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by Elizabeth Harper Neeld

There’s an old saying, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” One of the outcomes of the journey through grief that commences when a loved one dies by suicide is that we end up with a kind of humble confidence. It’s confidence because we now know that we can make choices that support us as we move through our grief. It’s humble because we know that no one is ever free from loss and change. What we can say is that we understand the grief journey is a process. A process that centers on our own power to make choices. No one escapes the hurt. But no one has to stay stuck in the dark forever. Daylight results from our continuing to make good choices.

Integration: Daylight

What’s Normal

  • Feeling released
  • Realizing that we have an enlarged capacity for empathy
  • Being able to hold life’s ups and downs in more perspective
  • Experiencing a steady state of balance
  • Looking up and being able to see a horizon

A man says:

The important thing to do is put the arbitrary occurrence in a larger context. There isn’t anything I can do in terms of how the cards fall. Sometimes I can control them, and sometimes I can’t. I’m beginning to find my place. And it’s taken a lot of trial and error. Trust is important. Trust in yourself and trust in the overall process. You just have to do it and see what works. That’s how you learn to get along with the bigger program. Finally, I think I’ve come back from this awful place of dealing with suicide to integrate with life.

A mother says:

I don’t think you ever get over the loss in your heart. When someone you love is gone, you are going to miss that person. It’s perfectly human. When Christmastime comes, and there’s no Cliff who’s going to walk in the door and say, “Hi, Mom,” I’m going to have a hard time. But there’s no agonizing over Cliff now. There is peace and a quiet calmness. I am comfortable with the situation. If something beautiful happens or I’m somewhere Cliff would have been with us, I’ll say, “Hi, Cliff, wish you could see this. How’s it going, ol’ boy?” Something like that, but it’s not heavy.

The Choice for Integration

To continue to make and remake choices

People have said that the human mind makes progress, but it is progress in spirals. Not progress in a straight line. That is how we experience life as we make our journey through grief after losing someone to suicide. That journey is not a step-by-step move forward. It is step and back step. It is go forward and go back, then go forward again. What we gain by making the choice to continue to make and remake choices is wisdom.

Life contains loss – all kinds of loss. We have suffered a terrible kind of loss – the death of a loved one by suicide. What we recognize as we have worked to make good choices throughout the journey is that we have a kind of road map now. A kind of drawing of a process. Having gone on this journey, we now know a lot about the terrain. And we know that we can finally see the sun coming up over the mountain. There is now some daylight.

What helps during Integration

  • Acknowledging and celebrating the hard work you have accomplished
  • Sharing your wisdom with others
  • Staying in touch with what gives your life meaning
  • Keeping some time for stillness and quiet
  • Expecting that you will experience other losses and remembering that you know first-hand that there is an active grieving process that can be engaged with that leads to integration and daylight.

© Elizabeth Harper Neeld, PhD