Though I wish everyone reading this the absolute best for this new year, I’m not going to start this post off by saying how glad I am to say goodbye to 2020. In fact, and with the greatest respect and compassion for all those who have suffered hardship during 2020, I am grateful not to have been impacted negatively by the Pandemic. Nor was any of my family. We were spared.
Whew! I do not want to endure any further hardship in my life. In fact, I am so happy to say I am finally doing a darn good job turning things around in my life when it comes to healing and embracing positive change.
However, for those newly bereaved who have suffered loss of a loved one, economic hardship, unwanted lifestyle changes, a relationship breakup, family separation, or their hopes and dreams, all because of something way beyond their control, it’s a new year. You can have a new life by developing a new mind set. Change your thoughts. Change your life and all that. Or can you?
While some may think of it as vain or superficial, in the context of long-suffering agony, it is essential that everyone finds room in their heart to love themselves through their grief. Fully and completely.
The definition of love is to feel a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, such as a parent, child or friend. Self-love is defined as the instinct we have to preserve our own well-being (at all costs). Why then, would it be considered wrong and worthy of so much self-punishment (as many grievers succumb to) when loving ourselves through horrendous loss is the right thing to do? A loss that in our wildest imagination, we could never have prevented.
As a mom of my daughter who died by suicide in 2005, this latter point has kept me punishing myself to various extremes over the years, mostly experienced as mental and emotional conflict when I imagine all the various things I could and should have done differently to prevent her death. I’ve never quite been able to accept that there wasn’t more I could have done to save my child. Despite my many attempts to banish the tormenting thoughts from my mind, they keep coming back.
So many people are in emotional pain and grieving some type of loss from the past or more recently, and haven’t got a clue they are in grief. It is this cluelessness that may well explain in part, why we don’t talk about grief very much in western culture. Which, as someone who has struggled with complicated grief from the suicide of my daughter in 2005, really frustrates me. It has made the journey these past thirteen years very lonely; just as I suspect it’s been a lonely one for millions of other people coping with complicated grief or grief they don’t understand.
I know that grief is a difficult topic and we don’t discuss it much in the open. Yet, there isn’t one person not affected by grief in some way. What’s so sad and even shameful in western culture (or any other culture perpetuating this shame and secrecy) is that we aren’t allowed to show our sadness from loss in public. At least not comfortably. Ever! And that needs to change. Because it isn’t only sadness we feel in grief. It’s a host of other emotions and difficulties we experience that can and do end up ruining people’s relationships, careers, finances and even families.
Most grievers will attest to the difficulty that many, if not all holidays, present after the loss of a loved one. With Christmas just around the corner (and all other celebrations taking place around the world at this time), for many bereaved individuals, coping with major holidays can present a huge challenge, no matter how long ago their loss. Trying to survive the endless parties and celebrations looking happy and feeling festive is hard.
In 2005, I lost my twenty-two-year-old daughter to suicide. I was diagnosed in 2014 with PTSD as a result of that trauma. Though I suspected I may have PTSD as far back as 2007, this remained only a suspicion until my medical diagnosis. Up to that point, I didn’t understand the toll that PTSD was taking on my body. The diagnosis brought me incredible relief and was a critical turning point in my grief that led me to make the most positive changes I’ve been able to in my healing so far.
As a bereaved mom of a beautiful daughter who died by suicide in 2005 at the age of twenty-two, I certainly know pain and suffering. Just like a lot of other people know pain and suffering who have lost someone to suicide, sudden and/or traumatic death. I have done a lot of work to heal from my pain over the years and have had tremendous success to this point, but it’s an ongoing journey.
Being kind and respectful to one another. Wow, what a concept. In general, we have a really difficult time with this. In grief, both are painfully absent in many relationships, but this is most obvious in the intimate ones we share with a partner or other close family member. There are a host of reasons for this, but mainly, because no one in a partnership or other family relationship experiences the many symptoms of grief in the same way or time, conflict between loved ones is never far away. Striving for personal balance in all things can seem like an endless search and struggle. It can feel like there’s always something out of whack.
Today, I want to talk about angels. I love angels. I found them in 2005, just a few months before my twenty-two-year old daughter died by suicide. Today, I can truly say the angels are what saved me from myself in my horrendous suffering from my grief, and the big bad world, until I could stand more firmly on my feet. Initially, I studied with a mentor who has now gone on to other things. But I want to be clear, the angels have made an indelible impact on me, to the point I cannot imagine ever abandoning them from my personal life or the work that I publicly do. I am proud to claim angels as a huge part of my daily living and can honestly admit that without them, I don’t know where I’d be today, if even alive.
This past weekend there was a horrific limo crash in upstate New York that killed all 20 people, 18 of them inside the vehicle. Reading past the headlines, I discovered one family alone lost four daughters aged 30 to 35. That stopped my breath for few seconds, trying to imagine my own loss and subsequent pain times four. I couldn’t do it. I’m not sure I could survive that level of human devastation.