There is a great organization, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that holds benefit walks to raise money in support of its work in preventing suicide and helping suicide survivors. There are 5K walks all over the country, in all major cities throughout the year. Sign up for an Out of the Darkness walk near you and walk in memory of your loved one who lost their life to suicide. This is an amazing, tangible way to honor the memory of your loved one, grieve for them, and support suicide prevention.
I have participated in the Out of the Darkness walk for the last 2 years. The 2nd year I created a team of walkers in memory of my brother, Erik. I had family members as well as several friends and their kids join team “Remembering Erik.” We each had a picture of my brother that we wore on our shirts and it was an amazing experience in honor of him!
Find a walk . . . create or join a team . . . and walk for your loved one!!
When there is a suicide in the family, each member of the family experiences the grief in a different way. In my family I am the youngest, with an older sister and my brother was in the middle. When my brother, Erik committed suicide he was 17 years old. My older sister was married and so when Erik died I was suddenly the only kid left at home. Being 15 and a sophomore in high school when he died, I felt abandoned by my brother. I wasn’t ready to be the only one left at home. The remaining years of my teenage years were very confusing for me because as I saw the intense pain my parents were going through, I felt the burden to make sure they did not experience any unnecessary pain. So I “grew up” over night and decided that I would try to not do anything rebellious or cross them in any way for fear of causing them more pain. I walked on egg shells on the one end, trying to not make any mistakes that may cause them more pain, but on the other end I could not look them in the eye for months because I couldn’t bear to see the sadness in their eyes. And this, I know, caused them pain.
As the years went on, I found it very difficult each time I experienced a significant life event that my brother never got to experience, such as graduating from high school, graduating from college, getting married, and becoming a parent. It felt odd to do those things when he, being the older brother, should have done them first. I had always been the little sister following in his footsteps, so it was fairly uncomfortable when those footsteps to follow in ran out. This year I have experienced a new and very odd reality; I have now lived more of my life without my brother than with him. I was 15 when he died and it has been 16 years since his death. He’s my older brother, I should not have more days without him alive than days with him alive!
For the older sibling who loses a younger sibling to suicide, to the parent who loses a child to suicide, to the child who loses a parent to suicide, to the spouse who loses a spouse to suicide, your experience of grief is so different because your relationship to that person, as is your role in the family is unique.
The only cure for grief is to grieve – Earl Grollman
I came upon this quote today and I am struck by the profound truth in this simple statement. We somehow think that time alone will heal grief . . . or ignoring grief will cause it to fade away in time . . . or that stuffing grief deep down into one’s soul will cause it heal on its own. No, grief will resurface no matter how far we stuff it down in our hearts, no matter how busy we make our lives, no matter how many years pass by. For truly, the only cure for grief is to grieve.
It has been nearly 16 years since my brother’s suicide so I was very surprised when I had a dream 2 nights ago that he was alive. It must have been starting this blog, writing his story, and thinking about him so much in preparation for starting this blog that triggered this dream. It has been many years since I had a dream about him, about him being alive.
I think this is just how grief is . . . you heal but somehow it is always still there. Where once it overwhelmed your heart, it now is reduced to a small crevice in your heart. But does it ever fully “go away?” No. How could it? It just gets smaller.
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