"Face the darkness. Stare it down. Own it. As brother Nietzsche said, being human is a complicated gig. So give that ol' dark night of the soul a hug. Howl the eternal yes!" Chris Stevens (Northern Exposure)
In the aftermath of loss, many survivors enter despair so painful and intense that they lose all hope for a day or two or more. For most survivors, this does not represent inherent or latent mental illness, but the depth of the trauma and loss they have incurred.
On our forum we see many posts from survivors who have begun to have suicidal thoughts themselves.
"This emotional pain is so severe it takes my breath away and leaves me feeling that I too would be happier dead."
"A shrink, the suicide hotline, my friends and family and this forum are keeping me alive while every nerve ending is screaming GO TO HIM."
"I'm tired of the senselessness, of the waste, of the pain. I want to rail at all of this, but I don't know who to yell at. And sometimes, I just want to be done with it all. Sometimes, I just want God to take me home."
Sometimes people weather the initial loss of their loved one, but are swept low by a second or third trauma that comes their way soon after the first. This happened to me 16 years ago. Within a few months after the death of my stepson, my husband told me he was leaving our marriage. This had not been on the horizon before the suicide. With no warning, family, social and economic structures slipped from under my feet. I could not eat. I could not sleep. I could not see a future of anything but lonliness and despair. The pain I already felt exploded geometrically and I began to think about how to end my life.
I was committed to life getting better. Some part of me was choosing to do things that might make life better. The rest of me was scared senseless.
In the well-know book Seven Choices, Elizabeth Harper Neeld describes points of decision in the grief journey that follows traumatic loss. She describes a journey that takes place over months and years, noting that at various points we must choose to suffer and endure, to look honestly, to take action and to engage in the conflicts that arise in order to gain freedom from the domination of grief.
Choosing to move toward freedom from domination of grief does not mean that we love or miss the deceased any less. It means that slowly, we have mustered our courage and moved back into the world. Most survivors will tell you that little by little, they moved back with greater wisdom, courage and compassion for the pain and discomfort of others.
Ronnie Walker, MS, LCPC is the Founder and Executive Director of the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors