Time Heals When We Allow It

Time heals when we allow it space to ebb and flow. Grief is not linear, nor does it follow a prescribed set of stages. Yes, I know about the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross model. Moreover, that it was developed to explain the stages of grief one is likely to experience when faced with the news of their own terminal illness.

Grief of a loved one is not the same.

How is it Different… the Same?

It comes down to one word – control.

  • We cannot control the world around us
  • We can control our reaction to it

We decide if we want to stuff down our feelings or allow expression of emotion. For me, I have allowed my expression of grief to emerge, even when it is inconvenient or embarrassing. That includes tears, anger, resentment, and any other emotion that comes up.

Even though I thought I was grieving the first year, as I look back it is obvious I was in denial, protecting myself. As the years have changed me since my husband’s decision to take his own life, my grief has also changed because I have allowed it.

How Time Heals When We Allow It

This month is the 7th anniversary of my husband’s death. When I see the actual date looming ahead, a lump forms in my throat and the tears, or sobs start. I try to move myself to a private space, but that doesn’t always happen… like right now. My diaphragm begins an unconscious series of contractions, the tears well up in my eyes, and I catch my breath as a few sobs emerge. Then it is over. I take a deep breath in and out. All is well.

Final Words of Encouragement

My experience has shown me a few ways to get through.

  • Give yourself the same compassion you give others
  • Shower yourself with self-care
  • Allow others to help
  • Accept loving kindness
  • Seek counseling and groups who share your experience

It will get better. Time heals when we allow it.

From a Suicide Survivor to PTSD Diagnosis

When I wrote my suicide survivor article a few weeks ago, I had no idea I would go from a suicide survivor to PTSD diagnosis so easily. Although the likelihood you or a loved one will develop PTSD from any traumatic event is small (6.8% according to a 2020 Psychology Today blog), it is important to recognize the symptoms.

WHAT IS PTSD?

The acronym stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was first brought to light in 1980. Yet, some World War I survivors in the early 20th century were known as suffering from “shell shock”. Today, we realize it was PTSD.

Although the trauma typically associated with PTSD is extreme, as in combat, it can also occur from many other types of trauma, such as long term abuse. This Psychology Today article covers the basic information about PTSD in much more detail.

HOW DOES IT AFFECT YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE?

Complex disorders like PTSD have a long list of possible short term and long term effects. The full list is included in another article.

A PEEK INTO MY THERAPY SESSION

As you might imagine, my therapist (I’m using her first name, Mary) asked me questions, allowed me to ‘tell my story’, took notes, and led me down the path of discovery.

When I used trigger words, like shame, she asked me where I thought that came from. I’ve been on my own path of self-discovery, so sometimes her questions were easy to answer.

“Shame was instilled in childhood by my parent,” I replied.

”Hmm.”

I continued my stories, clearly illustrating my PTSD symptoms with flashbacks followed by sudden emotional outbursts that I quickly quashed. There were many more nuances of my illness that Mary picked up on.

Near the end of the session, she took out a small book, which was a pocket handbook of PTSD symptoms. Reading each one, she noted her observations that matched my exhibited behavior. Thankfully, I didn’t exhibit every single symptom.

”Ahhhh…”

A huge sigh of relief escaped my body.

I had found the right therapist, there is a name for my suffering, and we will work together on a solution.

HOW IS THIS THERAPY SESSION DIFFERENT?

Unlike some therapists I’ve had in the past, Mary got to the root of the cause quickly. As I pondered the session this week, I believe there are a few clues about why this therapy session was more useful vs. past less useful sessions.

  1. I understood I had a problem.
    • I’ve allowed my intuition to guide me when I faced my sudden teary outbursts over the last few weeks rather than stuff down my emotion.
  2. I acted on my perceived problem.
    • Writing about the teary outbursts in an earlier blog resulted in research, which brought me to a suicide survivor group. The facilitators recognized my PTSD symptoms and recommended I seek out a therapist who specializes in trauma therapy.
    • A search on Psychology Today led me to a local therapist who specializes in trauma and PTSD.
  3. Finally, I was ready to acknowledge my true condition in order to grieve and come out of this.
    • My openness, honesty, and choice to not hold back during the session have developed over many small steps of journaling, seeking holistic and spiritually based avenues to peel away layers of self protection.

This list illustrates, in the bullet points, how small steps are truly the key to developing a life of fulfillment.

NEXT STEPS

This opportunity to share parts of my mental health journey is too precious to ignore. I invite you to join me as I move beyond viewing this week’s reality from a suicide survivor to PTSD diagnosis. In contrast I want to also share the many everyday discoveries that make us smile and keep us moving forward in difficult times.

By signing up for my newsletter, you will always receive the information in my blogs along with glimpses into more joyful moments of my life.

Hanging in there,
Dawn

Coping with a Loved One’s Suicide

I planned to write a light-hearted blog until I had a tearful episode early this week. Coping with a loved one’s suicide is a complicated  and unique situation. It knows no timetable. Almost immediately I knew a blog about suicide survivors was eminent.

Triggers From Other Survivors

For no apparent reason, while riding my stationary bicycle, I suddenly thought of my husband, Pablo’s, suicide in September 2014. The tears flowed, gushing forth like a torrent then almost subsided before starting up again. Within ten minutes, it was all over, the pressure valve temporarily down to zero.

Reviewing the days leading up to my outpouring of grief, I realized there were triggers. During a conversation with a friend, she related the devastation felt by family members when suicide entered their lives.

As is common, the ex-wife and son are dumbstruck by the unexpected suicide in their midst.

“Why did they do this?”

“What were they thinking?”

“What could I have done to prevent it?”

Suicide survivors want answers. Even if there is a note left, the answers do not come. Coping with a loved one’s suicide is complex and difficult to understand.

Another trigger came from watching a Facebook video of my friend and mentor, Psychic Kim Moore, relate how the suicide of her loved one completely changed her life. I was studying with Kim when Pablo passed. Her support and the support of my classmates was crucial.

Finally, perhaps the pull of the blue moon’s energy might have been my tipping point.

Understanding Suicide Survivors

As I was researching this blog, I came across a Psychology Today article, Understanding Survivors of Suicide Loss. It is a comprehensive look at this special situation. I encourage you to read the entire article if you are a survivor or are unsure how to support a survivor.

In my circumstance, I was able to talk to a psychologist who specialized in suicide. Her help was immeasurable. Yet, today, six years later, I still grieve. This is the nature of grief. It is normal to experience ups and downs stretching over years, especially when grieving as a suicide survivor.

How to Find a Support Group

What also helps is talking to other suicide survivors. I Googled “suicide survivor support groups near me” and found this information in my area:

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention AFSP Search
  • Healing After a Loved One’s Suicide (HALOS)
  • Suicide.org Florida Support Groups

Next Steps

I sent an email to a support group near me to register for the November meeting. Please use the AFSP Search to find a support group near you.

Coping with a loved one’s suicide requires support. We can’t do this alone.

Recovering still,
Dawn