***The following is an expansion on what I shared on Facebook regarding the high-profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain this past week.***
Everyone has a story. I can’t speak specifically about suicide, but I do know grief. We all do. Each one of us has uniquely experienced loss in devastating ways to us. Loss shapes us, challenges us, forces us to face what’s ugly and frightening.
Grief is our internalization of every loss we face – each time life changes in a small or big way, each time someone we love dies (whether slowly or suddenly). It molds our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
When you read a reflection or article about suicide, be gentle on the author. Chances are, s/he is simply sharing his or her experience. That’s all we can do in regards to grief. We can only share what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown.
No one can tell another person how to grieve, when to grieve, or when to “move on.” It’s specific to your personality, temperament, and the situation. When tragedy strikes, each person will be affected differently about it.
Despite all of this, I think we need to consider allowing grief to become a guest in our hearts, rather than an unwelcome stranger. Most of us push it away, but we can at least permit grief a place in our lives, because pain is often the greatest teacher in the school of fortitude and resilience.
Can any one of us truly understand suicide? Experts in psychology or theology have their own perspectives, but I’ve come to realize that no one can fully grasp another person’s thoughts or demons or struggles. Most of us, thanks to our grief-aversive culture, learn to put on our facades as we age. We smile in the face of extreme emotional pain. We respond, “Just fine, thanks” when someone asks, “Hi, how are you?”
I believe it’s because grief is largely unfamiliar to us. It isn’t straightforward and certainly isn’t comfortable. After all, who wants to suffer? Because of this disdain for suffering, and our unwillingness to engage what is difficult (e.g., lack of fortitude), most of us have been conditioned to simply eschew trials, crosses, strife, and struggle.
What we need is to learn from what grief can teach us: that suffering is an inevitable part of every human existence; that it is the only gift that makes us stronger, more appreciative of what we have, and capable of empathy; and it, too, has an ending.
If we are to honestly accept grief as our mentor and believe it has something to teach us – however arduous it may be to hold or ponder – we will also be able to let it go. Far too many of us push grief away, but then when it knocks on our door and we let it inside, we allow it to stay as a permanent resident.
Grief will come, but it will also leave you. Be open to its fluidity in your life, and you will spiritually and emotionally mature. Wisdom is quite possibly the most beautiful fruit of giving grief a place in your life, because you neither flee from it nor cling to it. You simply let it be as it will in your heart. And that’s the only way to truly live – authentically and freely.
Text (c) Jeannie Ewing 2018, all rights reserved.