Peace Fire at POS-FFOS  Retreat -  Columbia, Tennessee USA

Painful Issues That Never Vanish:

There is a constant stream of sensitive topics flowing from Survivor Of Suicide groups. Various participants express their feelings of loss, wondering how and why the suicide. Then ruminations on how things could have been different take front and center.

“What if” . . . is a thought living deep in the heart of every survivor. We could never create a complete list of "the what-ifs,” and while some entries seem so obvious, none could ever be proven. Some thoughts are not verbalized, since they tend to lead to conflict. After prolonged agony soul-searching, and tears fall we must accept reality.

In the end, whys and what-ifs live on and never come to fruition.

These previous statements are contrary to what I wanted to believe. For years I resisted reality. Thoughts on suicide issues tend to be one-sided ruminations resident in the hearts of those left behind.

Suppressing discussions on suicide is, in part, due to guilt. A sense of guilt from time to time is common. Guilt camps out in the mind of survivors.  Suicide remains a topic loaded with stigma.

In constructing a new life after a suicide, survivors will encounter emotional showstoppers. Anxiety levels will escalate as serious issues surface. It is human nature to shy away from subjects folks find discomforting. Unfortunately, suicide discussions can transition into conflict or silence, since universal conclusions are oh so rare.

When statements are not well thought-out, misunderstanding grows, and the presenter experiences isolation.

We are not only survivors; it is incumbent on us to become suicide educators. Too often we expend our time and efforts, yet the level of understanding (we hope for) remains beyond our grasp.

If you are going to find PEACE in this storm, you must learn to live with unchangeable things.

Developing Coping Skills is an absolute must for your emotional well-being. The stigma associated with suicide has been around forever, and no individual is going to change that. A repulsive "unchangeable reality" and I hate even to write that down.

One coping skill that can relieve stress is memorizing a few pat responses to sensitive questions. An expression like "I am just not up to discussing that right now, maybe some other time" will typically squelch most of them. Experience will teach you to pick winning and losing topics. This approach will help you begin to live in the moment. Keep reminding yourself you 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. Hiding out and not being authentic will not lead to PEACE.

Delays provide time to reflect, resolve your thoughts and be more conversant. Also, it allows time to develop "mental lists" of people (friends and relatives) you want to have a dialogue with and those you don’t. You will feel an obligation to address family members, but you will be better off to avoid talks with casual acquaintances. They consume your emotional energy. Bringing up the word suicide in a general audience is a show stopper.

It will take a long time to work your way through these direct encounters. Plus, you will be hard pressed in the early days. On the long haul, however, you will find it well worth the effort to work your way through your contact list.

It is a burden to know someone deserves shared time. Ignoring this crowd creates a barrier to PEACE. [PEACE to me is the state of being calm and untroubled when you are by yourself.]

Remember life does not shift into idle when a crisis occurs. New folks continue appearing as time rolls along, and you will never enjoy the satisfaction that these encounters are over. That door can be closed but never be locked.

Remember you don’t control any person. You can influence some but, the choice and judgments are theirs to make.

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 into a new world as a new person.

As you build your new life, there is one topic that you should not overlook. That topic is forgiveness. If you don’t come to terms with forgiveness, your chance of finding lasting PEACE is minimal.

You must forgive 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, grudge, resentment, and revenge at some level.

Blame mingles with the early idea of “how things should have been.” One develops blame on assumptions that could be 100% correct. But, again, these assumptions can never be validated no matter how conspicuous or strongly you believe them. Even if everyone you know holds the same opinion . . . It can never be proven since total considerations will remain obscure.

If you are early (first few years) in the survivor process, chances are this writing will make you mad as hell. I know this line of thinking certainly did me back in the day.

I discovered that 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 stressful conditions, it is nearly impossible to think in any rational, objective way.

Forgiving myself was a concept that was impossible for me to internalize. Forgiveness took me years to come to terms with, including forgiving myself.

Friends and family are reticent to challenge you, and we are all reluctant to change our thinking. Good counsel can help you work out of this corner.

I bought the forgiveness issue to a conclusion during a survivor retreat through a letter. It 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 how intricate the plan you may have developed, those details will have to be modified and in most abandoned.