I can hear you grumbling now: “Celebrate my accomplishments? What accomplishments? I haven’t accomplished anything since my loved one died by suicide.”
Oh, but you have! You’ve survived the horrible news of your loved one’s death. You’ve made it through the first few gut-wrenching days, weeks, months, or even years. You’re looking at your computer screen right now, which means you aren’t lying catatonic in bed, though you may wish you were.
Since your loved one died, I bet you’ve gotten out of bed, taken a shower, brushed your hair and teeth, maybe even run errands, or gone to work. Maybe you’ve set about the difficult business of dealing with your loved one’s belongings and estate. Maybe, through circumstances or choice, you’ve dealt with a big life change like moving, confronting a health problem, or welcoming a new child into the family. You may even have been the kind voice that helped another survivor feel less lonely.
On the Alliance of Hope forum, there is a sub-forum titled: “Accomplishments.” Survivors post there about the victories, big and small, they’ve achieved since the death of their loved one. If you still feel like you haven’t accomplished anything since your loved one died, maybe their words will inspire you.
Every Day Bravery
“I vacuumed today. It felt like an overwhelming task, but I did it.”
I remember waking up the morning after I found my friend’s lifeless body in her apartment. I had so much that I needed to do…but I didn’t want to do any of it. I wanted to hide under the covers and pretend that nothing that had happened the day before had been real. If I didn’t move, didn’t function, I could almost make myself believe it was all a bad dream.
But of course, I had to get up, that day and every day afterward. It takes a special kind of courage to get out of bed and face an “ordinary” day when you know your loved one won’t be able to share it with you. It’s no wonder our fellow Forum members list among their accomplishments things like getting out of bed, cleaning the house, going grocery shopping, and balancing the checkbook. When your heart is broken, there are no little things at all. They are accomplishments, and you should be proud of them.
Dealing with the Aftermath of Suicide
“I used to keep the closet so I wouldn’t see his clothes. Now I will close the closet, so I don’t have to see the emptiness. You can’t win with this.”
The sudden death of a loved one creates a lot of unfinished business. Members on the Forum often write about having to plan memorial services for their loved ones with very little time and even less money. They also write about dealing with their loved one’s belongings, coping with the police, medical examiners, and inquests, and trying to remember to take the time and energy to thank the people who helped out during their darkest days.
Members of this community also write about finding unique ways to memorialize their loved ones, such as keeping their loved one’s cremains in a special urn or getting a tattoo. One woman who lost her father to suicide wrote, “I’m very proud to have my daddy on my shoulder, and I dare someone to say something about it!”
Picking up the pieces your loved one left behind may be a necessity, but it’s also a huge accomplishment.
Reconnecting with the World
“I finally went to a support group last night.”
Some people naturally seek the support of others when they are sad or grieving, but many of us turn into little hermit crabs. Reaching out to the world when your heart is raw and aching can be so difficult, yet Forum members write of taking huge steps like returning to the comfort of a church family, holding a birthday party for a child in the family, going out to dinner with friends, and even attending support groups to find allies in healing.
If you have fought the urge to hibernate and reached out to another person instead, give yourself a pat on the back. That’s a huge accomplishment.
Major Life Changes
“He’s the best blessing God could have given me through this hellish nightmare and brightens my day and brings so much joy and happiness.”
Many grief experts suggest avoiding major life changes for at least a year after you’ve been bereaved, but we all know that life happens and that change sometimes comes along whether we want it or not. Survivors on the Forum note living through huge changes such as having a new baby, moving to a new house or apartment, leaving an old job and starting a new one, and even forming a new relationship after the death of a partner.
We all know that these things, even if positive, can be stressful enough when there is nothing else going on in your life. To weather a major life change shortly after a suicide takes an especially strong heart–and yes, it’s an accomplishment.
Helping Raise Awareness of Suicide and Suicide Survivors
“It pulled me back into my grief fully again…but I feel it was worth it if it made one family seek help or perhaps [made] one suicidal person aware of how much damage it would do their family if they died in that manner.”
Survivors come to the Forum to get help with their own grief and pain, but they almost invariably end up helping others heal as well. Some go a step further and raise awareness and funds for mission-driven nonprofits, like the Alliance of Hope. Others write books, articles, or blogs. Others give interviews to local reporters in hopes of preventing a tragedy like the one they experienced.
If you have reached out to a grieving, depressed, or suicidal person in any way, no matter how small the gesture may have seemed to you at the time, you can be assured you have had a positive impact on someone’s life.
And if you recognize yourself in any part of this article, you can be sure that you have accomplished many things since your loved one died. Take a moment to think about these accomplishments and, if you can, allow yourself a moment to celebrate them. It is still too soon to celebrate, at least be aware that you have shown grace, strength, and courage that will see you through this hard time.