September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month.  For weeks now, I’ve been trying to figure out what I could say about suicide; how I could possibly relay the immense impact it has on numerous people.  My life has not been affected long term by suicide despite knowing many acquaintances, friends, co-workers, and extended family who thought it was the only way to stop their pain.  I’ve reached out to some whose lives have been rocked by this kind of death.  My hope is that I’ll give their thoughts and feelings as much of a voice as I can. We all know people who, whether directly affected or not, have taken the stance that nothing about suicide makes sense, that it is selfish and simply transfers the pain to loved ones.  It obviously causes ripples and shock waves throughout family and friends, and for the most part, those affected want and wish for understanding beyond the act itself. The majority of those remaining want others to know that their loved ones were NOT being selfish. They were ill. They thought they were doing what was best for everyone, and their minds literally could not change those thoughts.  That is what mental illness can do; it disrupts rational thought. Those left want others to know they did all they could with the knowledge they had, and that blaming or shaming those close to the deceased only adds to everyone’s pain. I wish people understood that it’s not a ‘choice’ made by a healthy mind.  It’s an ill person whose brain no longer thinks or works correctly.                                -Julie Mjelve, co-founder Grieving Together, lost husband to suicide Those of us on the outside cannot comprehend the insidious layers suicide brings to the grief equation.   Anger at the person, at a failed healthcare system or counseling,Read More
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Lately, I’ve been trying to be more of an observer of the never ending grief dance I’ve been forced to attend.   I’ve labelled this particular dance Hotel California – you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.  Sometimes I have just one partner, the strongest emotion prevails a while, but mostly it’s a group dance, more like a mosh pit.  I’m being thrashed around by emotions and partners I’m not always acquainted with but they just happened to see the Dancing Here signs on the door.  Bitterness has been a recurring partner for quite some time. He was invited by Hypocrisy, but new words and feelings have started to show up as well.  Late comers and wall flowers until now, Understanding and Forgiveness have been cutting in, backing Bitterness into a corner to wait patiently for another song. I used to use the word hypocrisy when referring to some people.  I would get so ticked off when they would say things like you have to keep his memory alive, cherish the good times you had with him.  These people were always well meaning, but in my mind, their well-intentioned responses became robotic clichés spoken only to make themselves feel better.  The hypocrisy thoughts came later when the same people would say you need to move on, you’re not “getting over” him, you need to stop talking about him so much and get on with your life.  Excuse me?  How do you fuse those contradictory thoughts?  I thought you can’t have it both ways, people.  You can’t tell me to keep his memory alive AND to stop talking about him because talking about him IS keeping his memory alive.  I thought that would be common sense, yet I would almost lose my ever-loving-mind when intelligent peopleRead More
Awareness, Grieving Together
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Black silicone wristbands with the word Remember and awareness ribbon symbol
I think there is something dignified and calming about rituals.  We humans like our ceremony.  Whether for celebration or mourning, our religions and belief systems are filled with them.   Recently, I’ve been finding solace in making ‘ritual’ more individual and mindful, which is bringing it closer to and healing my heart. Time is a human construct, yet as earthly creatures, we have to work within that construct.  When someone we love dies, certain days and times of year take on a heightening meaning.  Their or our birthdays, wedding anniversaries, special holidays–these days and the subsequent times of year change for us.  The person who made these days special is no longer physically present, which can confuse the whole celebratory aspect these times are supposed to represent.  Entirely different emotions and feelings of powerlessness occur on the anniversary of the day they died.  Studies show that actively planning something to do on these trigger days significantly helps those trying to process the loss. A deliberate act of remembrance, whether part of a funeral service or a private time after that day, has been shown to be helpful and healthy well beyond the magnitude of the action. The feeling of loss of control can engulf our heads, blinding us to everything but how broken our hearts are.  Meanwhile, the outside world goes on seemingly unchanged.  Performing a small ceremony can have the power to bring us back to centre for a moment, allowing us some semblance of control at a time when even breathing no longer feels natural.  As we move further away from the actual death of our person, significant dates and seasons can sneak up on us, bringing us right back to the emotions of the day he or she died or adding to the overwhelming feelings of tryingRead More
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Time is Measurable, Love and Grief are Not In March, Julie openly wrote about her grief hero, comedian Patton Oswalt, and how his honest and ‘unpretty’ truth gave her hope.  His candid and very public grief journey continued recently when he announced his engagement to actress, Meredith Salenger, “only” 15 months after his wife died. As usual, some people had strong opinions about this news. And, boy oh boy, some of those nasty opinions pretty much blew up the widow-verse. The prickles came when reading venomous remarks condemning Oswalt’s engagement–everything from “Nope, too soon” to suggesting his grief wasn’t genuine.  After all, he’d just taken his wedding ring off a few weeks prior to his engagement announcement. Now consider this: Imagine Patton is a widowed woman living in Victorian times.  If she adhered to full rather than half mourning, she would wear a black mourning dress for twelve months.  This mourning dress, the visible expression of her grief, would be shed at the end of that year and she would be expected to remarry.  Despite what she may feel inside, the visible mourning period dictated at that time would be over.  Done.  No controversy. But today we have prickles and condemnation. Enter the Widow-verse. Erica Roman, a widowed writer, eloquently schooled those who think they know how love works after being widowed.  Her defense of Patton’s new love caught his attention and Erica’s blog went viral.  I highly suggest reading her post.  It obviously resonates with many widows, but it also serves as education for those seeking insight on supporting someone who has lost a spouse. In my mind, the naysayers were not aware of two widowhood concepts. Time has no effect on love and grief, and Widows have the capacity and ability to love both their departed loveRead More
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“What is in your heart?” she asks.… I remember my heart and my head three years ago while witnessing my beautiful husband wither, wrapped in the suffocating blanket of end-stage cancer.   The first line of C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed is “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear”. That was the first line, the only line, I could read and absorb from any book after Brad’s death. Understanding anything longer than a couple lines was like suddenly being expected to maneuver the uneven bars at the Olympics. It wasn’t happening and it continued not happening for months. At the six month mark I could read bits and pieces for my grief group, but even that required guidance from the facilitator. Just tell me what to do. That would’ve been easiest for me; if someone told me what to do I could then attempt to focus on being accountable to someone other than myself. No part of me, heart, head or body, was reliable. In the raw newness of widowhood I had to remind myself to inhale, exhale, repeat–never mind eat or pay bills or take out the garbage or read and comprehend something. I was C.S. Lewis-afraid and unable to move much beyond that fear without recoiling back into a whimpering ball. My heart was cold and inexplicably still beating. Outside, I was going through life’s motions, putting on the façade of ‘I’m OK’ to make others less awkward. I would’ve much rather screamed at everyone to “Shut Up” about their inane earthly problems, but habits kicked in and I was mostly “nice” those first months. Mostly nice: my malfunctioning social filter is another topic. Others already on this unwanted path told me to be kind and patient with myself. I tried to listen but their wordsRead More
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“ have to learn where your pain is. You have to burrow down and find the wound, and if the burden of it is too terrible to shoulder, you have to shout it out; you have to shout for help... And then finally, the way through grief is grieving.”
Jane Hamilton
“Life Lesson 3: You can't rush grief. It has its own timetable. All you can do is make sure there are lots of soft places around -- beds, pillows, arms, laps.”
Patti Davis, Two Cats and the Woman They Own: or Lessons I Learned from My Cats
“How can it be that there is such a colossal gap between what we think we know about grief and mourning and what we actually find out when it comes to us?”
Jim Beaver, Life's That Way: A Memoir
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