Brave Heart Healing: The Aftermath of Suicide by Melaney Sreenan
Wait! WAIT!! This can’t be happening to me, to us… our family, our school, our community, no way! There is no reason for this. How can it be?
There is no greater shock and stronger potential for suffering than the loss of a loved one through suicide. When someone takes their life, the rawness and devastation can take on a life of its own. Today, more people than ever are affected by the epidemic of suicide. In many ways the grief of suicide is experienced differently than other causes of death. I first experienced the traumatic impact of suicide when I was only eight years old. In addition to losing my childhood friend, I also lost a brother and two of my closest friends; one of them to a law enforcement shooting while I was on the phone with him after calling 911.
In 2013, I found myself in the position of having to face two suicide deaths only six months apart. I still remember the earthshattering call I received from a family member saying my brother had been asked to resign from his high-powered international job the day before, and on the next he was suddenly gone. Suicide. Deep visceral despair raced in. Hadn’t I just talked to him? NOT sweet, kind, thoughtful, healthy Kevin, my precious baby brother…
A stark and darkly painful aching hit me. Doubt gripped my heart and soul. A few months later, a dear friend who suffered from terrible bouts of depression was also dead. I was on the phone with him when the police shot rang out after having called to alert them he was suicidal and was armed with a gun. A new level of profound unraveling rushed in.
How do we find our way through such agonizing times? Is it possible to go on? How do you navigate through such unfathomable circumstances? How do you face the overwhelming pain, drama and trauma? How do you possibly breathe new life into your world and the cells of your being? How do you cultivate courage and the possibility of hope? I asked myself these questions in the midst of my anguish. How could I survive these overpoweringly tragic events? The answer was to just find out…to dive in and find out what I was made of in order to overcome and transmute the devastation in my heart into healing and purpose. Here is what I discovered:
When we hold our breath, it sends a signal to our nervous system that we are in danger, engaging the reptilian brain. Allowing yourself to breathe deeply increases oxygen and signals your body that you are safe, prompting your subconscious mind to release what you are holding inside. Deep, steady breathing lets our energy come into coherence and moves us out of the fight or flight state into mindfulness, peace and wellbeing.
2. EXAMINE YOUR BELIEFS.
This is important to the stressed system. What we believe has a powerful bearing on how we heal. It is essential to acquaint yourself with your own personal beliefs and be willing to see, with open eyes and an open heart, if they are serving you and if they are relevant in the present situation. Childhood subconscious patterns surface and derail even the best of efforts on our journey toward healing. By knowing and working with your childhood template, you can achieve a clarity that enables a less painful path to health and wholeness.
WHAT WE BELIEVE HAS A POWERFUL BEARING ON HOW WE HEAL.
3. STAY CONNECTED IN THE THROES OF LOSS.
During grief there is a heightened tendency to move towards self-blame and judgment of self and others. Often others are too uncomfortable to respond to you in a way that is soothing or reassuring. Stay connected to those who can foster relaxation, understanding and peace. It only takes one person who can look you in the eye and believe in you, to transform the seemingly endless pain into joy, insight and freedom. Even quiet moments with a pet, a whisk of the wind in nature, or a kind smile can provide indispensible comfort.
4. BE FAMILIAR WITH THE STAGES OF GRIEF:
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Being able to identify where you are in the process of healing can be very grounding and reassuring. Some days you will be in all of the stages at once. Sometimes you can look at them and laugh. Other times you will feel like you are losing your mind. I say, go ahead and embrace it. Know that this too shall pass.
At some point in the process of overcoming the enormous loss of my brother and friends, I wrote, “As I sit here in the comfort of this little lake-side cabin in the woods, I can see with new eyes, hear with new ears and feel with a new heart and fresh ‘fur’, (like in the story The Velveteen Rabbit). I can sense that the dark night is offering me a direction, a way through, an opportunity to come out on the other side.” During this critical time I always held the spiritual belief that through all the harshness and suffering, I would one day experience new life.
5. STAY THE COURSE.
During times of pain stay clear, focused and confident. Selflove is the key. Keep reminding yourself and affirming you will experience an end to this intense pain. Knowing the courage it takes to press on, acknowledge yourself for facing each day. Breathe deeply as you bear witness to the naked rawness of your experience. Practice extreme self-care. When you think you are being really good to yourself, turn it up a notch and you might just hit normal. Appreciate the people, circumstances and environments that are loving, healing and consistent enough to allow you to unravel and come back together again; whether in the space of a single breath, an hour, a day, or a week.
6. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO MOVE ON!
Some people feel it is necessary to suffer in order to demonstrate their love for the deceased. Be confident there is absolutely NO truth to that. Allow yourself to have a life again, to feel joy and BE joy again! I would not go so far as to say there is a gift in this loss. In the end, what I can say is that experiencing this naked rawness, vulnerability and unraveling in my life, has made me feel more deeply and experience more connectedness. My once incredibly broken heart and shattered self are now expanded in awareness and insight. While I still miss my friends and my brother, I have discovered a different means of being with them as they continue to show up in their own new and evolved ways to influence and guide me throughout my life.
Dr. Melaney Sreenan, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and grief recovery. Her insightful coaching facilitates deep levels of healing. She is a certified Neurochange Solutions Consultant for Dr. Joe Dispenza and resides on his top leadership team for events. For more info on her programs visit DrMelaney.com.