Wishing You A Peaceful Holiday

Wishing You A Peaceful Holiday

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hiding Behind The Potted Geraniums

By Catherine Greenleaf

After a suicide loss in the family, it is very typical to pull down all the shades in the house, lock the door, turn off the answering machine and do what is called "sitting behind the potted geraniums." 

In other words, we think sealing off the outside world will somehow protect us. From what? We can conjure up all kinds of reactions from the community in our minds. Perhaps they now think our entire family is "crazy," that there is something terribly wrong with us and we should be avoided, that somehow suicide is contagious and will spread to others should they have contact with us. It is terrifying to think of re-entering the community and experiencing people's "verdict" over your family situation.

The sad part is we are the ones thinking these thoughts. We make up these scenarios in our own minds and scare ourselves into isolation. It is true that some people do not understand suicide loss and grief and we will meet with the occasional person who makes insensitive comments. But we are living in a world now where people are more savvy about the devastating effects of sudden loss, including suicide. Most of the people we encounter will be enormously compassionate and understanding. However, hiding inside a dark house will not help us to meet any of these nice people.

Usually it's our own guilt and shame that compel us into hiding away from the community. For years, I carried guilt that I had somehow said or done something to make my loved one choose suicide. Staying inside the house was my way of avoiding the possibility that someone would point the finger and say: "He died because of something you did." I'll be darned if I know what that "something" was. However, when you are in the throes of suicide grief you don't see the absurdity of that type of thinking. 

The truth is, suicide is never the fault of anyone but the person who chooses it. No one has that much control over another person. There is no need to feel guilt or shame about your loved one's death. Suicide is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and/or a lifetime of not being able to employ the skills necessary to cope with adversity and conflict.

Things are bad enough without adding to the pain of sudden loss of someone you love. We can let go of the guilt and start moving in a more positive direction. The time is now for nurturing yourself. You have been dealt a devastating blow. Be good to yourself. Give yourself time to heal. No, life will never be the same. But you are now on the path to what suicide loss survivors call "a new normal." Taking care of yourself will get you there a lot faster. Try opening a window blind and unlocking the door. Let people love you and take care of you. You are worth it.

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