Grateful my Heartache turned to HOPE
On June 2, 1999 I lost my dad to suicide. I was heartbroken and in disbelief that this could be happening. I was unable to stand due to the all-consuming pain and anguish that the man I’d always seen as my hero and biggest supporter was now gone. I didn’t just lose my dad on that day. I lost the one person in my life who instilled in me the idea that we must surround ourselves with people who will push us past our comfort zone, encourage us during times of self-doubt, and love us even when we feel unlovable … and that we must do the same for others.
My dad was all of those things to me, and while I grew up one of six children, I never felt like I belonged. I was an outsider in my own home. My siblings didn’t understand me and for as long as I can remember my mom and I had a strained relationship. My dad wasn’t perfect, but he provided me with the only sense of peace, safety, and belonging that I had ever consistently known. When he died my world felt like it had disintegrated. I didn’t know how to move forward without him there to guide me and assure me that I was capable.
Though I was nearly broken by my heartache, I’m now grateful that it has turned into the HOPE for healing that I share with others. As raw and as painful as it was to lose my dad to suicide, I can honestly say that I’ve healed. I’ve mended my wounds and I’ve grown stronger for having gone through this pain. I’ve done more than just learn how to exist and accept that this pain will always be part of me.
I won’t lie. I still have moments of grief, but I see these moments as blessings because they remind me just how much I was loved and how much I loved him. My flashes of grief can still bring me to tears and remind me of the heartache I once lived with, but they don’t consume me. Nor do they prevent me from living a life that is full of joy, gratitude, peace, and hope.
Last week I attended a survivor of suicide loss event and my heart broke for the other attendees as I listened to the speakers use terms that perpetuate the stigma as well as make statements such as “You can never get over a loss such as this – you simply learn to live with it.”
As hard as it was for me to sit in that space, I’m glad attended and that I was able to provide copies of my book to those in need. Throughout the event I made a few comments hoping to inspire others, but after it ended, I barely made it to my car before I broke down into tears. I cried for my fellow attendees because this event was intended to inspire hope, but other than a short video provided by the national office, there wasn’t much else that reflected the idea that healing is truly possible.
I spent the better part of my evening processing the event. It was then that I recognized that I can remain hopeful while being surrounded by loss and heartache because my focus is on healing. When I’m with people who are hurting, who are trusting me with their story, I’m filled with hope because we are both being blessed with the opportunity to help this person discover their own healing. I’m not focused on loss or fear of losing a loved one. Every fiber in my being is committed to sharing love, peace, joy, and hope.
What I struggle with is when people who are considered to be an authority on suicide or mental health speak or write in ways that perpetuate the stigma that a person chooses suicide or when they imply that the closest thing to healing for a loss survivor is to learn a new way to exist with the pain. Statements such as these have a profound impact on me causing me to feel angst, disappointment, and sadness because this is when I truly feel helpless. In those moments I want to speak up, but then I think, “Who am I to point out how the words being used are causing more harm than good?”
In the last few weeks I’ve been blessed to receive several unexpected messages of support and encouragement for the work I’m doing with Growing Out Of Darkness, but it’s the following message that made me realize that it’s time for me to speak up.
“Jenny, you are a unicorn in the mental health world. I’m in awe of your passion and your intention as you approach ways to help others. Please don’t let others in this field dim your light or crush your spirit. We need more unicorns.”
I don’t consider myself to be an expert in the mental health field and I don’t know that I ever want to. I’d much rather be the unicorn with a message of hope and healing. And while I’d love to work cohesively with leaders and experts, I’m not going to stay quiet and simply hope that my message will soon be shared by those viewed with more credibility. In fact, I’m going to challenge them to become more aware of how the words we use impact how we heal.
I’ve never wanted to impose my beliefs on those who are hurting. I merely want to offer them another perspective. My primary goal in speaking to loss survivors, those who struggle with mental health, and mental health professionals is to inspire hope that healing is possible.
Healing isn’t easy or quick. We must change the words we’re using, and we have to open our hearts and minds to opportunities that will challenge us, and more importantly, opportunities that will help us grow allowing us to discover that we each possess the ability to live a life of gratitude, love, joy, and success.
I believe this with all my heart and I will do all I can to help others believe it too.
I am a unicorn … Some will dismiss me and be unwilling to believe in this message, but I know there are other unicorns out there and together we can inspire hope and healing.
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Blessed │ Wife │ Mom │ Friend │ Founder of GOOD │ Author │ Public Speaker │ Golf Fanatic
It took me years to find my voice and even longer to learn how to use it so that I’m creating GOOD rather than just fighting the bad. Now I use my voice to heal myself and hopefully others along the way.
Sending love to all those who struggle with mental health and/or have lost a loved one to suicide.
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