All I have to offer you is my story.
I am not a grief counselor.
I have not written a self-help book.
I am no expert on the subject.
But what I do have is day after day after day of tears and pain and questions and longing.
Longing to understand why it happened and if it was always going to happen or if there was something I could have possibly done to stop it — or at least delay it.
Of course, the “it” I am referring to is my brother’s suicide nearly three years ago.
For those of you reading this who have also suffered from suicide loss — whether it be a family member, friend, coworker, etc. — I am so unbelievably sorry, and I know the pain you are experiencing. It is an excruciating pain, one that can only be truly understood by those who have experienced it first-hand.
But in spite of that pain, here’s a little hope for you:
It does get better.
Not a day goes by where I don’t think about my brother at least once and wish he was still here with us. I still feel a hint of that fierce cold that struck me the night I heard the news three years ago. I still bawl my eyes out when I see a picture of Zach or when I watch old videos of him playing his guitar.
But please believe me when I say that it does get better. My pain is strong. It is severe at times. But the severity of the pain is nothing is comparison to what it was that first year.
I read somewhere that everyday we should challenge ourselves to become 1% better. As survivors of suicide, we can work together on growing 1% in our grief recovery everyday. Everyday there might hints (or avalanches) of tears and pain and questions and longing, but everyday could get a little easier, a little more bearable, if you focus on these five recommendations:
1. Be honest with yourself.
Let’s be honest: you are going through a traumatic experience. Stop trying to pretend like it didn’t happen. Stop trying to stuff your feelings deep down inside, sealed by that fierce cold you feel. You have been through hell and back with this loss. You are allowed to acknowledge your pain. You NEED to acknowledge your pain. Be honest with yourself about where you are in your grief recovery journey, and know that recovery is indeed a lifelong process. Be patient with yourself as you learn how to live life in spite of this loss.
2. Make self-care your top priority.
Self-care. Self-care. Self-care. A year ago I didn’t even know what that phrase meant. Now I live it and love it everyday. At all times but especially in this time as you begin your grief recovery journey, you need to focus on the self-care activities that refresh and renew your soul. For me, it’s lighting candles and writing my thoughts in my journal. For others, it’s a warm bath and a nice glass of wine. For you, it could be practicing meditation or going for a run. Whatever it is, FIND IT and hold onto it, especially in the darkest and hardest days of your grief recovery journey.
3. Open up to your support system.
I firmly believe that secrets make you sick. The more you try to hide how you are feeling, the lonelier you will feel, the more you will remain stuck in a state of darkness. In order to find the light, you have to actively SEEK the light, and by that I mean seeking the friends, family members, counselors, etc. who bring light to your life and support you in your grief recovery journey. Open up to them. Let them in. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with them and tell them if you’re having a hard day. You deserve to be supported in this time of healing.
4. Practice gratitude.
I will repeat what I mentioned in my previous post: “We can focus on the fact that we lost my brother after 23 short years, or we can make the decision to be grateful for the 23 years he gave us.” In the past (almost) three years of my grief recovery journey, I have noticed that the less I focus on gratitude, the more depression and anxiety I experience as a sibling survivor of suicide loss. I am grateful that I can now use my story to help others. I am grateful for the lessons my brother taught me. I am grateful that I still have more time on this planet. This month, I started a gratitude calendar where I write down one thing I am thankful for everyday. It’s made a world of a difference in my life, and I encourage you to do the same.
5. Channel your sadness into something you care about.
Finally, the greatest way to move forward in your grief recovery journey is to take all of your tears and pain and questions and longing, take it all together, bundle it all up, and throw it into whatever you are passionate about. Take all of that negative energy and allow it to propel you forward, giving you the fierce drive and determination to succeed at whatever you wish. For me, this translates into the following: when I feel depressed about the loss of my brother, I write. I write and write and write in hopes that someway, somehow, another survivor of suicide loss will read my story and find the hope for which they’ve been searching. What are you passionate about? What makes you feel most alive? Do that. My sister always reminds me that energy cannot be created or destroyed — it can only be transferred. You will never be able to destroy your depression, your negative energy from your suicide loss. You can only “destroy” the negative energy by transferring that energy into something positive, something that reminds you that life is worth living.
And for me, so long as I have a platform to share my story and a chance to share hope and healing with others, then life is still worth living.
You’re going through hell, but you can do this.
I believe in you, and I am here for you.
Someone Who Cares
All I have to offer you is my story.