your loved one do you a favor? Of course not.
    6. This pain is unbearable. Yes, the pain of losing a loved one to suicide is horrific, but it is not unbearable. You are bearing it, in fact, at this very minute, and you will continue to do so with the help of those who love you and care about you.
    7. The only way to end the pain is suicide. When you buy into this, you are stepping into a phenomenon known as “the suicidal trance.” From that moment on, you have tunnel vision … and at the end of that tunnel is relief from all your pain. But the tunnel vision is a lie. You do not need to end your life to end your pain. There are other options available. If you can’t think of any, call someone you trust and ask for help. Together, the two of you can probably come up with many solutions that don’t involve suicide.

    We’ve always been taught to believe what our senses tell us, but when we are depressed, our senses and our thought processes are unreliable. Reach out to those you can trust until your depression lifts, and you can once again see clearly.

    The Dog Days of Summer

    August has arrived. After last winter’s cold weather and all the time we spent indoors during the pandemic, summer seemed a welcome friend. Yet it arrived with record-breaking temperatures in so many places. My heart goes out to all who are struggling with the effects of dangerous heat waves.

    My father always called this hottest time of the year, the “Dog Days of Summer.” I noticed that Wikipedia refers to it as “the sultry days of summer.” Hmmm …

    The term “dog days” originates back with the Romans, who assumed that when the bright star Sirius (known as the “Dog Star”) moved into a heavenly position closer to our planet, it resulted in a hotter summer.

    I think the Dog Days are a good time to appreciate and acknowledge all the dogs, cats, and other animals who share our journeys. They accept us at our lowest, listen without judgment, and provide immense comfort. I’ve lost count of the times Alliance of Hope community forum members have posted about their pets, but it’s clear from those posts, that animal friends bring healing equal to – and often more powerful than – any other healing modality. Here are some of their posts: 

    Our pets bring comfort:

    • “Since his suicide 6 weeks ago, she has been such a blessing. I feel without her I would be totally alone …. Thank you, God, for my four-footed blessing.”
    • “When I cry, he licks the tears from my face. He holds his paws around my neck as if he is hugging me.”
    • “I started telling my troubles to my new horse. I would throw my arms around his big neck and just let it all out. I soak his mane with my tears. …. My dogs also seemed to know that I was so sad. My Borzoi would stand up and put her arms around my neck. Animals know when we need that hug or that listening ear that never judges us or tells us it is time to stop feeling the grief. They just listen and let us hug them and cry.

    Our pets grieve with us:

    • “The funeral for my nephew was held by a creek. All day long their dog had been running around the whole farm area. When the service started, he was still running but as the cremains fell into the spring head and washed over the moss-covered rocks, his running ceased. He came to the creek, stuck his nose in the water to sniff, then lay down on a large rock and stared at the spring head. He stayed fixed and staring and whining, eyes full of pain, until it was over, and we all left.”

    And we grieve for them when they cross over:

    • “My beloved dog went to sleep on Friday and never woke up. I am absolutely heartbroken. I have been through so much with her. She saw me through his suicide, and then the death of my other dog. I feel utterly bereft, all these memories keep hitting me all the time, no respite.”

    These “Dog Days of Summer are the perfect time to acknowledge and celebrate our animal friends. Would you like to join me? We have started a special thread on the Alliance of Hope forum just for that. If you’d like to share a photo or comment about the animals who have been important to you, click here.

    Last, but not least – I hope that you remain cool during these ongoing heat waves and as always, I pray for your healing and that of the world.

    Ronnie

    On the Lighter Side: Dear Dogs and Cats

    To be posted VERY LOW on the refrigerator door – nose height.

    Dear Dogs and Cats,

    The dishes with the paw print are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

    The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn’t help because I fall faster than you can run.

    I cannot buy anything bigger than a king-sized bed. I am sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Dogs and cats can curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other – stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

    For the last time, there is not a secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years – canine or feline attendance is not required.

    The proper order is to kiss me, then go smell the other dog or cat’s posterior. I cannot stress this enough!

    To pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:

    To All Non-Pet Owners Who Visit and Complain About Our Pets:

    1. They live here. You don’t.
    2. If you don’t want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. (That’s why they call it fur-niture.)
    3. I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
    4. To you, it’s an animal. To me, he/she is an adopted son/daughter who is short, hairy, walks on all fours, and doesn’t speak clearly.

    About the Author

    Wisdom From Our Community

    "Wisdom From Our Community" posts originally appeared on the Alliance of Hope Forum for Suicide Loss Survivors and are reprinted with the permission of the authors. Our 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 »

    2 Comments on On the Lighter Side: Dear Dogs and Cats

    What Helps? Animals Are Effective at Grief Support

    A new study explores bereaved individuals’ satisfaction with social support. Findings indicate that animals can provide the most satisfactory form of support. When asked to rate their perception of support from others, mortuary staff were ranked as being the most effective in providing human-to-human support. Law enforcement, physicians, and hospital social workers were ranked least effective. “Animals were ranked the highest among all forms of social support, which included categories like friends, family, community members, faith leaders, therapists or counselors, support groups, and faith leaders.“ You can read more about the findings of this study here.