Grieving Suicide, The Bigger Picture
The news of Robin Williams’s suicide came to me when I was driving in my car. The announcer sounded shaken. I knew something was coming other than music or a commercial. Have you ever noticed how when something really tragic happens that affects a nation or perhaps the world we always remember where we were or what we were doing at the time we heard it? If I asked you right now where were you when 911 hit, you probably would remember. Tragic death affects all of us deeply. The grieving of Robin’s death was global and is now a memory of sadness in my own heart. I will miss him.
Social media opinions, blogs, tweets, instagrams and the like popped up everywhere. Sadly, some opinions were very judgmental and harsh; the world can be like that. The bigger picture of Robin’s death brought a good percentage of people to a place in their own hearts with awareness that our world needs help with depression. What if I was to tell you that we are a world that does not know how to grieve? That not grieving can cause depression, that not being understood could cause depression, which, leads to feeling very alone in this fast paced world. Unresolved Grief can multiply over a lifetime. When feeling alone and unloved the mind starts to lead people of all ages into dark places. While not a clinical psychologist, I have been actively involved with death and dying professionally for 18 years. I have watched people die alone, I have watched people give up on themselves because living with an illness is just more than they can handle. Is this wrong? Did they lose the fight? No, there can be no judgment, just as there can be no judgment for Robin or anyone else that commits suicide. It is a tragic way to die and the unfinished business on earth is insurmountable for the family members that are left behind. Grief therapy for suicide and all types of other losses brings understanding and peace to a troubled heart.
Western cultures tend to medicate depression a great deal, yet it can be a powerful teacher if we have grief therapy to get us through it. Here’s a little example that is quite common. A mother has a son deploying for 10 months, her body aches, she is very sad, not functioning, barely able to get through the day and feeling very alone. She questions herself, is this normal? I should be stronger! She is grieving this juncture in her and her son’s life. Had this gone untreated it would have escalated, and then rippled out into other areas of her life and her sons life. In grief therapy we talk about the sadness validating she will be sad, we are human there is no escaping that. I invite you to think what was happening spiritually for her? What was she learning about herself? Her life was devoted to her son, making sure he was okay through various different stages of his life. She was always able to keep him safe. As with most mothers our children can be an extension of us and we kind of lose who we were before kids and before husbands. There comes a time when we have to let go of the control. The ultimate loss of control is dying and death.
The gift is who were we before our children and our marriages? That pure essence of us, remembering the essence of who we really are brings us back to what is called “Spiritual Homeostasis”. What this means is that life happens to us; people leave, people die, pets die, a house is sold, a divorce happens and even a difficult childhood can knock us off course. Losses add up over a lifetime and need to be grieved. If not grieved what happens is grief build up, or complicated grief, sadness builds a home in the heart and it becomes harder to find joy or any sense of peace. Not tending to grief is like not taking care of a wound; it becomes infected and spreads to the rest of the body causing all kinds of dis-ease.
I was reading an article about Robin, and I loved his answer to the question from a colleague that said, “Do you think we will ever grow up? “ Robin said without missing a beat, “I am afraid if I ever grow up, I won’t be able to make a living.”
This was the essence of Robin; this was the child that was born on this earth and then life happened. I just wonder if we can teach more awareness as parents, teachers, counselors in the early stages of grieving, giving children and adults tools and resources then maybe we would not have so many on medication, or committing suicide?