The Grampy Jacket

My son had one of those puffy Columbia down jackets. It was bright orange like a lifejacket. Never a color he’d have chosen for himself, but it was a gift, and he didn’t have the heart to say anything other than, “No, it’s perfect. I love it.”

The first time he wore it he said he felt like Grampy, because my dad tends to go for bright colors. At some point that just became the name of the jacket. If he couldn’t find it, he’d say, “Have you seen my Grampy jacket?” or “Did I leave my Grampy jacket in your car?” Always the Grampy jacket.

I gave the jacket to my dad about a year ago and told him why I wanted him to have it. He had a special bond with my son, and he really got a kick out of knowing Mario called this his “Grampy” jacket. I didn’t know if he’d wear it or not, and that was never the expectation. I just wanted him to have it.

My folks were having some friends over this evening, and I stopped in to visit. My dad was heading outside to sit by the fire after dinner and he walked into the room wearing Mario’s jacket. I wasn’t expecting it and words aren’t big enough to say how incredibly heart-warming that was. As I walked by, I smiled and rubbed my hand along his shoulder and said, “I like your jacket.” He just smiled back. Someone nearby overheard me and chimed in, “Yes, it’s very nice” . . . and then my dad smiled and said, “It was my grandson’s.”

As I continued down the hall, I could hear my dad telling this person the Grampy jacket story.
Somehow I know my son heard him, and he’s smiling too. 

 

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 Ghosts of Christmas Not to Come

To My Son Peter,

On the April morning you departed us some twenty months ago, I was at work fifty miles away. My sister had texted me for your new address to send an Easter card, so I pulled up an online map of your neighborhood to check your zip code. I noticed the small county park with trails across the main road and behind the strip mall and told myself to tell you about it for walking your new dog, in case you hadn’t found it yet. I did not imagine you were soon to be heading there, gun in backpack.

I went back to my duties for a while until an overwhelming wave of peace made me stop what I was doing. I wondered where THAT sensation came from! I had only ever felt such profound serenity after deep, quiet meditation or prayer, never in the noisy bustle of my office. I turned back to my daily tasks. Within the hour, my cell phone rang. The policeman said there had been an acc –hesitated and changed it to — incident with my son. He then asked, “Do you know why he would do this?” Clueless, I asked, “Do what?” “Shoot himself,” he replied.

I believe your spirit came to me to say goodbye, to let me know you were at peace and intact.

Or else an angel came to gird me for the news I was about to receive. Only that sense kept me functioning over the next few harrowing days while we waited for the organ transplant teams. I knew that it was no longer you in that hospital bed, breathing mechanically. You had already left for another realm that morning by the stream, under the two trees that leaned together to make an arch.

A few weeks later in May, your fiancée gave me the Mother’s Day gift you had bought for me in advance, five novels of Charles Dickens, my favorite author, including A Christmas Carol. Dickens had such a heart for those who suffer due to cruelty, greed, and status-seeking in society. I think he would approve a twist to his classic morality tale.

If blessed with Dickens’ talent, I would pen “The Ghosts of Christmas Not to Come.”

First, the Angel of Mercy would lift you up and out of your own tremendous pain into the loving embrace of my departed mother who held a special place in her heart for you growing up. She would introduce you to her husband, my father, who took his life when I was a child. Of all people, he would understand what you were going through and rush in to soothe your self-condemnation with an infusion of love.

You would then be shown how those who had hurt you throughout your twenty-five years, intentionally or not, had been misled or had themselves been hurt in the past, and just did not know any better. This is your tour with the Angel of Empathy. These scenes play out before your eyes not to excuse anyone, as each will face his own life review and reckoning, but rather to explain what happened so you might understand and forgive them.

Then another spiritual guide would whisk you away to see and experience every tear of sorrow, pang of guilt, stab of rejection, and ache of abandonment your suicide caused person by person, for generations. This is the Angel of Justice, demonstrating that actions have consequences far beyond our short-sighted, narrow views. This fearful journey is not designed for your punishment, but for your instruction.

Next, the Angel of Promise would transport you to the life you would have lived, to take in a vision of your simple but beautiful wedding to your girlfriend of five years. You two were very good together and could have been better if only you had learned how to navigate rather than bury disagreements. You would meet and hold the children that you could have raised together in love, if only you had loved yourself. I remember you picked the house you bought together by the school system, so your one-day children could have a good education. You might have become a voice for the environment and the animals that depend on humans to provide space for their survival, if only you had not seen yourself as less than motivated, smart, and capable. Your professor said you had a terrific mind, and he expected to hear you had done good things for the earth and its creatures one day.

Once you had gained a panoramic perspective over the span of your life and that of those you impacted, you would be transported into the presence of the All-wise. Based on all you had seen, God would ask you to weigh the achievements and joys you had foregone against the difficulties and distress you faced, and to decide if you were mistaken when you wrote “life seems like too much of a burden” in your last note to me.

I don’t know if you’ll get the opportunity to return to earth in some form with your newfound knowledge and decision, but if you do, I pray that you never do such a thing to your priceless and irreplaceable self again, or to those who love you. Instead, you let your loved ones help you to find a better way.

The last time I saw you in person, we all ate cake in your home for your older brother’s birthday, ten days before you died. For some reason, I brought up in conversation Frank Capra’s classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life, surprised to learn none of you twenty-somethings had seen it. You all said it was crazy to watch a Christmas movie in April, and I would have to wait until December for a chance to get us all together to see it. Your birthday’s just before Christmas, so we plan to watch it then. From your vantage point, I hope you can see it on the big screen and help us all take to heart what really matters in this life and the next. I believe that’s the way to earn your wings!

Love always,

Mom

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.

Of Light and Shadows

Dear Zack,

It has been 5 1/2 months. It seems like forever. It is hard for me to remember not feeling this way. It is now November, and everyone has been doing those 30 days of Thankfulness. I am not. Of course, I could find something to be thankful for each day: your sister, brother, brother-in-law, nephews, and your dad – but it reminds me too much of what I do not have – what I have lost.

But I will write on this 28th day of November that I am grateful for you. You are my son, and you were here for almost 25 years. I think back over the years, though it is still hard for me.

I think of your energy. You had such zest for life! You were always in a hurry. It was hard to slow you down. You were always running ahead and jumping off things before I could even catch up to you. I think of the letter I still have that you wrote at age 10 to Sting, to say you were his biggest fan and would make a great partner for him!

I think of your music. Of you playing guitar in the school talent show and everyone standing and clapping wildly as you put the guitar behind your head and played the Star-Spangled Banner just like Jimi Hendrix. Of you in Battle of the Bands, your awesome hair flying as you played Metallica. Out of all the memories of your music, I cherish most the many, many nights that we would go sit out on our front porch. You would play your classical guitar for me as your little brother caught fireflies. It is one of the happiest memories in my heart.

I think of how close you and your sister were right from the start. She read to you each night, holding the book upside down and telling you stories the best she could remember –  how you loved that. I think of you playing dress up and playing Harriet the Spy with her. I am grateful for the concern and the love you shared with her when she was fighting cancer: helping me wash her hair after her surgery. You were so scared and yet so brave for her.

I am grateful for you being not only a big brother to your younger brother, but his friend too. He looks up to you so much. I remember when he “borrowed” something from your room, and the look on your face when he said he was sorry, then the look on your face when you found he had spray painted it gold. So I am grateful that you both were able to find humor in gold spray paint over the years.

I am grateful for the love you have for the man who started out as a stepdad and became your Dad, as you grew and realized how much he loves you. How the two of you shared a sense of humor of ‘Steelers and Bengals,’ and of course pink princess gift bags. I remember birthdays and Christmases, spending Christmas Eve setting up wrestlers, building Legos, putting bikes together, etc. just to make it perfect on Christmas morning. How you taped/wrapped everything, especially the guitar you gave your little brother for Christmas, it took him forever to get it unwrapped.

I think of how much you loved your dog. Of course, I remember the hard things too and words said by others that left scars on you. But I also remember you fighting through it. I am grateful for the many Saturdays we spent together in front of the fireplace, glued to a marathon of Law and Order or movies.

I remember teaching you how to draw, how to look at light and shadows. I remember telling you countless times to stop drawing on your homework and on yourself. I think of how you fell in love with the art of tattooing. How much you respected Tony, how much he taught you. I loved hearing the stories when you came home and watching you become a great artist. I am especially grateful for the tattoo you did on me. It is a part of you that will always be with me.

I am grateful for your humor and laughter! You were so funny, always making everyone laugh. I am so grateful I have some of your laughter on video. I remember every time you saw me you hugged me and told me you loved me! Unconditional love that I am sure I do not deserve, but you always loved me. I am grateful that I know you still do! I know that you loved with all that you had.

This could go on for pages, but I just wanted to say on this Thanksgiving Day that I am thankful, for singing you to sleep, for tracing your face, for playing games and having time for you always. Even though you have yet again run ahead of us, I know we will be together again. Every day, you show me more about life and that you are not gone. I am so grateful for you, my son. Thank you so much!

Love, Mom

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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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 »

6 Comments on I Am Not My Grief

The Beauty that Still Remains

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” ~Anne Frank

I often hang my hat on a quote. It’s the peg I choose and use to refresh my mindset for the day.

I go for those that whisper hope and grant me courage to start each day anew. Such is this.

It’s been over two years since my son, my only child, took his life.

The years embedded, but the overflow months, no longer a reflex, require counting on my fingers.

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

Grieving the loss of his physical presence, the hopes and dreams I carried for him present and future, that part has been a difficult climb. But I take the zig-zag trail now instead of the steepest route.

There I can catch my breath.

Along that gentler trail, he walks by my side. The tenderness of his heart resides in mine and his smile somehow shines brighter than before, radiating warmth and lighting my way.

Not simply deep desires, these things are palpable.

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

Longing remains . . . how could it not? But it’s not all misery.

I do my best to avoid background noise and see deeper beauty in the quiet of simple things. Mostly nature.

Mother Nature continues to be both Teacher and Healer.

So strongly my son resides within, maybe he brings that clarity. I see for the two of us now.

Perhaps it is my job, as his mom, to always seek and show him the beauty he somehow lost sight of.

The beauty that still remains.

The ties that bind . . . perhaps we show that beauty to each other.

My Daughter Came Back to Help Her Dog

My daughter’s dog was already an older dog when my daughter passed over via suicide. The dog was confused at first, looking around for her, waiting for her, but my daughter, Buttercup, did not return. The dog would never go into the closet where my daughter died though. She seemed to sense something about that space she wanted to avoid. About a year and a half later, her dog became extremely ill with cancer, and we had to put her down to relieve her suffering. I posted about it in March of 2017 in the Pets section of the Alliance of Hope forum. This is what I wrote: ​

___________________________________________________________________

It began nearly 2 weeks ago. Our daughter’s dog, which she got as a puppy 10 years ago, was lying on her bed near me. Suddenly she began to look up at the ceiling near the stairway. She behaved as though she saw someone she loved and wanted that person to come down and pet her. She wagged her tail, and was so excited, continuing to look upward. I asked her if she saw Buttercup, our daughter, and she got even more excited, continuing to look at the same spot. She then behaved as though she was being petted, and after about 10 minutes, she lay her head down, as though the person had now left.

About 2 hours later, I noticed her lying next to her dog bed, which was unusual for her. She began to have a seizure, which lasted about a minute, then came to after a bit. She had never had a seizure before, but I knew what it was, as Buttercup had severe epilepsy. Several days later, the dog awoke, and her left rear leg was completely paralyzed. At the vet, we learned she had a spinal tumor and a brain tumor, which had caused the seizure.

Within 5 days we were forced to put her down, as the tumors advanced so quickly that both rear legs were now paralyzed, and she was in kidney failure. It went so fast we could barely keep up with it and had to end her suffering as soon as we were able. Our family all gathered to say one last goodbye, and then it was over. We are having her cremated and buried next to our daughter.​​

Buttercup loved her dog as much as any dog or human could ever be loved. It did not seem possible that they could ever be parted. I believe that Buttercup came for her dog because she knew what was coming for her, and to prepare her and us for the transition. Buttercup had come last summer, in much the same way, right before we learned that her dog had a life-threatening infection and needed emergency surgery. Our loved ones do not just want to maintain connections with us, but with their beloved pets as well. These best friends will now be reunited forever.

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 »

5 Comments on My Daughter Came Back to Help Her Dog

Always

At times I sit and wonder how it is that my son has the capacity to exist, still
Two years and three months, yet always ever-present
Always no more than a heartbeat within, not away

Often, I wonder how can that be
Love never dies but the feeling is deeper than that
Always a determined child, his current grows stronger, still

At times I think and fear I’ve created a false reality for myself
A fairy-tale safe place to exist
But really, it’s quite the opposite

This is reality, my reality, our reality
How I choose to exist within it is my choice
And maybe it’s the same way for my son

Always near and dear, always a part of my every day
Because that’s how he chooses to exist
Always my determined boy, always with me, still

Never my “Once Upon a Time”
But forever and undeniably my “There Is”

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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Reflecting on the Journey – Ten Years After Losing Our Son

Trying to talk about Mitch’s suicide, even ten years later, still brings many thoughts to mind regarding all my feelings … then and now. The feelings are so personal, so private, so utterly my own, that the thought of sharing them with another is still difficult today. Yet, in the midst of the growing awareness of suicide and the efforts being made today to slow the occurrence, my hope is that we can provide insights into the feelings we have had, are having, and will continue to experience.

Surely, nothing in my life has taken so much out of me and at the same time given me so much hope for others. Hardly a day passes without someone coming to my office to talk about their interest in sales and instead beginning to talk about the tragedy that has taken place in their immediate family or with loved ones. My hope is that through the opportunity of talking about our loss, others may find that they too can proceed to make the journey through the pain and anguish that can be mastered.

I admit that in the aftermath of Mitch’s death there were so many questions that it is hard to bring them to the conscious level. One of many was “Whose fault is it?” And there was anger that could not be easily put aside. There is the dichotomy I faced in trying to bring to terms the different feelings that racked my body and mind.

Who could possibly know what I was feeling? No man, no woman, no priest, no counselor – no one knew.

I began to ask myself questions about how I would deal with my friends, my co-workers, the business contacts. Who would stand ahead of me and let them know that I had suffered and should be handled with care? I thought that everyone in the world knew that Mitch shot himself and that this father of his was about to enter a room, call on the telephone, or write a letter.

To my surprise, a lot of people did not know, but those who did, went out of their way to give me support, love, and comfort. My faith would tell me that I should expect help from our church – after all, we had been with the church from almost its very beginning as a mission. But the strength that awaited us there was more and bigger and wider.

Probably nothing stands out in my mind more than the different people who expressed their love and support. This came from the church and from others around us. It seemed that as soon as I could permit myself to express, to expose, I received the reinforcement to proceed.
Time became a major factor, as I slowly rebuilt the strengths that I knew I had, overcoming the agony. I found that time moved impossibly slow. When would I feel better? When would it be over?

The truth is that it is never over, but then, its is not supposed to be over. It will never be over, but my growth and gaining strength will make it acceptable.

Jack Bolton and his wife Iris, have made major contributions to the suicide loss survivor community.

Years have passed since I went to Mitch’s room to find him dying by his own hands. That image is with me today, and yet I find that I can look at that image and be at peace with myself. I know I did not plan, nor want, nor envision, that my son could or would take his own life. But it is the fact, and I can live with it today, knowing that I have made it this far.

It is a gift Mitch has given us, new knowledge of strength. Mitch has given us a new understanding of loving, caring, and the warmth of the friendship of others. Mitch has renewed our faith in God and the world. This was a faith, a love, a caring, and a friendship that I had taken for granted. No more! Time is precious. Life is precious. You are precious. Each day is a new revelation of this gift, a gift from Mitch.

How Men Grieve

I should know a lot about how men grieve. After all, I spent the first 15 years of my career pioneering the psychology of men.  My 1984 book, The Secrets Men Keep (Ballantine Books), mapped out previously uncharted paths to men’s hearts, souls and deepest needs.

I was featured regularly on Oprah, Larry King Live, Donahue, PBS, hundreds of network news and talk shows and countless articles on everything “male” in the nation’s largest newspapers and magazines. For 12 years, I traveled the world giving talks about men, men’s workshops, and training programs, consulting with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, and being called upon as an expert on men. And then, my life ended abruptly.

My beloved daughter, Jenna, died violently in 1996 while studying abroad. Racked by more pain than I could possibly handle, I held on for dear life. Searching desperately for answers and for something to hold onto, I immersed myself in the world of grief and loss. I was a drowning man, trying to survive overwhelming pain. My heart shattered into a million pieces. My life derailed. I honestly didn’t know where to turn or if I was even going to make it.

Nothing I’d learned or been through was helping me navigate the darkness, devastation, and feelings of utter helplessness I was encountering on the path of grief.  I would need to start all over. Learn to walk, breathe, think, feel, love, surrender, rage, cope, and travel by the dim light of the stars. It took every ounce of raw courage, faith, and patience I had to survive. Receiving support from family and friends was not easy. I was used to being the strong one. Taking care of myself was also a real challenge. I was used to powering through everything – figuring it out and fixing it. This could not be fixed. Learning to decipher between people and things that helped me, and those that drained and depleted me, enabled me to hold on. Slowly, I began to fight my way back into life. To breathe. And to find new strength. But not the way you might expect.

Did it help or hurt that I had undergone 47 years of basic training as a guy?

I’d been taught that emotions (other than anger) were a sign of weakness. Shows of sorrow, confusion, helplessness, and fear would be cause for demotion to a “lesser of a man” status. Tears would be automatic grounds for a significant drop in stature on the male scale. “Be a man!” “Suck it up,” “Get over it” and other clichés borrowed from sports and warfare, were not only useless – they were harmful.

What I needed more than anything was the strength, courage, and permission to grieve. I needed to feel the hurt, helpless, sorrow, brokenness, outrage, and confusion. The macho code of posing and posturing as strong and self-reliant would have been a formula for disaster for me. Hiding, denying, repressing my emotions would have prolonged my pain and deepened my sense of isolation. Distancing myself from my emotions and “shooting the messenger” when sorrow surfaced, would have disconnected me from my humanity. And thwarted my grieving process.

The cultural norm for being a man encourages us to shut down and shut up, less we suffer another loss, our status. Dr. Mike Freidman, the father of Type-A Behavior and one of my mentors, called this “status insecurity.” Is it any wonder that 85% of participants who seek grief support after the death of a child, spouse, or parent, are women? Men who are overwhelmed by the intensity of their grief and defenseless against their own feelings of sorrow, will try to outrun, out-numb, out-busy their way over and around grief.  As I learned at one of our first support groups in New York after 9-11, they will even shout down others who are trying valiantly to work through their grief.

A disgruntled husband had come to pick up his wife from support group stuck his head in the room to see if we were done. He was invited by several group members to join in and responded, “No thanks, I know how this stuff works. Misery loves company!” After a brief silence, one of the other wives stood up, looked him in the eye and said, “No sir, you’ve got it all wrong. Hope loves company.”

Taught to hide, deny, repress and outright avoid our feelings, or fake it by telling everyone “I’m fine,” men learn to fool themselves into believing they can just hold their breath or think their way around it. These men become the dumbed down, crusty, diluted version of their former selves. But the debt comes due. Cut off from their feelings, hearts and too often, their loved ones, they wither. As if life after loss wasn’t difficult enough.

Here are a few healthy and effective ways to support a man who you care about through grief:

Ask open-ended questions like “What has it been like for you since losing ___?”

Listen and gently draw him out by asking, “What’s been helping you? Making it harder?”  “What are your options?” and “Tell me more.”

Men often find that “doing” some form of activity, like going for a walk, fishing, golfing, working on a project, taking a trip, etc. helps them cope.  Consider asking him about, or suggesting, an activity and joining him.

Gently encourage, but don’t push, him to

a) share his feelings of sorrow, anger, confusion, fear, loneliness, etc.

b) be patient, kind, and caring with himself

c) be honest and direct with those in his inner circle and place of work about the kind of support he needs.

Going on is never easy after the loss of a loved one. It takes a strong work ethic, bravery, and a lot of faith to fight one’s way back into life. It also takes courage and humility to admit that we need help and ask for it (“help” is, after all, the least utilized 4 letter word in the male vocabulary). Learning self-care, self-compassion, and that it’s OK to ask for what we need are the things that not only help men grieve but slowly transform their pain back into love and enjoy full lives in the aftermath of loss.  Making our lives an expression of love, rather than despair, is a noble quest for any “real man.”

Welcoming Tears at Four Months

The tears of suicide loss aren’t like other tears. They’re endless and pure and come gushing out many times a day, washing us clean for a moment. They come in silent, heaving bursts that make the face contort and squeeze the breath into short, agitated spurts. When we let out their sound, it’s like the howl of a wounded animal. I’d hear those sobs around the house the first few weeks and go running to find my husband, Bryan. I’d close the windows so my own primitive cries wouldn’t alarm the neighbors.

The inexhaustible well of tears seems ready to pour out at the slightest reminder. Each outpouring releases a little more of the vastness of grief. I cling to my tears, to what’s left of my bond with Noah in the salt tracks on my face.

The hardest days are when work or other obligations compel me to keep tears at bay. Holding back feels unnatural, like damming an untamed river. The tears will have out, if not at the end of the day, then when driving or resting or when a movie or TV drama comes to a poignant end. Not another ending, please.

In my alternate vision of the day of his death, Noah collapses in tears, unable to follow through on his violent plan. But that would mean he could still feel his bond with the living and give voice to the tender, vulnerable side of himself. We hadn’t heard that voice for months. I weep for the loss of that tender soul that could have, maybe, saved his life.

Susan Auerbach lost her 21-year-old son, Noah, in 2013. This essay is excerpted from her book I’ll Write Your Name on Every Beach: A Mother’s Quest for Comfort, Courage and Clarity After Suicide Loss and reprinted with permission.

Connecting the Dots

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward.” ~Steve Jobs

I posted a quote from Steve Jobs in my status this morning. I thought it was worth explaining the context. It came from a commencement address he gave at Stanford. He explained that he dropped out of college after one semester, (I’m sure much to the dismay of his parents) but continued to hang around and attend free classes that interested him – while sleeping on friend’s floors. He took a calligraphy class just because he thought it was cool. Fast forward to the early years of Apple. He took his calligraphy knowledge and developed the different fonts that are used in all word processing software around the world. It was only looking back that the dots connected any value to a class he’d taken on a whim.

In my mid-40’s I was a content bachelor and comfortable, living out my life as one. During a casual conversation with a lady friend at work, I mentioned how all my attempts at relationships had been disasters. She jokingly said, “Maybe you should try one of those Asian mail order brides”. On a whim, I found a service to connect with Vietnamese ladies and sent out some introductory letters. The culture and family values of Vietnam had always interested me. There was no road map in front of me showing that I would develop a relationship with a wonderful woman and that 7 months later I would be standing terrified in the middle of a Vietnamese wedding. That 4 years later I would hold God’s most precious gift to me, just minutes after Kelly took her first breath of life. That almost 11 years later I would be sobbing and forever broken over her lifeless body.

It’s only looking back that the dots connect. I didn’t have a crystal ball showing me the steps in advance to be a perfect dad to a little girl – or that how her life ended was never within my control.

Before the day is over, I will be re-arranging the dots and doing the “if only” and “should have” and examining my failures as a Dad. But at least for a little while, I will hold on to the understanding that this can only be done looking back. There were no dots to connect, reconnect, or shuffle and reorganize all those years ago. There was a moment in time when on a whim I took a step toward something that interested me – and now, I cannot change the ending … and there’s nothing else I would change.

If no one speaks your name today, I will Kelly. Every day as long as there is breath in my body.

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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Keeper of the Little Things

Hello. The second-year date of my son’s suicide is coming up next week. In light of this, I find myself more sensitized to even the smallest things. Last night, “my” dog slept at the foot of the bed my son used; he hardly ever goes in that room anymore, or not so I have seen. The most poignant incident is my son’s best friend’s mentioning that she is “beginning to forget the little things about him”.

Of course, there is beauty in remembering the “big accomplishments and the amazing generosity he showed to everyone,” for example, BUT I find myself the keeper of the little things. They are stuck to me like those hooked seed casings known as hitchhikers; they seem to pop open at a moment’s notice when a memory is evoked. There is no expectation that anyone other than myself will keep remembering all of the little and big parts of who my son was. It is just a reminder of time’s passing for everyone else and time’s slow pace for me. Maybe it’s all part of a mother’s job; if he were alive, I probably would be helping plan a wedding or other major event which would include lots of little details.

I have made progress on the journey back into life, but this month is one of accepting myself for as far as I have gone and not worrying about how far I decide I need to go. People are not as patient with me as they once were, but I put on my armor and ignore them. I think that is a huge step for me, in and of itself. This is my “Fault in Our Stars” to live through… As my garden grows in this wet and wild spring weather, I realize that once a mother has put that much love and effort into nurturing an infant to a child to young adulthood, her son or daughter is part of her forever. ALL parts. The commitment does not end with death.

So, ask me a question about something “little” and I am sure I will have a story to tell.

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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I Forgive Her Everything

Like so many others, I too have felt anger at my child for not reaching out to me, for downplaying her distress and her obvious (now) lies to me. But what I see is a mixed-up young girl, who loved her mother and hated upsetting her. I think she felt she could deal with it on her own and I think the lies she told were, in her mind, to protect me. She absolutely hated being the cause of my upset. And she got it wrong, she was too young to sort it out herself, she didn’t have the mental skills, she didn’t have to protect me. And I believe she wasn’t really serious until she did it. I think in her mind it was something she thought about often but never actually got around to doing anything about it. So why tell Mum? She didn’t know that thoughts can escalate to action in just a matter of minutes. She made a terrible mistake and paid for it with her life, she couldn’t cure herself, and she certainly didn’t end up protecting me. But I forgive her, I forgive her everything. She was my little lamb and she got lost.

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 Rest of the Story

“The Rest of the Story” was a weekly radio program hosted by Paul Harvey. It consisted of stories presented as little-known or forgotten facts on a variety of subjects with some key element of the story held back until the end. The broadcasts always concluded with a variation on the tag line, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

A few months ago, I wrote a story for Alliance of Hope titled, “Dorothy’s Love.” The story described my first few hours after learning that my son had passed, and how my husband instinctively brought my oldest, dearest neighbor and friend, Dorothy, to my side.

Someone had pulled a chair next to where I lay in a fetal position on my kitchen floor. Dorothy sat in the chair, held my hand, and stroked my head with her wise, nearly 90-year-old hands, not letting go until my own mother and a horde of family arrived. I cannot say it was her words, for they were not profound. I cannot say she offered words of instruction, for she did not. What Dorothy did offer, however, was her wise, comforting presence.

Now, here’s “The Rest of the Story.” Dorothy is a suicide loss survivor. Her only brother took his life some years ago. This tragic loss, this experience, has become a part of the fabric of her life. My husband was unaware that Dorothy had lost her brother to suicide when he brought her to me that day. His action came from knowing how much I deeply respect and love her as a friend and neighbor.

Dorothy and I have been neighbors for ten years. We have shared celebrations of life when my two grandchildren were born, as well as death when her husband and my sister each passed from illness. Dorothy and I have shared many, many kitchen table conversations through the years. We have shared much laughter and untold tears.

It was during one of those kitchen table conversations that Dorothy told me of losing her brother to suicide. Her parents had already passed. Losing her brother left just Dorothy and her sister. She had shared about the initial shock, the sadness, and regrets. Mostly, she shared about missing her brother.

In her almost 90 years on this earth, Dorothy has endured several hardships, as you might imagine happening in that many years. But here’s the thing: Dorothy has not become who she is in spite of her hardships, but possibly because of them. I have no doubt her hardships played a part in making her the woman that I have come to know and love.

Dorothy is generous in spirit and love. She is quick to lift another up. Her love of family, friends, and life is tangible. I have never left her company without a kiss, a hug and an “I love you.” I am so blessed to have her in my life.

Since my son passed I have been keenly aware that each day I am making a choice about how I am going to survive. There were, and sometimes still are, times when I feel I do not have anything left to give, but then I think of Dorothy. She has shared with me about her despair after the loss of her brother, followed years later by the loss of her husband. Dorothy has shared with me the difficulties of putting oneself back together after experiencing great loss and emerging stronger.

I am so thankful that Dorothy was able to find her strength, and who else better, to be holding my hand as I lay on my kitchen floor.

“And now you know the rest of the story.”

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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Dorothy’s Love

There has been so much kindness following my son’s passing seven months ago. I’m still in awe of how much love and support we received. I’d like to share one act of kindness, in particular.

In the first hour of my son’s passing, I was curled up on the floor in a puddle, weeping – not wanting to let the words that had just been spoken penetrate my mind. EMTs and police stood above me waiting for me to “crack.”

It was then that my husband got in the car and went across the street to get our neighbor, Dorothy. Dorothy is the oldest neighbor on the street. She’s pushing 90 years old, and the dearest woman I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling my friend. My husband brought Dorothy to me.

I recall that somebody pulled a chair up to where I was on the floor and Dorothy sat down. She held my head and allowed me to weep. She stayed with me until shortly after my own mother arrived. I’ll always be thankful to my husband for that very insightful, loving support and of course, to Dorothy for her love

Turtle

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 »

4 Comments on Dorothy’s Love

This New Year

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.” ~ T.S. Eliot

And now here I am in the first day of another new year,
walking into the second where I’m missing your big brown eyes and how they smiled so contagiously.

I won’t say I enter this new year without you because you’re always with me.

Time is a trickster though with a necessity to keep track.
The ticks turn to miles and the miles log the distance from that doorway where we hugged the last time.

I can still feel that little hump in your shoulder, that gentle curve when you’d lean down to hug me.
It used to be a reach when you were younger.
I could feel the stretch in your back as you’d reach up to hug me.

Tick-tock through time you grew taller and that stretch turned to a downward hump.
A hump and a lean-over defined by a gentle curve.
Sometimes weightless with love, sometimes heavy with worries and sorrow.
I remember the day it was so heavy I could hardly hold you.

But it’s not your job to hold me.
Your job now is to be weightless and silly.
Riding shooting stars across the moon yelling, “Look, Mom, no hands.”
That’s what I wish for you in this new year . . . lots of shooting stars and more moons than you can count.
So off you go, unbound and forever safely tethered to my heart.

That’s what holds me . . . knowing that you are forever safely tethered to my heart.

Safely and always.

Happy new year, sweetie.

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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Beyond a Chain of Pain – Continuing Bonds

I posted the other day about a friend of mine whose sister died suddenly of an undiagnosed heart condition earlier this year. Her grieving in many ways is so much like mine—a sudden, unexpected loss that tilted the axis of her world.

This Christmas season was hard for my friend. Her loneliness was compounded by COVID-induced social distancing. Like me, she told me that she had “lost her words” after her sister died. So, I sent her a poem that helped me process my grief.

Her response brought me to my knees—she said that she could only imagine that the pain of a 4th Christmas without my son must be as painful as the first.

Not only was this not accurate—it was so sad that she anticipated that she would forever experience heart-wrenching grief. I explained that I will always love and miss my son, but the past few holiday seasons were not as sad or angst-ridden as those first and second years.

I love Dr. Kenneth Doka’s thoughts on grief and shared a video of one of his lectures in another post. These concepts of “Chain of Pain”, “Moving On” and “Continuing Bonds” kept bouncing around in my head.

What is so wonderful about the Alliance of Hope (AOH) is that the entire organization encourages members to share that even suicide loss grief is not, as Dr. Doka defines, a “Chain of Pain” – that is, a future that contains a gaping hole in one’s heart forever. So many AOH members who are much further down the road on the suicide loss grief journey have shared their experiences of growth. Life may not be easy, but it is better.

The term “moving on” seems to be fixed in the western psyche. “Moving on” implies that we must forget about our loved ones and other losses, leaving them behind to “fix” our grief. Dr. Terri Daniel, a hospice chaplain and trained grief counselor, related that western psychiatric theories in the 20th century cultivated the idea that a person must “give up,” “separate,” and essentially forget a loved one after they died, or they would be “pathologically grieving.” This bias, along with a general avoidance or even acknowledgment of the “dark emotions” (grief, fear despair) created confusion and uncertainty in western society in general – and increased isolation and despair for those who are grieving.

Dr. Doka used the term “ameliorated grief” to describe the process of when an individual has worked on experiencing his or her feelings and is beginning to build a new life. I like Dr. Alan Wolfelt’s definition also:

“Reconciliation … occurs as you work to integrate the new reality of moving forward in life without the physical presence of the person who died. With reconciliation comes a renewed sense of energy and confidence, an ability to fully acknowledge the reality of the death, and a capacity to become re-involved in the activities of living…. Beyond an intellectual working through of the death, there is also an emotional and spiritual working through. What had been understood at the head level is now understood at the heart level.” ~ Understanding Your Suicide Grief, page 198.

Dr. Daniel first introduced me to the concept of “continuing bonds.” She explained that this concept was first written about in the late 1990s. The authors posited that many non-Western cultures continued to honor their loved ones through rituals and celebrations for many years after their deaths. These practices did not harm individuals psychologically, in fact, these rituals and commemorations appeared to be helpful. I find that rituals such as poems, lighting candles, an altar, music, help me to remember my son and my other departed loved ones—and have made the grief journey easier.

Dr. Doka, in ending his lecture, told a story about the grief support groups he facilitated. He always ended the series of meetings with the following exercise: “Imagine that it is a year from today, and I see you in the supermarket. I ask “How are you doing?” He then asked each participant to share their response. He said he was surprised at how optimistic people were. Most said, “I’m doing much better.”

So, what is your response? As for me, in 2022, “I’m doing much better” too.

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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