Pouring Out a Measure of Love When It's Needed Most

It happened again. Someone I admire and respect completed a suicide, and my wounds are laid bare all afresh. Suicide survival is a club nobody asked to be in, and admission comes with a lifelong process of reliving the devastation on repeat. I know this because my first loss occurred in 2000, and each time I think of the circumstances and absence of that person in my life, it feels like an exposed bone, throbbing anew. I dream of him and still experience that sensation when I wake up that he is on this Earth today until reality smacks me hard again. The feelings have receded over the 18 years since, but they remain and creep up with any new experience.

With this most recent loss, I find myself checking in on my brother's Facebook page, sorting through old photos. I stopped myself from watching his tribute video by a narrow margin and even thinking of it brings fresh tears. Though I am no longer in the acute grief stage, it sure feels like it when I cannot stop myself from going down the dark abyss of what ifs again. I know it's not productive. I know it's not going to ever bring him back. The truth for me is that any time I experience a loss from suicide completion, I go through a shame filled space of my own where I recount any time I should have noticed signs. And it turns out that can be really hard, noticing. This is especially true when you are not in touch with a person on a regular basis.

Which is why I am writing about this personal topic (again) tonight. Because I know I am not alone, especially right now when many people who may read this may be understanding some of this for the first time in an acute way.

I cannot change the past. I may experience this type of loss again.

Until then, here is what I (and you) can do to love our neighbor as we are called to do:

1. Reach out and tell people your good thoughts when you have them. This has been literally a life long personal goal of mine. It's not enough to have good thoughts about people. We need to get those out of our hearts and beyond our lips to affirm those who may need it more than we realize.
2. Don't stop talking about the loved one to their loved ones. This one is so hard. With a suicide completion, it is made harder by our societal stigmas placed around mental health challenges. I know this can be uncomfortable in any loss, but those suffering the most need you to lean in and not pull away during their grief. They need you to honor their loved ones gracefully and help them process. Forever really.
3. Learn about the signs of suicide and steps we can all take to prevent a suicide completion. There really are a ton of resources for this. www.afsp.org is one of my go-to resources, but there are plenty. If we don't all do our part to remove the stigma, our loved ones (or even we) will continue to suffer in silence.
4. Step in to volunteer or lead. I am slaying this giant this year, friends. It is time I start using all this pain for good. To help other survivors. To assist in prevention advocacy. Look for this from me, friends. It is an important giant for me to defeat.
5. Challenge yourself to see the promise with the pain. This one can feel impossible at times, but I know we can hold pain and promise at the same time and all trials are used for good when we believe it and see the purpose. I found that one over time with my first suicide loss. A career choice that led me into education. It humbles me to see the powerful connection. Truth? Four years later, I am still seeking the promise with my brother's loss, but I can certainly see the gifts of his legacy in his daughters, my other family members. My own focus for advocacy. It's not enough to cover it over, but I don't think it ever will be completely. My friend who recently passed had such a magnificent impact on a wide range of people, and I know there is promise in what his legacy will do to increase awareness. I can see that in every loving tribute I pay honor to by reading on his Facebook page.

For me, I know the message I received in devotion today was meant to soothe my heart after a challenging few days and those forthcoming. If our greatest commands are to love God and love our neighbor, and we feel depleted, it can be hard to summon the emotion. Except, I received a direct promise today that I will always be provided a sufficient store of love. Sharing that same message with anyone reading this post is one measure of love from my cup to yours. Blessings, friends.


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