From the Desk of Father Rubey:
Halloween has become a major holiday. It is now second only to Christmas in expenditures for decorations around people’s homes and yards. Many people erect ghoulish figures, fake cemeteries with tombstones, or dummies hanging from trees, to be humorous.
Sometimes, survivors of suicide loss find these to be uncomfortable reminders of a loved one who died by suicide. My suggestion during this time of the year is to be prepared to have the pain of suicide stirred up as a result of decorations that are meant to be humorous but may feel offensive.
Halloween is also a time when people put on costumes and masks, pretending to be someone they are not. Costume parties are the rage. There is often a lot of hilarity and jesting at such gatherings.
Sometimes, survivors of a suicide loss wear a mask.
They pretend that everything is alright when in fact their hearts are broken. While survivors might not want to bare their hearts and souls to each person they meet during the grieving process, I believe that they do themselves a disservice to pretend that everything is fine if in fact, they are downright miserable.
It is alright to admit that your grief process is painful. I am not suggesting that you share your pain with every person that you meet, but it is alright to let people know that you miss your loved one beyond imagination. Otherwise, people are under the impression that everything is fine when in fact it isn’t.
… It is alright to take the mask off to those people who count in your life. It is alright to let them know that the pain of grief is excruciating, and lasts a long time. It is not something that is going to go away in a few weeks or months.
People in the world around the survivor want nothing more than to see the survivor get over this experience, but they also need to understand that surviving the suicide of a loved one is not something one gets over. It is something that survivors learn to live with. This lesson will take place as survivors take off the mask that everything is alright and let people know that their journey is lengthy and painful, but that they will survive and even thrive in time.
Our loved ones wore masks.
Survivors often mention that their loved ones did not appear to be troubled. They beat themselves up trying to figure out how they could have “missed signs.” The fact is that these many of our loved ones wore a mask that everything was fine in their lives. They went about their lives as if nothing was wrong, when in fact their life was unraveling as they went about their business.
It is possible that these loved ones wore masks because of the stigma that is attached to mental illness or because they did not see any other way out except to end their life. They believed that no intervention was going to end their pain. No intervention was going to work. They believed that ending their life was going to end the pain – finally.
No one knows how long these loved ones carried the burden of mental illness and the ensuing pain. It could have been months or years, but because the mask was worn very effectively there were no signs that they were in such a desperate state of mind. It is only after the suicide that survivors come to realize the extent of the pain.
The mask came off but by then it was too late. The pain was gone and the life of this much-loved person ended, and they finally found peace – at last.
As always, I want to assure each and every one of the LOSS family of my thoughts and prayers on a regular basis and I encourage all of the LOSS family to remember each other in thought and prayer, especially those who have recently joined our family and also those who found life too painful to continue living.
Keep On Keepin’ On,
Fr. Charles Rubey