On Tuesday night I had the opportunity to sit in on a discussion led by Carla Fine and Dr. Michael Myers who co-authored the book, Touched By Suicide: Hope and Healing After Loss. Although I knew going to the event would be good for me, I have to admit that getting myself to walk into the building was a bit of a process.
I was easily the youngest person at this event, but it didn’t bother me. This was the first time I had been completely surrounded by people who were all in the same situation that I’ve found myself in. Without ever having to speak a word to anyone, it was as though there was a mutual understanding in everyone’s eyes.
The opening of the event started with an introduction by Keri Neblett, a woman who works at the local Crisis Center and she said, “the only wany to prevent suicide is to talk about it.” It was a simple statement but it really resonated with me.
Carla Fine lost her husband over 20 years ago to suicide. He was a successful doctor in New York and she was completely blind-sided by his suicide. The more she spoke about her experiences and situation, the more everyone in the audience nodded or responded in some way, showing her that they understood what she had gone through.
Carla spoke about the importance of time for survivors after a suicide takes place. She said it very simply, “for survivors, the beginning is the first three years.”
The first year after the suicide, you are in a state of shock and numbness. Be prepared for the second year to be more difficult. The second year takes you to the third year, where the fog lifts and the event begins to become a part of your life. Year five is a milestone; you have survived and emerged from this. Seven years is almost biblical…it’s a transformation from who you were to who you are now.
People who are left behind after a sucide are known as survivors. It’s been one year and three months, 561 days since my boyfriend died, and I never felt like a survivor until two days ago.
The strength it takes to go on after such a powerful event takes place is indescribable. Every day is a learning process and some days are going to be much, much better than others. But if you’ve lost someone, don’t think you’re alone. And if you know someone who has lost someone, allow them to talk. Be there for them. Their lives are going through a major transformation process and, as Carla said, their lives will never go back to being “normal.” That word will no longer exist in many survivor’s vocabularies.
Suicide affects everyone, not just those who take their lives. Open up and be willing to talk, but more importantly, be willing to listen.
“Our very survival becomes a testimony to the lives our loved ones have lived.” Carla Fine