Tag Archives: insight

Surviving Is Not Enough

Writing this blog has set me free in so many ways. Telling my story  has taken me from being a victim of circumstances that were beyond my control, to being a survivor of the loss of a loved one.

When I first started putting my words on paper, ideas were plentiful and it was evident I could write what I wanted at will. I couldn’t hit the keys on my computer fast enough. For once in my life my brain was working faster than my body parts.

My story is a  journey I was reluctant to go on. Taking me away from my normal life, my family, my friends and just about everything associated with the life I once lived.

Within I became a hermit, a recluse living in my own world that was causing me to drift further away from family and friends,while going through the motions of living a life that appeared, at least to me, normal.

Brooding in an inner world where the lights had been turned off,  I would venture out from time to time only to have my eyes blinded by the intensity of the sun’s rays. I would then retreat back into my lonely world as fast as the speed of thought.

Six years later someone decided to turn the light on in my darkened world. I took that as a sign, it was time to come out of hiding and face the world.  I then had this insatiable desire to tell my story. For the first time I wanted to talk about a life lost and its effect on me. It is only then that I realized that there are millions just like me who are going through a similar process and are on a journey in search of healing.

These past months of writing has liberated me and  I have discovered a peace that I hadn’t experienced for as long as I can remember.

I was not only on my way to recovery but I hoped it would take me back to a place I call normal or at least the way it was.

It was working beautifully with my muse working overtime keeping me creatively inspired, each word keyed at the speed of thought, each paragraph edited simply enough to be readable, and spell-check at my beck and call. The wall I had systematically built around my heart was being torn down piece by piece, word by word.

I knew within that I had to finish the ‘book’, as I would refer to telling my story. It had a beginning and therefore it had to have an ending. To me it seemed simple, the ending was becoming a survivor, someone who passed the test and came out the other end beaten and battered but alive.

I had this feeling inside that my job would be complete and I could get back to ‘normal’ when I finished the ‘book’. I just needed to keep writing until there was nothing more to say.

Then the unthinkable happened. I couldn’t finish another paragraph if my life depended on it. It was taking me longer to come up with ideas for my story and unfinished posts were starting to gather dust. I had hit ‘writers block’ at full force.  My muse decides to go on holidays. My fingers were developing cob webs and my mind was drifting back into the old ‘normal’.

I needed to take a deep breath and figure this thing out. It was not time to raise the white flag of surrender. There was a reason that I was becoming stagnant and I refused to believe it was just ‘writers block’.

I wasn’t going to try to write another word until I understood what it was that was blocking me.

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It’s been several days now since writing the above. I had to take a ‘time out’ to sort out my thoughts. I had to come to terms with something that was holding me back but I wasn’t sure what it was.  There was no use in waiting for my muse to come back off of holidays, she wasn’t coming back until I addressed the elephant that was in the room.

Up until this post I had been operating under the impression that surviving the death of a loved one was the main goal, it wasn’t. Then I proclaimed that I was no longer a victim of suicide and not longer trying to survive. Let the world know that I am as survivor. I have reached the summit. I can get back to living my life as a normal human being. I am healed.

So why the ‘all of a sudden’, I can’t put two words together to make a sentence. I wasn’t going to budge until I got an answer and I believe I have. The mental block was only there to slow me down, actually stop me in my tracks. I had come to a crossroads, not in my writing but my life. If I thought that being a survivor of the loss of a loved one was the ultimate goal, I was way off base. It was never meant to be the goal, only a marker in the next step of  my life.

I had a decision to make. Accept my new label of survivor as the be all and end all, try to reconstruct my life and get back to normal or take the next step. I had to come to grips with the fact that this journey will never end no matter how many mountains I climb. What I discovered about myself was a little scary but exciting and exhilarating at the same time.

I realized that I would never be content, happy or even at peace with myself unless I continued to move forward, which meant leaving my old life behind and anything that would hold me back including any excess baggage that I needed to leave behind to move forward.

I had worked very hard over the past years to eliminate the intense grief, guilt, confusion, anger, blame and all the other emotions and labels associated with suicide. Now it was time to give my Aaron a hug and let him go, not for his sake but for mine and those around me.

By continuing to hold onto the past I am effectively making the future non-existent. I know deep down inside Aaron would want that too. He would want the best for me. He doesn’t expect me to sit around and mourn his life as though by allowing myself to move on completely would be nothing short of being a traitor to him, my son.

He would want me to take all the valuable experiences and lessons of life I have accumulated over the last years and turn them into something useful, for others.

But in order to do that there is a price to pay, there is a very important decision that has to be made. I have to let go of the past, I have to forsake what I have been holding onto these past years. I need to let Aaron go so I can move forward. As simple as that.

He is already where he is meant to be. But my desire to keep him alive in my mind and heart, his memories fresh and at my fingertips will not hold him back but keep me from moving forward.

Surviving is not enough, leaving my old life behind is the next step in this wonderful journey that has been given me.

Today, I have made my choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Goes On…With Or Without Me

One of my first lessons on life after Aaron’s death was a simple one. That life goes on…with or without us. We can choose to get off the merry-go-round called life or we can continue to live our lives even though at times we feel like robots just going through the motions without emotion, desire or the will to live.

Eventually I had to go back to work. I was diving my work van down the highway when I noticed smoke coming up from under the hood, the temperature gauge went from normal to high in a matter of seconds. My water pump broke and I was stranded on the side of the road with the traffic passing by at high speeds not giving me the time of day. I was just a passing blip on their radar.

I had this feeling when I went back to work that somehow, God in his infinite wisdom and understanding of my delicate emotional turmoil that  He was going to make things somewhat easier on me. You know, slowly let me find my way back into the everyday life of normal.

At first I was a little discouraged. I mean, come on God, I just went through a traumatic situation and my heart is very tender and sensitive and now this happens as soon as I try to get back to being normal? I would have thought a little understanding would be apropos under the circumstances.

He did understand, a jolt back to normal was what I needed. I had a decision to make, get back on that merry-go-round we call life or purposely digress from the life I was meant to live.

Oh, how tempted I was to leave my van sitting on the side of the road, walk toward the sunset shedding my clothes along the way and never return. But that was not meant to be. Wake up man, bills had to be paid, kids had to be cared for, a wife needed love more than ever.

It wasn’t the answer  I was hoping for but that’ll do me, a wake up call that life was going on with or without me. As much as I didn’t really care either way at the time, I knew I had to make an effort to be alive inside.

Not long after, some well-meaning friends took us out to dinner. During the meal one of our friends looks over to the other and says, “they seem to be handling things quite well considering the what they have been through”. Hello? We’re sitting right across from you, we can hear you.  I didn’t give the comment much thought at the time although I was happy to know that we passed a test.

But I realize now, the way my wife and I passed that test in that restaurant  was part of getting back to normal. Act happy even if you don’t feel like it, enjoy your food even if you can’t taste it, interact like you are genuinely pleased to be with someone even if you feel like going home and crawling into bed, think about the feelings of other knowing you have no feeling yourself.

To me that was the key to my sanity. Like the old saying goes, act like your happy and you will eventually feel like your happy. Act like you have no pain and eventually you will feel no pain.

Those lessons were invaluable to me. I was never going to get a furlough on life’s daily challenges. In retrospect those challenges came fast and furious and the grieving and all other emotions associated with the loss of my dear son would have to be dealt with in private or on my own time.

After all I had my own life to live and life will go on with or without me.

Don’t Fight The Raging Torrent

I have been spending time reading accounts of those who  have lost a loved one through suicide on  “Alliance of Hope: for suicide survivors“. Reading accounts of those who lost a loved one to suicide when they are in the beginnings stages of grief and guilt ridden brought me back to my early days of trying to survive Aaron’s death. The emotions, grief, guilt, confusion, anger etc is so intense you think your going to die yourself. There are times you think it would be easier to give up than have to endure for another day. You can’t see the future and you can’t know that it happens to all of us who lost a loved one.

To me it was like being thrown into a raging torrent of water that was headed for a waterfall and there was nothing I could do about it. To try to swim against the current was impossible and the reality of  going over the edge of that waterfall was a reality that I didn’t want to accept.

That is what it is like in the beginning. You find yourself in this raging torrent of water, sweeping you down stream, knowing that you will be unceremoniously dumped over the edge and down into the river below. Your survival instincts set in trying everything to find a way to stop your forward progress. A tree branch, a log, brushes peeking up over the water’s surface. Anything to stop your forward motion so you can figure a way to get back to the safety of the shore.

That is the problem in the beginning. We weren’t  prepared for this terrifying ride, we didn’t plan it, it wasn’t in our life’s itinerary so we didn’t know how to react.

If we were prepared or had the advantage of hindsight then we would learn quickly that there is no branches to grab onto, no brushes to stop our forward progress. We were headed for the water fall and its drop and there wasn’t anything we could do about it. What we didn’t know is that we would survive the drop, we would survive the undertow and the waters would eventually stop its tumultuous washing machine like churning on course to our new destination.

We try in the beginning to fight something that is greater than us not realizing we have been set on a path that we never asked for, taking us to a destination most of us never knew existed nor a place we really didn’t want to go.

I say this with over six years of travelling that river, making it safely over the water’s edge, surviving the drop ino the raging torrent of water that would sweep me down stream away from the comforts of my old life. A journey I didn’t ask for. I am still travelling down that river knowing that I will never be able to go back to where I started.

It wasn’t an overnight acceptance, even when the waters eased I still looked for a way back to the way it was.  It actually took me six and a half years to understand this and accept my fate, a fate that has brought me to realizing that my life not only will never be the same but that I was put in this position so that some day I may in some small way help those who are struggling to survive suicide navigate their way down stream.

We who have travelled through this raging torrent know that once you have been thrown into the deep end there is no going back. Life will never be the same but as a consolation to those who are at the beginning stages of this river’s journey there is a place where the waters calm and flow at a more leisurely pace.

You can never go back and  once you get far enough down stream away from the danger of the river’s raging torrent, you will understand more fully the new path you have been put on.