Peace Fire at POS-FFOS Retreat - Columbia, Tennessee USA
About Painful Issues That Never Vanish:
There is a constant stream of painful topics flowing out of Survivor Of Suicide groups. Various participants express their feelings of loss, wondering how and why the suicide happened. They typically move on to ruminate on thoughts of how things could have been different.
“What if” . . . is a common thought living deep in the heart of every survivor. If all the “what ifs” were put into words, the sentence would never end. Even if the list exhausted every possibility, none of them could ever be proven. This is probably the reason these thoughts are seldom verbalized. Just another area where acceptance only comes after prolonged agony and tears fall.
The whys and what ifs live on as possibilities, yet they can never come to fruition.
These previous statements are contrary to what we want to believe. Thoughts on suicide issues are typically a one-sided rumination buried deep in the hearts of those left behind.
There is little doubt that suppressing discussions on suicide is, in part, due to guilt. A sense of guilt from time to time is common, but for a survivor, the thought takes up permanent residence. Suicide remains a topic loaded with stigma.
In rebuilding a new life after a suicide, survivors encounter emotional showstoppers from time to time. Anxiety levels will escalate when serious issues surface. It is human nature to shy away from anything folks are uncomfortable with. Therefore suicide discussions typically transition to silence.
Worse yet, if statements we make are not well thought out more misunderstanding can result. When this occurs, attempting further dialogue will bring on isolation.
So, not only are we survivors, it is incumbent on us to become suicide educators. In most situations, we will expend our efforts, yet the level of understanding (we hope for) will remain just beyond our grasp.
It is a requirement to learn to live with these unchangeable things. To find PEACE in this storm it is imperative to develop coping skills. Adopting memorized pat responses to sensitive questions can relieve a lot of stress. Mastering this approach will allow you to begin to live moment by moment. We do live in the moment, not the past or the future, but the present. It takes time, effort and emotional practice to become conversant on suicide subjects.
I formulated and memorized pat responses to delay topics from folks that I was uncomfortable with. So I would say things like “I am just not ready (or up) to talking about that right now . . . maybe some other time.” Some other time might mean tomorrow. Yet for others, it could mean never.
Delays provide time to reflect, resolve our own thoughts and be more effective. Also, it allows time to develop mental lists of folks (friends and relatives) you want to have a dialogue with and those you don’t. Keep in mind there are some folks you will want to dialogue with. There will be others (typically family members) you will be obliged to. Other than matter a fact comments, deeper discussions with casual acquaintances are best avoided.
It will take a long time to work your way through these direct encounters. Plus, in the initial wake, you will be hard pressed for emotional strength. On the long haul, however, you will find it well worth the effort.
To ignore these lists will create a permanent barrier to peace. [Peace is that state of being calm and untroubled when you are alone.]
Remember life does not shift into idle, new folks will appear on these lists and others will drop off. You will never attain complete satisfaction that you are done with these encounters. The key point is to leave the doors open. You don’t control any other person . . . you can certainly influence them . . . but, what they choose to think and do is up to them.
As time rolls along you can conclude this process.
Surviving is a lot of work, but it does not mean that life after a suicide cannot be meaningful, purpose-driven and fun. You might think of it as immigrating to a new world.
As you rebuild your life, there is one topic that can never be overlooked on the path to peace. That topic is forgiveness. If you don’t come to terms with forgiveness, your chance of finding lasting peace is minimal.
Forgiveness must be rendered to the individual that has willfully ended their life. It also must be given to whoever or whatever you hold to blame. Otherwise, blame turns into anger, resentment, grudge, and revenge at some level.
Blame mingles with the early idea of “how things should have been.” Blame is developed on assumptions that could be 100% correct. But, again, these assumptions can never be validated no matter how strongly you believe in them. Even if everyone you know holds the same opinion . . . you can never really know since other considerations will remain obscure. The totality of all factors cannot be known.
So if you hold on to blame, you are the one that will suffer the most (and the longest) not the target of your blame. Here is one area that counsel is almost mandatory. Under these stressful conditions, it is nearly impossible for us to think in any rational, objective way.
Forgiving myself was a concept that was impossible for me to believe in. Forgiveness took me years to come to terms with, along with forgiving myself.
Friends and family are reticent to challenge you and we are all reluctant to change our thinking. Good counsel can help work you out of this corner.
I personally brought the forgiveness issue to a conclusion during a survivor retreat through a letter that was symbolically burned during a retreat’s “peace fire.”
In the end, it will be necessary to replace dreams and visions about your future. Whatever they were, no matter the intricate plan you may have developed, those details will have to be modified and in some cases abandoned.