by Fr. Charles Rubey
Survivors of the suicide of a loved one generally breathe a sigh of relief when the holidays are over. The decorations, if in fact any were put up, come down now and are packed away for another year. For those new to their grief, the first holidays are especially painful for survivors. Survivors hate the fact that they are called to engage in such a painful experience. The newly grieving may feel their pain is more than they can bear-- and yet they bear it. The New Year brings to an end the holiday season and people grow tired of wishing people, “Happy New Year.” The emphasis is on the “New” in New Year. Here are a few reminders of what is new in the life of the survivor.
One of the new experiences is the fact that there is a somewhat new person evolving. Not an entirely new person, but the grieving person has acquired some new traits and characteristics from this horrendous experience of losing a loved one to suicide. I remember years ago hearing a survivor say that part of the grieving process entails “grieving the person I used to be.” When someone loses a loved one to suicide, there is such a dramatic impact that part of the survivor is changed. Very often survivors experience a change in the way they look at life and the people that remain.
In many instances, there is a positive result in the way that a survivor experiences life. They are changed for the better. It could be that the survivor is more sensitive to the happenings in the world around them. Survivors might be more in tune with the feelings of the people that are a part of their lives. Those positive results occur after the survivor has come to the realization that there is a lesson to be learned in the wake of losing a loved to suicide. I am not speaking about looking for a “silver lining’ in the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide. I am speaking about survivors asking the question of what lesson can be learned from this. It is not about blaming the suicide on someone or something that happened in the life of the loved one.
It comes down to the fact that this nightmare has entered the life of the survivor and now what is the survivor going to do with it? It is not going to go away in time. It is going to be a part of the life of the survivor forever. Now what? That is where the new person enters. It takes a lot of work to make some meaning out of this horrendous pain and life-altering event. The new person might be more sensitive to the world at large and more caring to those who remain in their lives.