“Every time you tell me that, it sinks too deep I want to kill myself,” Joe tells Krista through chat. Before Krista enters the phrase, “I’m tired of this shit,” Joe responds with “I do not want to burden you anymore. I love you.”
Silence. Krista is on the verge of tears. Joe rummages through his drawer. She types, “Let’s talk.” He ignores the message. He untangles a knotted television wire. She presses the “buzz” button simultaneously. He ties the wire on a protruding steel bar. Krista’s screen flickers until it turns black.
Krista stares blankly at the screen. She puffs on a cigarette incessantly. She dials Joe’s number. He does not respond.
Krista decides to dial Joe’s landline. “What’s happening?” his sister-in-law quivers. Krista mutters, “Please bring him to the hospital.” Both are at a loss for words. Joe’s brother cries out Joe’s name. His screams shatter the silence. Joe’s sister-in-law drops the phone.
Krista parks her car in the farthest spot. She walks sluggishly at the empty space. Like a balloon floating away, she feels numb. She lights a cigarette amidst the drizzling mist. She stares at the ambulance’s red and blue light. Its sound blurs into the blackened void of darkness. The drizzle grows stronger. A cigarette pack is opened.
She holds back her tears as she walks past the ambulance. Gasping for air, she feels like an object compressed in a vacuum. The emergency room lightens the gloom of the night. She enters the white-lit room of heaviness.
Joe lies on the bed at the corner. On life support. His brother holds his hand. Krista brushes his hair with her tiny hands. She touches his cheeks, down to his scarred neck. She touches his hand and asks, “why?” His mom sings as she tightly hugs his head.
At 7 am, it is time to decide. Krista clamors to revive him. The family rejects the proposal.
Nurses come in to close the curtain. It is time. Joe’s sister wails. Another removes the pulse oximeter. Krista sheds a tear on Joe’s half-opened lips. She whispers, “I love you too.”Written by A (2015)
What was that all about?
I wrote the above anecdote for a Creative Writing class, with the task to write about an emotion. My graduate school classmates will have to guess the emotion. So, we would be graded as to how we were able to convey the emotion. You would have guessed the emotion by now, and you may have felt that heaviness in your heart at this moment, whether you have experienced losing someone or not.
It has never been published until now, and that was the exact scenario before my then-boyfriend committed suicide. While suicide and grief are heavy feelings that may temporarily veer away from my blog’s usual vibe, I am writing this only with the intention to give solace to those who need it right now.
Negative feelings deserve to be acknowledged and honored, and it is extremely important to do that if we wish to be in high vibration. Moreover, high vibes people are humans too, and being in high vibes doesn’t mean you are immune to sadness. It only means you know how to confront it, head-on.
Here, I will discuss the ways I did to deal with grief as I survived the loss of someone to suicide. I wish to approach it in a personal way, and not like a how-to post because we all have our own narrative. What worked for me may not work for others. So, let me share with you my ways of healing suicide grief, and this early, let me give you a virtual hug.
1. Swallow all the blame
Right after he passed away, everybody blamed me, only because I was with him all the time. Even our common friends asked me what have I done, as if I was his mom. From that instance, I actually knew who I needed to purge from my smart-ass friends list.
Everybody was in denial. I was not. I saw it coming. Every time someone pointed a finger at me, I took it. Although at the back of my mind, I used to say, “Where were you?” And with every hole a bullet of blame struck me, I wanted to return it with the statement, “How about you? Tell me, what have you done?” with a hair flip to match.
But deep inside (and I opened this up to my friends) I felt stupid, I thought I should’ve done more, and that I should’ve done more stupid things by giving him everything he ever asked of me (like a child). But I know from my inner sense of knowing, that a child would not make it better (Oh, thank God for my intelligence). My friends would of course relentlessly tell me that any of those wouldn’t change a thing. And they were right.
You can only do so much
This is what I learned, and it’s true for everyone: no amount of comforting words can relieve a grieving heart. So, if you happen to have a grieving friend, don’t feel bad if they don’t accept your comforting advice.
To all those experiencing this (whether you’re the friend, or you’re the one grieving), I tell you, you can only do so much. And yes, marriage, not even children, will not make the elephant in the room disappear. If you ever feel like there’s a hole inside you, a child would not fix that, but a therapist can.
Look, I am not telling you to not have a child, because of course you can if you want to, but your past trauma can never be fixed by another person. It is yours to heal, and yours alone. Above all, we all have free will. What’s your choice?
2. Forgive yourself
Anger is the feeling of having lost our power over things that don’t fall under our expectations. Sorrow is the feeling of having someone taken away from us. Forgiveness, however, holds too much power in which these feelings could be redeemed.
So I started with forgiveness. Redemption—for all the loss—is not something we’ll wait to fall on our lap. Redemption is something we create. And there is such thing as self-liberation.
I was the trigger
I may be the trigger, but I know that the hole inside him is not of my own doing. We can’t fix people, and we can’t control his or even God’s will. What we can only control are our own choices.
I hated him for this stupid choice. And I also felt some injustice that the people left behind are the ones suffering. It’s not him, it’s us. But before I can actually forgive him for that stupidity, I actually looked at my own mindset–why am I feeling injustice, justice from what? When in fact the person to give us justice could not even answer in a courtroom! He’s dead! So what’s the clamor about? I started to look at it this way.
Forgiveness is for myself, and for myself alone. It’s not for his soul to go to heaven (as how my Catholic relatives may put it), but it’s for me.
This is one thing I will never forget: my cousin from New York sent me a book that was so instrumental for my healing. It’s Radical Forgiveness (sorry, anti-climactic: this is an affiliate link, see my full disclosure at the blog footer) by Antoinette Bosco. Both her sons died. One was murdered, and the other committed suicide.
Her perspective of losing a son and telling how to radically forgive has allowed me to see things in a bigger picture. Certainly, other people are born feeling incomplete, and we can’t do anything about it. I also realized that I was not alone, and there are other people experiencing it worse than I do. And that brings me to point #3.
3. Meditation groups
Ever wondered why therapy includes sharing your story and being in support groups? It’s because there is a sense of release, and there is an immediate solace only when you feel being listened to.
When I begin to listen to my meditation classmates’ stories, I notice that they are experiencing worse than I do. For example, one has been struggling with an alcoholic husband, an abusive partner, and even going through a divorce. Not that divorce is more painful than losing someone to suicide, but at least from my perspective, it’s far more difficult to endure pain from someone you love and is still alive, than to get past grief.
My meditation classmates cannot leave their situation, and they can’t do anything to take the burden away. But in my case, God took my burden away from me. So, I can only be grateful. Through that perspective, I was motivated to refocus on helping others than wallow on what has been taken away from me.
You don’t need answers to heal
A suicidal person’s success and happiness metrics are beyond comprehension. To them, ending their life means lessening your burden. I used to cry when I keep on repeating what he always tells me every time he wants to do it (I told you, I saw it coming): “I only want you to be happy.”
Closure is unnecessary and you have to accept that. Forgiveness is closure in itself. Likewise, digging a hole of pain in your heart would not bring them back to life, and would not even give justice to their courage. Respect their courage, and allow yourself to muster yours.
4. Do something you’ve never done before
Courage is the solution to despair.Ernst Toller, First Reformed
Getting out of my comfort zone combined with an intuitive nudge to create something were my initial action steps. Consequently, I channeled my grief through artistic expression. We connected through photography, and he once told me that I would do good in moving images. I didn’t want his death to be in vain, and so I made this happen. I enrolled in a graduate program with filmmaking in its curriculum.
This is where the classic advice of “do something every day that scares you” comes in handy. I attend graduate classes on top of my 9-6 job. I was exhausted, but man, my world opened up. For instance, I met new people, spent time on stuff I didn’t normally do. It scared me and I started to discover my self even more. Through these distractions, refocused energies naturally followed suit.
Creating something new
Art is therapeutic. It will heal you because you acknowledge your spirit, your soul. Moreover, doing art does not mean you have to be an artist–sometimes it’s just being silly dancing, moving with your body, doodling, and crafting something like a homebrew beer *wink*.
In my case, through graduate school, I made a film. Because I honor his memory, I wanted to immortalize the lessons from my healing journey. I made my first film passionately about him and all my affirmations. And it won Best Picture.
After that, I went through a Screenwriting workshop and we had an exercise to write a screenplay about a burial, from a poem. I was so into it I actually finished it immediately. While I hated how I’ve written it, my mentor advised me to turn it into a film. Through it, I won a Best International Short Film award in Germany, and a lot more awards which weren’t even intentional. It has gone around the world for 4 years, and I met amazing people along the way. Now, I would consider myself a successful storyteller, all because of that grief. See how magic can actually happen if you say yes to move forward?
5. Just do what you want
Just do the usual thing you do. The universe actually will intervene. Sometimes it’s in the most mundane thing you can ever imagine. No one would actually believe me that one of the things that helped me get through was a line from Walking Dead. It was Andrea’s statement that was about not taking the responsibility for the life choices of others. It struck me so hard, and just like that, it helped me move on.
How Facebook helped me
I still checked Facebook every day, finding some reason to post something and say something without the intention to heal. It’s like telling the whole world that I had the most difficult of all difficult problems any man can encounter. And so I get likes, and sympathies flooded my wall. But not for long.
So here’s the best part: they have their own lives too. As I scroll down while waiting for more likers, I see more of success posts–their happiness. And that’s when I realized, life goes on. Because seriously, their lives would not stop for you. The burden of sadness only remains a burden only if you choose to carry it.
Your world stops only because you choose to perceive it to be.
6. Annoy your friends (and vice versa)
If your friend is trying to heal suicide grief, annoy them. Ask them out even if they don’t want to. Better if it is something that would make them release those endorphins–exercise. Your grieving friend would hate you and probably shout at your annoying antics to get them moving, but eventually, they will thank you for it. Your grieving friend is not in the right frame of mind, so be patient.
Most likely your friends will truly understand your situation. The more you annoy them with your repetitive story, the more they will get tired of you. And honestly, when I felt that my friends were not giving me new comforting words about my usual story, I hated them for being useless.
However, the faster they get tired of you saying the same suicide story all over again, the more quickly it will hit you: 1) they have lives too, 2) their world does not revolve around you, 3) get your shit together. Just like in #5. This is precisely what happened to me, and I am so grateful for my (useless) friends. The more “useless” they are, the better.
And when you feel like everybody is turning their back on you, you have two choices: 1) glorify your sadness, or 2) change your perspective. In my case, I chose the second one. And so I tell you, you got this.
This is actually a no-brainer, and no elaboration needed, because endorphins are your go-to buddies for a quick fix. It’s not drugs nor alcohol. It’s exercise. I hate jogging, but one of my friends would insist to take me out not for a binge-eating session, but for a jog. It’s a drab to be dragged, but since I had no other things to do but wallow, I submitted to her request.
Quick fixes are helpful. Just rinse and repeat. Next thing you know you’re feeling better, and you’ve lost weight. And that’s actually win-win. If you wish to read more about very quick fixes that you can easily rinse and repeat, check out my raising vibes article.
8. Honor your journey
Acknowledge your sadness. But don’t dwell on it. Easier said than done, but as soon as you recognize you’re starting to dwell, you’re actually allowing yourself to get out of it. No matter how long it will take you to find another distraction, honor it.
Acknowledgment is just the beginning, and it takes practice. You are exactly where you need to be.
Celebrate small wins
If you can’t think of any distraction, try writing it down. Bullet points will do, even random thoughts without coherence is fine. You can even journal via social media, just like how I did it (#5). I threw it all out and wrote about it.
I journaled my feelings as if I was talking to him. Literally, talking to a dead person. And it’s cathartic. That’s a small win, and give yourself a pat in the back. Celebrate.
What you’re doing right now is the best way
The person who committed suicide will never go back. He is dead. Swallow all the blame, and never dwell on what else you could have done, because what you have done was already the best you could.
In my case, a month before he committed suicide, I was already praying for him. Because I have done everything I could, and I was asking God to give me a sign about what else I could do. I was so damn tired to lift him up every single day. And I was not even his mom. So, read that again–I prayed. And I had an answer.
If ever you could turn back time, you would have done exactly the same thing you have done that moment. This is when I first learned to fuck all what-ifs in life. Because it’s simply unnecessary. No amount of time-freezing or parallel universe could change their decision. Because it was meant to be. Be at peace with that.
You could only suck it all up, and forgive yourself for things you think you could’ve done better.
9. Be ready for an intervention
Give yourself the gift of healing. And allow yourself to receive it.
My ex-boyfriend passed away in the month of July. I gave myself an ultimatum. If I were still depressed by January (my birth month), I must undergo treatment. Healing takes its own course, but the willingness to take that path is in your hands.
The universe rewarded me healing in just 4 months. I strongly believe that’s because I slapped my face with my non-existent faults, accepted that he’s not coming back, and I took the courage to leave everything behind.
And it happened exactly on Thanksgiving Day.
10. Gratitude and reverence
This is what I have exactly written 9 years ago, on Thanksgiving Day. Through friends’ prayers and hardwork, I have found my healing.
Bad things happen because of bad decisions. If you don’t decide on choosing what is right no matter how fucked up things could be, you are digging your own grave. Your attitude towards the toughest is what defines your future. Free will. Why did God allow these to happen? That is not the question. Bad things happen so good things may come from it. The better question would be, what would I, or you, choose now? Again, it’s free will.
I never had and will never have the right to tell that he doesn’t deserve to die, while he has already found no reason to live. But for what it’s worth, I would not want to put his death in vain. The fight’s prize is finding meaning to this loss: to grow. I am grateful I have learned, and I had the chance to affirm my principles. I missed the mark but I played fair.
If you can’t find something to be grateful today, just be grateful for being able to breathe—it’s a chance to conquer yourself. Forgive, and you couldn’t be more grateful.
I wouldn’t be the successful person I am today had I not experience that deep sorrow. I wouldn’t be fearless enough to pursue my passion had I not step out of my own rut. “Everything happens for a reason,” has never been so true to me.
I questioned my whole existence when I lost a loved one to suicide.
But remember this: even if every person in the world loves him, he who chooses to do so, will do so. No amount of counseling will cure a person’s will to die. You can prevent it for so long, but he will eventually do it. Only because he wants to.
If you feel like you have forsaken your person, please know that he should be the first person to not give up on himself. Healing is for the willing. And as you traverse your healing journey, be compassionate–to yourself.
The survivors of this loss will never know the answer. We are at the losing end, and it’s much sadder that we just have to accept.
While it sucks that we need to lose someone just so we can reflect on our mistakes, we can only charge it to experience and swallow that hard pill. Entrapment is also for the willing. So, what would you choose?
Through grief, we learn to live our lives. If this is your journey, know that you will get there, whether you follow my advice or not. /highfive!
Feel free to share your experience with me, or share your thoughts about this topic through the comments section below.
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