Is there Life After Suicide?
Conversations around suicide have been popping up all around us. The number of loved ones feeling such despair is staggering and has been on the rise in recent days. Each time I hear about another friend, parent, child, spouse or stranger taking their life is another reminder of my own personal loss… now 28 years ago.
As a veteran of the loss by suicide, I have no answers. But, I do have a perspective about “life after suicide” that I don’t wish on anyone.
The journey is painful and for many guilt-ridden. For those two reasons alone, I have always recommended seeking help. I’m not talking about finding a shoulder to cry on or spending more time with friends. (Though they can be a comfort.) I am talking about therapeutic help to any person facing that kind of human loss and I’ll tell you why.
It was my personal experience that leaning on friends had its own dire consequences… I lost many of those I had considered friends… Mostly because the conversations I needed were so uncomfortable & dark, that many of those people, understandably decided to run rather than sit & listen while I cried. (If you’ve ever experienced divorce, I understand the same can be true.) When I realized that sharing my grief over such an incomprehensible situation as suicide was untenable by most, I had to look for a different way to sort through my feelings. A way to keep myself sane & keep the remaining friends I had, around.
Any kind of grief is a human experience that unfortunately many, like myself have lived through. That is why there are professionals (grief counselors) who have been trained to work with the fall out that can occur. When you find the right person either in a group setting or individually, it can be like a life jacket in a drowning situation… literally.
Finding the right guidance from a mental health professional was my personal life vest for another reason as well. I was paying them to listen. Even if it was a copay of $25, I was still paying. That meant they couldn’t just leave from discomfort. The right person, whether face to face or online can help sort out & untangle the web of confusion when someone really leaves this earth by their own hand.
And you might ask “How do I find that right person to speak to?” That is a great question! And the fact that I have looked for therapeutic help at different crossroads in my own life I can tell you how I do it. I interview therapists. Listening to their responses to my initial issues in the very first appointment. Often I didn’t pay for that meeting.
After Bill took his life, I interviewed 5 different therapists. Finally, I met Barbara. When I told her I was in a very dark place & didn’t know what to do. Barbara said to me “I will meet you in that place & together we will find our way out.” She became my therapist & my lifeline.
In my opinion, asking for professional assistance is a show of strength, not weakness. If you put in the time, energy & commitment to work on yourself, it can pay off. It did for me.
It’s been 28 years since he last slept beside me…
A worthwhile mention for a man who is still collaborating with me from the other side!
Audio Recording for your Listening Pleasure
Bill was 48, I was 36. He took his own life and left me& this Earth 28 years ago this month.
A Southern Gentlemen from Albany Georgia, Bill was recognized by his Princeton classmates as being in a league of his own. Gifted (and burdened) with more brains than most, he was recruited by our government and deemed a National Treasure.
Bill either captured your heart or hammered your ego. I was clearly the former. For sure he challenged every single person he came in contact with throughout his entire life.
Inseparable for over 7 years, Bill was not only my partner and lover but also my teacher, mentor, friend, and confidant.
I have passed his “selected death day” 28 times since October 30th, 1991. Each time my reactions and feelings are different. Sometimes he’s barely a bleep on my radar. Other times I attribute a moment of silence just to him. And then, there are those years when I want to bathe myself in his memory. This is that kind of year.
It isn’t quite grief (After all, he’s been gone for a quarter of a century.) but, a fuller sense of his presence. My references about him poking the back of my right shoulder get more consistent. I can almost feel his fingers. My memory includes more detail. My conversation feels closer to actually hearing him respond.
It even sounds strange to me. But with certainty, I know he is steering the ride I am on. With what seems like passion, it feels as though he needs me to listen. I am. I have always heard his message, alive or dead. For me, like for everyone else, the challenge was always deciphering his meaning.
“Don’t forget your sexuality.”
Today, 28 years later it feels like I’ve got a better grasp of the points he was making. Perhaps because I’m older, things he said back then make much more sense today. Like “I love you for your potential.” and “I know you’ll make a great Mom.” and “Don’t forget your sexuality.”
He is still to this day one of the most profound and worthwhile individuals I have ever known. Perhaps it’s his intellect that allows him to continue guiding me from the other side… I still hear him so clearly and want to follow his lead. Even across those unknown borders, I trust him. And he knows it.
Listening carefully, I know he has pressing things to say… He knows what I’m supposed to do and tells me so. Like “It’s time for you to blossom.” and “It’s time for you to give your best to more.” and “It’s time for you to sprint for that finish line with all of your might, all of your body, and all of your soul.” And that’s exactly what I’ll do because I want to live to my potential.
Though on different planes, Bill and I still walk together. I am glad to this day to stroll on that path beside him. Thank you, Bill…