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The Turn

Turning into the Wind

by Elizabeth Harper Neeld

A poet once asked, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” At some point as we are grieving the loss of loved one from suicide, we start to ponder a similar question: how am I going to have to replan my life now that this tragedy has happened? We have known from the moment of Impact that our life was changed forever. As we travel the journey of grieving, we come to a place where we realize that we have to change too. From the moment – a very valuable moment – that we even ask the question of how will we replan our lives – we are making The Turn. We don’t have to know the answers to make The Turn. We just have to realize that replanning our lives is critical to our finding our way forward on this journey we now find ourselves taking.

The Turn: Turning into the Wind

What is Normal?

  • Understanding that some people stay mired in their grief to great detriment
  • Understanding that a new way to relate to the person who died has to be found
  • Recognizing that the old life is never coming back and a new life has to be created
  • Taking responsibility for your own happiness

A sister says:

At some point after my sister died from suicide, I realized I was operating on a dead-end street. I was feeling sorry for myself and waiting for someone else to do something that would make me feel happy again. But I’ve come to see that nobody else is responsible for your happiness. Nobody! Only you. Every tub must sit on its own bottom. Your state of mind finally comes down to your choice, no matter how terrible the fact is that someone you love died from suicide. I’m not saying that tomorrow I won’t revert to “Here I am, little Janinne, saying ‘Poor me.” But I can assure you that I may feel sorry for myself for a little while, but then I’ll do something to get myself out of it. I choose not to stay miserable, and I know I’m the only one who can do anything about it.

A widower says:

Who would believe that making a pan of gravy would be such a turning point for me? After my wife died,I was as lost as if I had been dropped down in the middle of a wilderness. The shape of everything had been shattered. I wandered through the days and night like a zombie. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t enjoy eating. One day though, a thought struck me: I would really like to have steak and gravy for supper! The steak would be no problem, but I had no idea how to make gravy. I had tried a time or two when my wife was alive, but the gravy came out in a lump instead of a liquid. “Well,” I thought, “it’s time for you to learn. If you’re going to have gravy, that’s what you got to do. What you gonna do, otherwise? Invite Mama down from Oklahoma to cook it for you?” You know, I found a new me to some extent just in making that decision. I could define myself now as a man who was going to become independent – a man who could make gravy.

The Choice for The Turn:

To replan and change our life to include the loss but not be dominated by the loss

This choice is an assertion, a declaration, something we affirm without knowing what the exact outcome is going to be. We are proclaiming that we will go forward. It isn’t too dramatic to say that this choice is one of the most critical we will ever make. People who don’t make the choice to replan their lives after a terrible loss will live, in the words of an old French saying, as a person whose clock has stopped. But we can make this choice. It is a private decision, an internal commitment.

This internal commitment comes first. Then some kind of external action will naturally and appropriately follow.

What helps during The Turn:

  • Taking stock of the ways you are staying stuck
  • Making positive and appropriate changes in your environment
  • Talking to people about ideas you have for your new future
  • Asking for help in exploring possibilities for a new shape for your life

© Elizabeth Harper Neeld, PhD