April 6, 2019

After my husband’s suicide I stalled my healing with effective, conflicted roadblocks:

1.    I’m fine.

2.    I’m NOT fine.

3.    Victim-me will NEVER be fine.

4.    Repeat.

Hope bulldozed over all four.

Hope taught me it was OK not to be ‘fine’…who is ‘fine’ after a suicide??? Better yet, hope insisted I could grieve my gut-wrenching pain without suffering. Seriously?

I know this sounds nuts, but there's a huge difference between feeling pain and suffering. Let me give you an example. It’s easier to understand with a physical rather than an emotional scenario. About a year and a half ago, klutzy me fell, totally shattered my ankle, and hair-line fractured my tibia. Pain and suffering, right? Well, yes…and…no.

Whenever my ankle screamed with pain (and Lordy it did!) I reacted in two ways:

1.    Gratitude. Yes, gratitude. I literally thanked my ankle and tibia for 62+ years of service. I promised to return the favor and do everything I could to pamper them back to wholeness.

2.    I befriended my pain. Throbbing agony was healing-in-progress. Piercing pain meant nerve endings were waking up—reporting back for duty. Rejoining the party!

Did it hurt? OMG YES!

But I didn’t ‘suffer’—no.

OK, yes…there were feel-sorry-suffering moments. But, honestly, I did not suffer while gratefully standing awe of the body’s miraculous, restorative powers.

So it is with grief. Hope teaches us to rename our pain as healing.

Post suicide you’re NOT 'fine' so please un-shun your pain. Hold it as you would a frightened infant. Instantly pain becomes less terrifying. Less forever-feeling. I’m betting your loved one is worth being painfully heartbroken about. Worth missing. Worth messy tears. Worth sleepless nights. Feel it—feel ALL of it. Feel to heal.

In short, you’re grateful. So, so, so, so, so grateful for the endless ways your loved one touched your life. Feeling the pain of loss is different than suffering. Honor your heartbreak and it becomes sacred. Restorative. Hope-filled. Healing.

Suffering happens when, instead of feeling pain, we toss pain out as weapon, use it as a torture chamber, or let it become a victim membership card. Personally, my favorite way to suffer is to hit the mute button. I’d find ways to push pain away—hoping to banish grief forever. I did the busy, busy, busy thing. The pain came back. I did the mindless TV binge thing. The pain came back. I did the scotch, popcorn, and chocolate thing. The pain came back—with a headache and 10 extra pounds. That, my friend, added suffering.

Thankfully, hope bulldozed over my resistance. The Love I call God literally took my stubborn, chocolate-coated hand and said, “Your husband is worth grieving. Let’s do this thing. Let’s feel the pain. Let’s own the pain. Let’s be grateful for past joys. Let’s stand in awe of the resilience of your body, mind, and spirit. Let’s do this thing.”

When I finally let hope bulldoze over my ridiculous post-suicide pretending to be ‘fine’ charade, hope revealed a giant re-set button.

You have one too. God knows we all need a post-suicide re-set button.

More on that next time…

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