by Jan McDaniel
reprinted from World of Psychology blog, Psych Central
originally published October 2019
Do you wonder what to do now? Does having a peaceful moment seem impossible for the rest of your life? Loss by suicide is complex and devastating, but healing does happen. Survivors find ways to process their losses and rebuild a new life of duality in which they can feel both sadness and joy. This takes time and support, and it does not mean "moving on" or forgetting about lost loved ones.
Read the article, and then visit www.allianceofhope.org to find information and other survivors.
The First Step in Healing after Traumatic Loss
by Jan McDaniel
Healing after a traumatic loss that has devastated your life may feel impossible. Left alone and isolated, the human brain in this situation may remain in a loop of remembered and reactivated guilt, anxiety and depression. However, the first step in healing may not be as complicated as you think: it all begins with self-care.
Arthur Kleinman, medical doctor, renowned professor of both psychiatry and anthropology associated with Harvard University and Medical Center, believes caring for ourselves and others “is at the very core of what human experience is about.”
Kleinman (2014) wrote:
This means that each of us at some point must learn how to endure: the act of going on and giving what we have. And we need, on occasion, to step outside ourselves and look in as if an observer on our endeavors and our relationships—personal and professional—to acknowledge the strength, compassion, courage, and humanity with which we ourselves endure or help to make bearable the hard journeys of others. These are the qualities that make acceptance and striving, if not noble, then certainly deeply human—worthy of respect of ourselves and those whose journeys we share. (Kleinman. “How We Endure.” The Lancet. Volume 383, No. 9912, p119–120. 11 January 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.)
His personal memoir, The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor, was released in September 2019. It is a book in which a man speaks from his heart about his journey with his wife through early-onset Alzheimer’s. His poignant words offer a unique perspective that can help others who are dealing with the complexities and challenges of mental health issues and the mysteries that still linger in modern medicine. Sometimes we forget that life is more than what we can measure and that loss is the ultimate common experience for us all.
It is possible to heal and find purpose and joy, to come to a point where you can honor your loved one’s life without dwelling permanently in active grief. The first step — to endure — can involve amazingly simple tools, considering the magnitude of the pain that must be battled after any loss but especially when the circumstances involve difficult to understand or violent means … loss to suicide, murder, other illnesses that rob the body or brain of function and hope.
While professional help is always a good option (counseling, for example), peer support and coping strategies you can use on your own are valuable as well:
Sometimes, after the loss of a friend or family member, feelings of guilt can make people feel like they should not have fun, feel better, or think about other things. But it’s necessary to take your mind off of a stressful situation at times. Though it may seem impossible to capture moments like this at first, it’s okay to feel better.
Think about how you want to remember the person you lost. Here are a few ideas, but you can add more of your own. Listen to your heart, and do what works for you.
It may feel overwhelming to think about total healing after traumatic loss, but you only have to start with one step.
Way for Hope
Losing someone you love is difficult, but it can mean a lot to hear from others traveling similar paths.
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Links of Value:
Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Word of God
"My Story" Big Daddy Weave
"Hope in Front of Me"
The Joy FM
Traumatic loss or preexisting conditions can worsen mental health. Use this info graphic to find help.
"Take Charge of Your Mental Health" - a free download from www.nami.org: