I often read messages from survivors of suicide stating how they don’t know how to handle the pain, or they don’t know how to cope with the stress and anxiety that has come from losing a loved one to suicide. I can relate to feeling that way. At the age of 20 I lost my dad to suicide and I felt crippled by his death. Soon after he died I began having panic attacks.
Struggling with panic attacks ended up being a blessing because it caught the attention of a friend of mine. She didn’t know how to help me deal with my grief and she didn’t feel it was her place to tell me how I could manage it since she had never lost anyone to suicide. She did, however, have experience with panic attacks so she urged me to go see one of our college professors who taught and practiced acupuncture.
Moving past my hesitations, I began receiving acupuncture twice a week as a means of subduing my panic attacks. As a result, I found the intensity of my grief also fading. My overall mental, emotional, and physical health was improving. The acupuncture didn’t take my grief away, but it helped me to feel more in control and stable. Feeling stable allowed me to find additional resources to assist me in processing my grief.
Over time I transitioned from receiving acupuncture twice a week to once a week, then every other week and then finally once a month until I moved.
Five years after losing my dad I found myself living in a new city with little support and a new baby. We had not lived in Minnesota for very long when I learned I was pregnant with my first daughter. It was a complicated pregnancy resulting in eight weeks of bed-rest, an emergency C-section six weeks early, followed by twenty days in the Infant Care Unit.
Within a few months of delivering this precious baby girl, I became depressed. My depression resulted in me becoming suicidal. I somehow found the courage to speak up and I told my husband that I was scared I was going to die. He was with me when my dad died and he was with me though all the pain and grief I had experienced after losing my dad. My husband helped me to find a new acupuncturist who could relieve me of my depression.
Acupuncture wasn’t a quick fix. It required weekly sessions for multiple months, but gradually I began to feel like my healthy self again. It has now been almost 18 years since I lost my dad and I continue to receive acupuncture on a regular basis.
Today while receiving acupuncture I told my acupuncturist that I would get acupuncture every day if I could. He laughed at me and told me that I didn’t need to get it every day – that no one needs it every day. I then asked him what he does to stay balanced and healthy.
His response was, “It is important to know your own body. What works for one person might not work for another person. You must discover the food that is right for your body and determine which exercise makes you feel strong. Most important you must reduce stress and anxiety because stress and anxiety compromise your overall health. You must find daily activities which reduce your stress – things like gardening, painting, knitting, golf. Learning to have balance in your life through diet, exercise and stress-reducing activities is how one maintains a healthy body and mind. Everyone will get sick at times and it is important to know when treatment is needed. That is when acupuncture and herbs are required – when you can no longer stay healthy on your own.”
I let his message soak in as I lay on the table with needles covering my body. I processed his message and realized it was a message I should share with others. I fully believe in the health benefits of acupuncture and other forms of holistic healing. I share that message with anyone who will listen, but I had never considered the healing benefits of gardening or golfing.
When we are feeling consumed by the grief of suicide we often shut down – we stop having lunch with our friends … we stop painting … we stop exercising … in short, we stop experiencing things that bring us pleasure. We are hurting and with that pain we just want to crawl in a hole and wait for it to stop. Unfortunately, simply waiting for the pain to stop will not allow us to heal. We have to be strong and find ways to feel pleasure again.
Experiencing joy in life and hope for a better day is the secret to overcoming the grief of suicide. If the pain is too much for you to do this on your own, I would encourage you to explore holistic healthcare options. These practices allow your body and mind to heal while supporting you in becoming balanced and strong.
I would love to hear from others … what modalities of healing have you used to heal and/or maintain a healthy state of mind, body, and spirit?
I appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences with the rest of us.
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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Sending love to all those who struggle with mental health and/or have lost a loved one to suicide.
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