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When You're Ready, This Can Help You Heal From A Loss By Suicide

The three steps of acceptance, forgiveness and compassion become your pathway to peace.

09/29/2017 14:16 EDT | Updated 09/29/2017 14:18 EDT

Remember the theme song from the show M*A*S*H? ("Suicide is painless...") Alas, that is so not the case.

Your loved one's suicide is the day you stop taking a full breath; the day you are left holding your broken heart in your hands; the day time stands still; and, unfortunately, the day people talk about, avoid or even blame you.

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Suicide leaves you, the surviving loved one, holding the bag of squirming emotions and memories. There is the taint and taboo, guilt and remorse, rage and despair, confusion and regret, and the shame or guilt that somehow — in some possible way — you are responsible. You are left in a wake of jumbled emotions and self-doubts.

Suicide turns your life upside down. You find yourself vibrating with shock, disbelief, grief and, most likely, trauma from what you witnessed or envisioned in your mind's eye. It is an enormous challenge to find yourself again and reclaim your desire to live fully after such a devastating loss.

How do you make sense of this kind of heartbreak?

When you feel ready, there are three elements that are necessary for healing — and by healing I mean piecing together your shattered heart, finding your feet again and settling into your own kind of peace and resolution.

Acceptance is not an easy step in the grief process. It requires grit and determination.

1. You start with acceptance

Admittedly, this is not easy. There comes a moment in time, when you accept the unacceptable. You accept the reality of the suicide; it is no longer so surreal. It happened and there is nothing you can do to change the fact that you lost your loved one to suicide.

You also accept — and this is core r that the suicide was not your fault. Your loved one made a choice without you. They did it because at that moment in time — and with the likely impact of extreme emotional pain, haywire neurochemistry, dire circumstances, constricted thinking, trauma, the influence of drugs or alcohol, or even impulsiveness — it felt like the only response to end the agony of their life.

With acceptance, you cease and desist. You no longer rail at the gods. What you have been battling and resisting is no longer the focus of your energies. You tenderly and mindfully move from the conflicted feelings around the suicide to accepting what has transpired.

Acceptance is not an easy step in the grief process. It requires grit and determination.

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2. You forgive

You forgive your lost loved one. This doesn't mean you agree with or condone the suicide. It means you choose to no longer carry the weight of your jumbled emotions. You release the "what ifs" and "if onlys." You forgive them for taking their precious life away from you. And you also forgive yourself for any real and/or perceived hurts and wounds you think you may have caused.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with the right or wrong, good or bad of the other person's (or your) actions. Forgiveness is all about letting go of that which burdens you. If you do not forgive, you stay stuck in the past and stew in your own juices of rage, anger, bitterness, and hurt. Forgiveness allows you to release that which hardens and constricts your heart. When you forgive, the ego steps aside and allows the heart to take the lead. And through the wisdom of the heart, life is experienced more fully.

Forgiveness is not for the timid or unfocused. It takes courage and strength to forgive. And did you know that when you do forgive, you have gifted yourself with excellent, high-vibratory self-care?

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3. You walk in their shoes

The alchemy of acceptance and forgiveness opens the heart and creates space for compassion.

Compassion is understanding the context, the bigger picture, if you will. It may not have been your choice or your way, but with compassion, you can now see things through the eyes of your heart. You are able to have an open-hearted and loving response towards your lost loved one as well as yourself.

Compassion not only expands your heart, it expands your worldview as well. You can see the panoply of human frailties, idiosyncrasies, quirks, crazy-making behavior, maladaptive coping responses, individual traumas and sorrows without critical judgment. You see with soft eyes that honor the context, accept, forgive where necessary, and allow.

The suicide of your loved one irrevocably changes you. The process of profound, complicated grief leads you deeper into your heart. The three steps of acceptance, forgiveness and compassion become your pathway to peace.

And, be assured, there will be a day when you can take a full breath and know that your newly pieced-together heart won't skip a beat.

Are you in a crisis? If you need help, contact your local crisis centre. If you know someone who may be having thoughts of suicide, visit suicideprevention.ca to learn how to talk about suicide with the person you're worried about.
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