October Thoughts: September was Suicide Prevention Month

As many of you may know September was suicide prevention month.  An important topic to address, but what happens to those who are left behind after a suicide?  The following is a letter I wrote to a friend who has suffered a tremendous loss as a result of a suicide.  But it's not just for one person. It's for anyone who has been "left behind." 


Well here I sit trying to think of the "right" thing to say to you. What is the right thing to do? The wake and the funeral are over, you've made it through, but the pain, I'm sure is still there. It may fade with time, but I suspect that it will never go away.  Is there a right thing to say? I'm sorry seems so trite as to all the other banalities that sympathy cards say.  What should I do for you?  What SHOULDN'T I do?

I'm not going to lie.  I googled what to say to someone who has lost a child/partner/relative to suicide.  I want to be the friend who helps and is there for you and not be the idiot who says something stupid.  (Without meaning to of course; we all want to say the "right" thing, but sometimes we unintentionally put our big feet in our mouths).  One of the numerous sites offered some really good advice, which I am going to try to follow.  (And I hope others will too.)
  • Listen and let you lead:  I'm here to listen.  To anything you care to say.  It can be about anything you want. It can be whenever you want.  (That means tomorrow, next week, next month, next year...) I promise to try and keep my mouth shut and let you speak. And you can say WHATEVER you want.  (Honestly!) I will absorb your words and carry them with me.  I will NOT judge what you say.  So speak freely to me in any way you wish.  (And that doesn't just mean face to face listening...we can get together or you can call, text, email...whatever you want.)
  • Be patient:  I'm not the most patient person in the world, just ask my family.  You, on the other hand, are.  I will be patient for you and with you.  Grief and pain will ebb and flow.  I know you'll have good days and bad.   Those bad days may come weeks, months or years from now.  I promise to be a patient friend and know that grief has no time frame.  Be patient with yourself as you have been to countless others.  Be patient with your friends and with the community.  You know someone is going to screw up and say and/or do something wrong at some point.  Because no one but you knows what you're going through, something will be said or done and it's going to be exactly the wrong thing and the wrong time.  Have patience with us; we love you and we mean well.  (Suggestion from me that is not found on any website; Afterwards, when you have been patient, go home, find a quiet, "safe" space and let it all out.  Scream, yell and use every awful word that you can think of.  Patience can only carry you so far, sometimes you need a good scream.)
  • No guilt:  As the reverend said, leave it at the door.  No shame; no blame.  I think we're all going to need to be reminded of this.  "If I'd only" and "what if I’d, “are very powerful phrases.  We all carry them with us and wonder.  We need to STOP.  What has gone before has happened.  No matter how much we'd like to, we can't change it. So leave the guilt at the door and don't let it follow you around.  You are a person of action and activity; guilt can only hold you back.  I may not be your best friend ever, but I do know that you are a powerful human being.  Don't let guilt stifle you.  
  • Take care:  It seems like the entire community wants to take care of you.  We want to wrap you and your family up in a big embrace.  (If we could actually do that, what a wonderful thing that would be.)  When we don't know what to do, we want to care for others.  Let the community take care of you, but more importantly take care of yourself.  If you need help, let me know.  Again, there is no time limit on this.  In your lifetime, you have cared for many; now is the time to let others who love you care for you.  While I speak for myself, I KNOW there are many other in this community who want to care for you too.  Let us.  And let yourself be taken care of.  You are loved. You are a strong person, but you don't always have to be.  Care for yourself and let others care for you.
The community and your friends have been here for you.  I hope they will continue to be in the weeks and months ahead.  I cannot speak for everyone, but I am here for you.  I WILL be here for you.  Nothing will change that.  

I don't know if we can prevent another tragedy such as the one that you and your family are enduring, but I CAN try. I can stand with you. I know I do not stand alone.  It is my hope others in this town and in the larger community stand too.  

With my love and prayers,



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