The timing of this post is a beautiful reminder of synchronicity in my life, and I am so very grateful for the opportunity to share a profound moment of enlightenment I experienced just this morning.
It has been nearly twenty years since my then soon-to-be-ex-husband came to my workplace and, after having flowers delivered, stood in the parking lot, raised his hand, gun to temple, and forever changed the lives of so many. I was 19. The thing about surviving suicide is that you must also grieve many little deaths of your own. The death of life as you know it, the death of your future, once imagined, the death of yourself as you may think you know, and the death of others as you have come to know them. For some, maybe for most, this can be a lifetime of work.
While it can ultimately soften and provide you an extraordinary opportunity to develop the deepest love, compassion, strength, and an almost unbearable lust for life, survival comes first. Survival is about escaping danger. As we navigate the trauma and grief, we learn to hold on to little bits of wisdom given to us along the way- little life boats to help us drift safely through the unthinkable. Things like "the difficulty can be seen as waves- you can't resist them- you can't send them away. Nor can you hold on to them. Like waves on the shore- you must let them come, and you must let them go." I held to this for years. Only recently, however, have I begun to understand that in time, if we want to truly escape danger, if we want truly to Live, we must transition from coping to thriving.
Today I came to understand a poignant and vital distinction: allowing the waves to wash over is helpful for coping with the unimaginable and overwhelming emotion that comes with grief, but to truly survive, is to live, and to live, is to thrive. A gift arrived in my inbox this morning- I was given an alternative perspective on waves. Now that I am no longer hugging the shore, the waves are bigger, and consequently, can be far more dangerous. Or they can be part of a wonderful adventure and practice of courage and grace under pressure! Like when playing in the surf, at a certain point the waves are so big, they are so powerful, that the ONLY way to avoid being crushed or thrashed about and completely disoriented by them, is to dive in to the wave.
The years of coping and self-protecting that follow surviving suicide makes this truth, at first, very hard to fully understand. Yet it is certainly the next step in my evolution. I know it in my bones, though it is frightening and I can feel my cells resist the necessary movements required. It is indeed time to Dive In. All of life's challenges aren't suicides! Life is hard, but life after suicide is unique, it is its own thing, with its own set of rules. They cannot be approached similarly, indefinitely. This feels to me like a critical turn in my healing and growth, the critical step in moving on from the past; finally understanding how to separate life after suicide, from LIFE after suicide. It is the transition from coping to thriving. Transitioning from mindful allowing to fully and mindfully participating. Coming to know and trust that I have already survived! I don't need to keep struggling in that familiar and "life-preserving" way. The danger has passed, and I am ready to face challenges in THIS lifetime that might allow me to find that place I keep searching for- that place where I feel I "fit" in my life.
For those of you just beginning this journey- my heart breaks and aches for you, and I can't even for a minute imagine that I have useful advice for you. It is your unique experience. But you are not alone; if nothing else, do not believe in the lie you will surely be tempted by; that you are alone, that you are separate from the world because of this experience. There is peace and there is joy and there is connection like you have never known, that will come to as you come through this. I am no-one to you, I know, but I promise. Suicide might be one of the absolute darkest sides of life- but it can illuminate unimaginable beauty, as well, in time. A brutal teacher, but in the end the lessons are treasures.A life is lost, and it is tragic. It is senseless. For those left behind, however, it doesn't have to be forever dark, or forever still.
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