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Where Are They When I Need Them?
Emotions & Challenges, Grief Journey, Losing a Child

Where Are They When I Need Them?

I’ve been noticing the posts of those of you who’ve described an absence of support from family and friends. I have been in situations you describe which has fueled my interest in the subject of empathy. I was struck by the writing of Carl Rogers on “Empathy.” He wrote: 

“When I truly hear a person and the meanings that are important to him at that moment, hearing not simply his words, but him, and when I let him know that I have heard his own private personal meanings, many things happen. This is first of all a grateful look. He feels released. He wants to tell me more about his world.  He surges forth in a new sense of freedom. He becomes more open to the process of change.

I have often noticed that the more deeply I hear the meanings of that person, the more there is that happens. Almost always, when a person realizes he has been deeply heard, his eyes moisten. I think in some real sense he is weeping for joy. It is as though he were saying, “Thank God, somebody heard me. Somebody knows what it’s like to be me.” In such moments I have had the fantasy of a prisoner in a dungeon, tapping out day after day a Morse code message, “Does anybody hear me?  Is anybody there?”  And finally one day he hears some faint tappings which spell out “Yes.” By that one simple response he is released from his loneliness; he has become a human being again. There are many, many people living in private dungeons today, people who give no evidence of it whatsoever on the outside, where you have to listen very sharply to hear the faint messages from the dungeon. 

I have wondered if certain people in my life are capable of “walking in my shoes,” even to the slightest degree. Better than that, however, I would rather they not have to be suicide loss survivors, but genuine people who TRY to listen and offer compassion in the best way they can. For me, denial is the hardest … avoidance of the subject or of my son’s name, there is not much difference between the two. I get that people on my fringes simply want to maintain the idea that things like this “happen to other people and not to them.” BUT people who were close to me and my son have acted like they can’t or don’t want to hear “the faint messages from the dungeon” known as surviving suicide loss and it has not changed in almost sixteen months. I have to assume it never will.

I realize I need to rebuild my life or “get myself out of the dungeon.” It is clear that everything is different now. I notice impatience when people see that I have not moved on very far. (Though in our world, my progress is measurable.) I tend to go on and on so I will simply say that my son’s suicide has enhanced the ability for empathy in me and it has helped me to see the related act of forgiveness as being as important for my well-being as it is for the one being forgiven.

For now, I know that the people on this forum hear all of the faint messages and respond with compassion. I wish my world were like that, too. I hope you find the peace and solace you are seeking. You might also have to look inside like many of us do.


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 »