Wishing You A Peaceful Holiday

Wishing You A Peaceful Holiday

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Finding Our Center After A Suicide Loss

by Catherine Greenleaf

How do we keep it all together while grieving a suicide loss? Suicide is one of the most devastating forms of loss that exists. The mixture of suddenness, self-inflicted violence and police involvement can leave us with our minds and hearts shattered.

It's important to remember we are not the only ones who have lived through and survived such a horrific loss. We have many suicide loss survivors who have gone before us and they have blazed a trail of survivorship and healing for us. So, with that in mind, we take a look at some ways to get grounded during grief:

1.  Don't isolate. Isolating magnifies the pain. This does not mean putting yourself with anybody you can find. A sense of discernment is required, which can be challenging. We need to put ourselves in the presence of people who care and understand, and who aren't going to try to rewrite history for us or tell us how we are supposed to be feeling.

2.  Ask for help. Millions of people have lost loved ones to suicide. And while this is sad and unfortunate, it also tells us that many have survived such a loss. While it isn't easy, it is most certainly much harder to get through suicide loss alone. Asking for help, and getting it, is perhaps the strongest indicator that a person will be okay. Suicide loss survivor support groups, a sudden loss bereavement therapist, and private, small therapy groups can be a huge benefit.

3.  Do only what you can do. Maybe you don't want to go to that office Christmas party. Don't! You are the best judge of how much you can handle. If the holidays are overwhelming you, create your own celebration at home with a close friend. During overwhelming times, less is more. Make sure to get lots of rest and sleep, eat healthy food and give yourself lots of time-outs!

4.  Watch out for the mood altering substances. After a suicide loss, it can be very tempting to overdo it with alcohol, cigarettes, food, sex, work, shopping -- any compulsive activity prevents you from feeling your feelings. The addictions are merely symptoms for what's going on underneath: not wanting to feel the pain of the loss. This is where a therapist becomes crucial in guiding you through your grief.

5. Steer clear of the critical people. Believe it or not, there will be some people out there who will condemn your loved one for dying by suicide. As if the pain isn't enough, you have someone in the neighborhood who thinks suicide is a sin or a crime. Please remember these people are ignorant, uneducated and foolish and they perpetuate the stigma connected with brain disorders. It is not your job during this tender time to reform them. Avoid them.

Above all, be true to yourself. And remember, suicide is the result of a chemical imbalance caused by a brain disorder. Suicide has nothing to do with what you said, didn't say, did, didn't do. It's time to start cutting yourself a break and learning to love yourself. Right now!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Setting Boundaries During The Holidays

By Catherine Greenleaf

The holiday times roll in, and suddenly it's so easy for me to overextend myself. Parties with co-workers, lunches with friends, get-togethers with relatives -- it all seems like so much fun in the beginning. Then I look at the calendar in bewilderment, noting that I don't have an evening to myself for two solid weeks!

It happens to all of us, but for suicide-loss survivors, there may be a tendency to overload to avoid the pain of spending the holidays without a loved one.

Know that you can always cancel. You don't have to be Superwoman or Superman during this most tender of times. I have learned I can say "yes." I can also say "no." I can even say "maybe," "I changed my mind," or "can I get back
to you?"

Setting boundaries and limits helps me enjoy the holidays!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Gift of Desperation

by Catherine Greenleaf

When we learn we have lost a loved one to suicide, we hit a level of despair few people will ever know or understand. That's why I refer to suicide loss in my book as high-voltage grief. Suicide loss tears every fiber that makes up the tapestry of our lives. The suddenness, the lack of warning (even with a history of previous attempts), the self-inflicted violence and the profound aftershocks (like depression, anxiety and PTSD) can put us into a state of mental anguish that makes day-to-day functioning very difficult.

However, there is one silver lining in this very dark, grey cloud. And that is the gift of desperation.

Now why would I call desperation a gift? Because it forces us to our knees. It forces us to admit we are sinking and don't know what to do next. It forces us to realize we cannot travel this path of grief alone.

It forces us to ask for help.

In a society that prides itself on the concept of rugged individualism, asking for help can be seen as an act of weakness or even cowardice. But what do we do when faced with suffering beyond our capacity to resolve? We become humble. We surrender. We ask for help. Asking for help is our saving grace. Turning to others for support, help, information and encouragement is our way through and out the dark tunnel of suicide grief. Attending a suicide loss survivor support group, seeing a sudden loss bereavement therapist or participating in suicide loss group therapy are just three ways of reaching out and getting the guidance we need.

People who need people, are, indeed, the luckiest people. It's where love begins.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

When You Witness A Suicide

by Catherine Greenleaf

There are, unfortunately, instances in which a person dies by suicide in a public arena. If you have witnessed the suicide of a stranger in a public place, what should you do? Should you just continue on as you were before and brush the incident off? After all, you never met the person in question and don't even know the person's name.

There is the time-worn adage, "a witness to violence is a victim of violence." Suicide is a form of self-inflicted violence and witnessing a suicide, whether you know the person or not, can be extremely traumatic. Trauma affects people in different ways. If you are experiencing any of the following, you might consider getting some help:

1. You avoid the area where you witnessed the suicide, even if it means taking longer to get to work, shopping, visiting family and friends. You experience overwhelming panic when approaching the area.

2. You are experiencing unusually violent dreams that upset you.

3. You are experiencing flashbacks around the suicide, e.g., certain smells, sounds and sights are coming back to you piecemeal and unnerving you.

4. You find time is distorted for you. You are late to appointments, early to lunch with a friend. You used to be able to tell what time it was without looking. Now you have no idea what time it will be when you look at your clock.

5. You are having difficulty sleeping through the night.

6. You are starting to isolate and finding it feels safer to be home alone.

7. You are spending more time alone eating or drinking alcohol.

8. You can feel yourself starting to shut down emotionally. You are no longer sure how you feel about anything.

9. You feel life has lost its lustre and you aren't sure what motivates you to get out of bed anymore.

10.You are catching yourself being compulsive. You find you are having difficulty stopping certain activities like cleaning, working and hand washing.

At the very least, a few visits to a sudden death bereavement therapist will help you clear up any feelings you might have about witnessing a suicide. The above list is only a partial one, but each item describes a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. In any case, it never hurts to ask for help!