Left Behind By Suicide - Centerville, Tennessee - 2009

About Finding Your Way In the Wake of Suicide:

There will be a hole in your heart forever, when someone you love and care about departs this life. A willful departure compounds those feelings of loss.

Like most folks, our experiences with death are limited at best. There is no universal guide, available. In the wake of a suicide you are left not knowing what to do, what to share or what details to seek out.
As time passes I find myself constantly reflecting on the past and struggling to live in the moment. I personally put little effort in the tomorrows, but then I am OLD.

It has been almost six decades now, since my first grandparent died (of old age things.) It is close to two decades now, since Rebecca (my wife,) chose to end her life. It is common to get caught up in the whys and what happens to them after life here on this planet. Just more things we cannot validate, at least in this life.

My life has wandered down endless paths trying to Develop Coping Skills. It is not about going back to the way you were before the event. That is not a realistic plan. The practical destination is to rebuild a different life. After the suicide, it is not about recovery of your old self. Some things others have shared helped, while others have been detrimental.
I have read a lot of books on suicide that focus on the effects on those left behind. I have attended seminars that emphasized a wide range of support activities. I have participated in years of Survivor Of Suicide “SOS” and Grief Share Support Programs. Influenced by all I have witnessed, heard, and read regarding suicide, I have adjusted. I have found PEACE and hope it carries me through my closing years.
The first three months or so (with the exception of a few encounters) are just a blur. During that period I regressed, withdrew, I simply existed. I told those close to me “that I was hiding out, inside.” As I think about it now, everything got re-classified into a single category “Unimportant.” Appearances at my home did not reflect this. I was somehow able to continue my contract teaching job . . . but frankly I cannot explain that.
At the beginning of month number four, a friend from my church, Kathleen, informed me that we were going to a SOS meeting. Since the suicide of her husband, (a personal friend of mine,) I spent considerable time helping her and her three grown children thru all the aftermath. So, Kathleen spoke my language.

I was not at all interested in going. At the time, I had no idea what a support group was. I thought this was about the worse idea I could imagine. That first night, walking down the basement stairs to a large room (with no visible windows) added to the gloom. I was taken back because most folks seemed to know each other and some were even laughing and cutting up. One word comes to mind, WEIRD. I wanted to leave.

As the session started each person, in a round robin fashion, stated their name, the name of the person they lost, the relationship, the date and the method of departure. That was shocking . . . ultimate discomfort. From time to time I made eye contact with others and had it not been for Kathleen, I would have walked out.

Over my life I had been involved in a lot of group activities and meetings (through work, Church and Scouts.) So, I had encountered lots of folks I did not know. These people were little different, in appearance. As the session proceeded with stories and comments, I began to think “these people are crazy.”

When the session concluded an older fellow, (I was 58 at the time,) Paul Appelbaum, came over to speak with me. The only thing he said that I remember was “You are never going to figure this out, you can never truly know.” That statement made him an instant adversary, who had no idea what he was talking about. Leaving that room was the only relief of the evening.
On the way home, to my shock, Kathleen proceed to convince me I needed to give these sessions a try (for a while.) That made me think that even Kathleen was crazy. I think I just did not want to hear anything, because nothing made any sense to me.

Looking back the SOS sessions (not every one of them) proved to be my best rebuilding tool. I even came to respect Paul Appelbaum. We still keep up with each other, after all these years (that was June of 1999.)
Paul and his wife May, had lost a 20ish year old Son. They lived less than a mile from me. We would have private loss discussions driving to and from the every Wednesday night SOS meetings.

As an OLD man now, I have encountered some suicide situations, where the survivor, who has come out the other end of the crisis tunnel. They have successfully rebuilt a new life. Not the one they use to have, but a productive one. One that makes a difference to the folks around them.

So my message here is . . . pay attention and select your rebuilding path carefully. Not everything that works for some will work for you. However, chances of rebuilding on your own are really low. Don’t allow yourself to become withdraw and isolated. I have never seen that work for anyone. Sermon over.

Blessings dJ

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