by Franklin Cook
The loss of a loved one by suicide can for a time "take away" the fundamental things that orient us to who we are, our sense of safety, our confidence that the world makes sense, our knowledge of the nature -- and solidity -- of our relationships and of our roles within each relationship. “Who am I?” is a very important question that is worthy of an answer.
It is very common for survivors of suicide loss to divide their lives into two "parts," what happened before their loved one died and what happened afterward, and to characterize those two parts of life as two separate "existences." One of the "grief experts" I admire most, Thomas Attig, calls the process of grieving "relearning our world," which has been a very helpful framework for me. The world is a different place without my father in it, by which I mean that the internal landscape that included his presence within it -- along with every association to him that makes up my very personal view of who I am and what I am doing here -- is utterly changed.
The world is not just "different" in the way a person's hair color is different after she dyes it or in the way a person's lifestyle is different after she gets a new job (or loses one), but different in the way that a person's home is different after a tornado breaks it apart and scatters its contents hither and yon (destroying some of them along the way, not to mention wrecking the house).
One begins by picking up the pieces, assessing what is "still standing" (the foundation, the chimney ...) and whether or not any of what remains is still useable. Will any of it provide the basis for rebuilding anew? There are no automatic or formulaic answers, and our search for answers, to extend the metaphor a bit, comes while the "tornado sirens" and the "howling wind" are still haunting us.