As I sat among strangers listening to them tell their story of who in their life had died, I watched some fight back the tears while others couldn’t speak without crying. We were going around in a circle sharing our pain in search of some sort of comfort or relief from the struggles that came from losing our loved one to suicide.
It was almost my turn to speak. I sat listening to the woman next to me talk about her husband dying. She spoke of still being in shock and of the guilt she felt for not doing more to help him with his depression. She fell silent mid-sentence, her face turned to the floor, not making eye contact with anyone. Her body was tense. I couldn’t help but watch her hands tremble as she squeezed the tissues she had just used to wipe the tears away from her cheeks.
I watched her, I saw her pain and I believed she was trying to work through something she wanted to share but didn’t know how. My focus on her was suddenly rattled as the facilitator forcefully said, “Admit it. Admit that you’re angry with your husband. He chose to leave you. You don’t feel guilty – you feel angry! Just say it and you’ll feel so much better.”
I looked at the facilitator in shock, my heart pounding in my chest and before I even realized I was actually speaking, the words came rushing out, “What are you doing? You can’t tell her what to feel. You are here to help people.”
I quickly looked back to the woman who had been talking. She was staring at the facilitator. Her mouth dropped open, a look of devastation and horror in her eyes. She didn’t speak again for the rest of the night.
The facilitator indicated to me that it was now my turn to speak. I looked at her and shook my head, no. I knew I couldn’t say another word out of fear of what I might say to this facilitator. She quickly moved on to the gentleman next to me, letting him know it was his turn to share. Before he began speaking, he gazed around the room with a look of uncertainty. He shrugged his shoulders, took a deep breath and shared his story.
I sat in dismay, my chest felt as if it was going to explode. I wanted to get up and walk out, but as I took in the scene around me I realized that this is the only support group these people have been exposed to. Do they know that this facilitator isn’t healthy? Maybe they are realizing that just because it has been twenty years since she lost her fiancé to suicide, that doesn’t mean she is equipped to run a support group. But where else are they going to go? This is the only support group offered in the area.
The meeting came to a close. I was relieved to get out of there and at the same time my heart was breaking for these people. I got in my car but I couldn’t drive. I sat in the dark, in my car, in a deserted parking lot and I cried. I wasn’t crying over losing my dad, but for suddenly becoming aware of how fortunate I had been to be exposed to a healthy support group shortly after he had died. I thought about my mom and how there wasn’t a Survivors of Support group even offered in her community. I cried for all the people who may never have the same opportunity I had to participate in a group where true healing takes place.
In that moment I knew I needed to find a way to connect with other survivors of suicide. Maybe I couldn’t offer each one of them a healthy support group, but I had to do something to help them know that they aren’t alone and that their grief doesn’t have to consume them.
It has now been more than twelve years since I sat in that parking lot crying over the idea that this support group and other support groups like it might be the only option some survivors have as a means to connect with and feel supported by other survivors of suicide. I am proud to say that I have spent the last three years working on Growing Through Grief, not as a professional therapist, but as a survivor of suicide and as a survivor of being suicidal. I have been blessed by many opportunities to heal and I would like to share those experiences with you in the hope that I might be able to offer comfort and a sense of hope for those who need it most.
If you or someone you know is need of support, please check out Growing Through Grief, a guide to healthy healing after losing a loved one to suicide.
Sending love and prayers for continued to healing to all of those who've been touched by depression and/or suicide.
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.
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