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Suicide Loss ~ The 12 Steps That Saved Me

Those of us left behind have a long journey to get close to something that looks like healing. The truth is, I’m not sure a complete healing can ever happen. What I do know is after losing a loved one to suicide some grief paths can lead to extremely dark destinations.

On August 13, 2016, my Pops died by suicide. He sent a text saying goodbye and died. He died alone at a nature preserve in southern California.
I hate the three sentences above. I miss him every day.

loss

Following Pops’ death, I did a lot of reading and spent countless hours researching suicide. The statistics are staggering. Those of us left behind have a long journey to get close to something that looks like healing. The truth is, I’m not sure a complete healing can ever happen. What I do know is after losing a loved one to suicide some grief paths can lead to extremely dark destinations.

I’ve been thinking about what I would write at the one-year mark. Over the past few days I created an outline for this blog post; each point I wanted to make listed on a tear stained legal pad. Sharing details about the painful days and everything they bring isn’t nearly as important as what steps kept me above ground for the past year.

My Pops was an amazing man. He mattered. He matters still. I could write an entire post on the life lessons he taught me, and what an awesome human being he was. You can read about those things here. What I want to share with you and what I think he would want me to share is what helped me get through the past twelve months without him. The most important thing I can do to honor my Pops’ memory is to be a part of the solution by trying to help others.

PicMonkey Image copy

The most important steps I’ve taken over the past twelve months:

1. Get rid of the guilt.
Let it go. Today. Guilt is one of the most toxic emotions available in the suicide loss arsenal. I’ve spent no less than seventy-five percent of the past twelve months beating myself up for what I didn’t see, what I should have said, and what I could have done. At times convincing myself that I could have saved him—that I failed him. Guilt has been one of the hardest things for me to let go of and I still struggle, but I’m learning to let it go.

2. Forgive.
Big sigh as I type that word. I’m still working on this one too but I’ve arrived at a place where I know (and believe) forgiveness is necessary. Not for them, but for me. A lot happened around the time of my Pops death. A lot of ugliness and chaos. I know for many of us, the person we need to forgive is the one who died by suicide. For me, I’m not angry at my Pops, but I’ve held on to a ton of anger at others. People who were cruel to him. People I was sure would be there when my world shattered into a million pieces and when they weren’t, it hurt. The pain of loss is like a hurricane, it has a way of causing total destruction of everything in its path. Pain amplifies absolutely everything making it impossible to see clearly. I found it easier to be angry with people and situations outside of the pain of my loss than focusing on that pain. Distraction can be a good thing sometimes, but distracting pain with anger just leads to more pain. And guess what? There will never be enough distraction to make this pain disappear, it always returns. I know to find peace I have to forgive. I’m not saying I (or you) have to or should go back to the relationships that might have fractured after loss but forgiveness is a necessary step toward achieving inner peace.

forgive

3. Obsessing over the ‘what-ifs’ won’t grant a do-over.
And re-writing history won’t change the past, but it can and will fuck-up your now. One of the things that haunt me most is the fact that my Pops was alone at the end. I’ve come just shy of erecting monuments in his honor since his death. I often feel like I’m screaming at the top of my lungs, “HE MATTERS!”
I spend sleepless nights wishing I had done the same when he was alive. What if I had said I love you with more conviction, what if I had made more of an effort, what if, what if, what if…
No amount of what ifs will change reality. The reality then or the reality now.

4. Therapy is important.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “You are such a strong woman…” Seriously, I’d be driving something other than a Chevrolet. I thought I was strong too. I thought I could handle anything and could do so all on my own. Guess what? I was fucking wrong. A few weeks after my Pops died by suicide I started searching for a therapist. I was one of the lucky ones, it only took two appointments for me to find Dr. G. and he has made it possible for me to start sifting through the pain and figuring out what to do with it. It sucked to admit to myself that I was a total mess and couldn’t fix this deal on my own but I was desperate and vulnerable and scared enough to know I needed help. I urge you, if you do nothing else—do this. Find someone you can talk to. Real talk. Honest discussion. And go talk to that person. There are many resources out there with or without insurance. This is a good place to start: AFSP.

5. Make a safety plan.
In the beginning, even though I’d heard of safety plans, I certainly didn’t believe I needed one. I did. I still do. I wish my Pops had had one in place. Everyone has different needs in a safety plan, and even if you don’t think you need one—if you feel stuck in grief, please make one.
For information on how to create your safety plan click here. Or here.

6. Be real about your grief.
“I’m okay,” and “I’m good,” are the two most common answers I give when asked, “How are you?” In the beginning, I replied in this fashion because I had no idea what else to say. I didn’t know how to articulate what I was feeling. After a few months, I knew how I felt but had no idea how to change it or fix it. I certainly didn’t know how to ask for help, and I believed nobody around me would understand if I tried to explain.
So I wrote.
And wrote some more.
And published a book.
Although there were pieces left out of my story, what I chose to include is as real as it gets. There was a lot of editing involved, mostly removing the work ‘fuck’ which I used at least fifty times. Per chapter.
My point: I didn’t hold back when sharing my struggle through darkness after losing my Pops to suicide. I was honest about my grief and writing the truth allowed me to begin the healing process. Talk to someone about how you really feel. Write your feelings down. Do whatever you have to do to be able to speak your truth. Bottled up emotions are dangerous and destructive.

real about grief

7. Make a new playlist, but don’t delete your old one.
For me, music is life. No matter my mood, the right song (or set of songs) can change or sustain it. Music doesn’t work one hundred percent of the time but pretty darn close.
Choosing the songs to use for Pops’ celebration of life video was tough. I was torn between the not-too-sad, not-too-happy, songs he liked, songs I liked, and songs ‘befitting’ a memorial. I ended up choosing four songs and they were a combination of the above. I listened to those four songs repeatedly leading up to and for weeks following Pops’ memorial. Then came a day I hit skip when one of them started playing on Pandora. I continued to hit skip for a few months, even using the thumbs-down feature on one of the songs. I felt guilt immediately after doing so. Then I spent months trying to create a new playlist. I fell in love with new songs, songs that made me feel hopeful. But there was a part of me that missed the old songs. I listen to the old playlist during times when I feel like I can handle hearing those songs, or when I want to cry but the tears won’t come. I use music to help shift my emotions and for me it works. My old favorite. My current favorite.

8. Establish a new routine and find a hobby or passion.
I’m still working on this one but I’m making progress. Little by slowly.
Once upon a time I had a routine for everything. I was sitting on my porch a few weeks ago and it occurred to me that I now have a routine for nothing. Not one single positive thing I do consistently. For the past eleven months, nineteen days, and six hours, I’ve sat on my front porch drinking Rockstar or coffee and smoking. I guess I did have a routine, just not a healthy one. I suppose it served me well through those early days and even the middle months but for the past several months all my routine has done is cause more pain. I get stuck thinking about the things I should be doing. What I should be handling and accomplishing. That brings guilt. Then more pain.
I ran into an unexpected medical issue about six weeks ago. After starting the roller coaster of doctor visits that I thought would surely pinpoint what was wrong with me physically, I came to a startling realization and made a decision. What was wrong with me was a year straight of intense stress and grief with little relief. A year of not taking care of myself. A year of toxic emotions playing in my head on repeat. I decided that it was time to take my health back, but that has to start with getting healthy in my head and heart.
Where do I start?
You create a new routine. You start small and grow it from there. You make a decision to rise up and take a little step at a time. You do whatever you have to do to inch yourself out of the darkness. You remember or discover your why and hold on to that with everything you are. You come to a place where you believe you matter and you are enough and you’re worthy of love. You learn to love yourself.
That was where I had to start. After all the loss and the heartbreak, the pain and disappointment, I felt I was no longer worthy of love and connection. That’s the most dangerous space I can think of to be in. So I made the decision to pick my broken self up and dust her off. I searched for the smallest glimmer of the light I know I have inside and I did what I had to do to begin to grow that light. That’s where I am now, working on growing my light and loving myself while being ever mindful of my why.
Little changes over time equal big ones.
I made a nutrition plan I could follow, and I don’t beat myself up if I fall short. I started exercising again. I committed to getting dressed every day. I quit making long lists of the things I need to do and began giving myself one goal to accomplish each day.
I write.
I started doing AFSP Out of the Darkness Walks.
I talk with others who have lost loved ones to suicide.
And I quit beating myself up. Instead, I praise myself for whatever I accomplish each day.
Little by slowly.

chose her over everything

9. Make time for yourself and make time and room for others.
Somewhere between August 13, 2016, and now I successfully isolated myself from the people I love, my life, and the rest of the world. I spent a lot of time alone. There were a few months in the middle when that felt good. I felt best when I was alone. I didn’t have to fake a smile, I didn’t have to explain myself or be the me I was before suicide intersected with my life. I could just be alone in my grief with no accountability. Then I became lonely, like dark night of the soul lonely. And in the short time it took to get to that place, I’d somehow forgotten how to reach out to others. I’d forgotten how to connect. One thing I’ve learned is that connection is vital to life. Real connection, deep connection with others. So I began to force myself to say yes sometimes. Of course by that time there weren’t many who still asked me to commit. I’d made excuses and said no for almost a year and I felt like I was no longer relevant to the circle I once claimed as mine—my people. But there were a few stragglers—my tribe—who continued to ask, pushed even, and I started to say yes. By this point I had become caged by anxiety and going to Vons felt like a chore. I rarely left my house so this was a huge step for me. It’s a step I’m still working on but I’m saying yes. Today one of the stragglers from my tribe made a surprise visit and we spent hours on the porch talking and catching up. It felt good to smile and laugh. It felt good to hear someone say his name. It felt good to feel light. It felt good to have an adult conversation with another adult. So, yeah, I adulted today and I’m damn proud of me. It was so much fun I think I’m going to do it again this week.

tribe

10. Fake it if you have to, just don’t quit.
I’m not a big fan of faking it, but sometimes I have to. There is something to that saying, “practice makes progress.”
Not perfection.
Progress.
Show up. Get dressed. Eat. Go for a walk. Smile. Watch the sunset. Look at the stars. Sing in the shower. Fake it all if you have to for now. Just don’t quit.

11. Death does not erase love.
This was hard for me because I knew Pops loved us and I know he knew we loved him. I couldn’t understand him taking his love away.
He didn’t.
His death doesn’t erase his love. It’s still there in a million different ways. Whether or not I choose to feel his love is up to me.

fucking stay

12. You matter.
To someone you are everything. You are the reason for someone’s smile. For someone you are the anchor. And you need to be those things for yourself too.
Learning to believe that I still matter has been a long and arduous process. I deserve to be happy, feel joy, laugh, be proud of myself, and pain and loss don’t change that. The same was true for my Pops. The same is true for you. You matter. I matter. We matter.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide please reach out,
someone is always listening. You are not alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Have you lost a loved one to suicide and need a resource?
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention can help.

 

Suicide Loss ~ The 12 Steps That Saved Me

Transfer of Pain

On August 13, 2016, my Pops died by suicide. He sent a text saying goodbye and died. He died alone at a nature preserve in southern California.
I hate the three sentences above. I miss him every day.

loss

Following Pops’ death, I did a lot of reading and spent countless hours researching suicide. The statistics are staggering. Those of us left behind have a long journey to get close to something that looks like healing. The truth is, I’m not sure a complete healing can ever happen. What I do know is after losing a loved one to suicide some grief paths can lead to extremely dark destinations.

I’ve been thinking about what I would write at the one-year mark. Over the past few days I created an outline for this blog post; each point I wanted to make listed on a tear stained legal pad. Sharing details about the painful…

View original post 2,460 more words

Logic and Suicide Prevention

I looked at the display on my dash, and although I didn’t recognize the artist by name, I knew the title right away. 1-800-273-8255 is the song title, and it’s also the phone number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

I was driving the other day and had the 6lack station playing on Pandora. A song came on, and the lyrics caught me off guard. I replayed the song three times.

I’ve been on the low

I been taking my time

I feel like I’m out of my mind

I feel like my life ain’t mine

Who can relate?

I looked at the display on my dash, and although I didn’t recognize the artist by name, I knew the title right away. 1-800-273-8255 is the song title, and it’s also the phone number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Since August 13, 2016, I’ve become intimately familiar with many things suicide related. A life was lost that day, and mine was forever changed. Our family fell apart. My perception of our reality changed. I learned what loss feels like down in the deepest layer of my soul. I learned about grief, guilt, anger, depression, and I learned about suicide. On August 13, 2016, my Pops died by suicide.

Losing Pops was a massive blow, the most painful tragedy I have ever experienced. It was unexpected and brought with it so many questions. Why became my new word and even if it wasn’t coming from my mouth, it was constantly on repeat in my mind. Why didn’t I see the signs? Why didn’t I do something? Why didn’t he reach out for help? Why didn’t he know how much he mattered? The why’s sent me searching for answers and one of the first places I looked was the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.

I’ve done a lot of research over the past ten months. While writing Transfer Of Pain, I had the opportunity to speak with others who have lost loved ones to suicide, and people who have survived suicide attempts. I’ve poured through data and statistics, read articles and news stories, and several questions consistently surfaced. Why do we find it so hard to talk about suicide and mental health? Why are there still so many that shy away from the topic? Why does the stigma exist? What can we do to change this?

All this other shit I’m talkin’ ’bout they think they know it

I’ve been praying for somebody to save me, no one’s heroic

And my life don’t even matter

I know it I know it I know I’m hurting deep down but can’t show it

I never had a place to call my own

I never had a home

Ain’t nobody callin’ my phone

Where you been? Where you at? What’s on your mind?

They say every life precious but nobody care about mine

For me, the topics of suicide, suicide prevention, and mental health have become personal. Something I cannot understand is why these issues aren’t more important to all of us. There are countless people in the spotlight who have voices and large audiences hanging on their every word. Voices that could be used to spread messages of hope. Why aren’t more people using their voice(s) to bring light to important topics? Then I came across Logic

It’s the very first breath

When your head’s been drownin’ under water

And it’s the light that’s in the air

When you’re there chest-to-chest with a lover

It’s holding on though the roads long

Seeing light in the dark, yeah, these things

And when you stare at your reflection

Finding hope in who it is

I know that you’ll thank God you did

The fact that Logic is using his voice to prevent suicide is amazing. It’s a huge step in the right direction. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among persons aged 10-14, and the second among persons aged 15-34*. With Logic’s highest listener demographic (by age) being in the same range as some of the largest demographics (by age) of individuals who die by suicide, he is undoubtedly saving lives with his message.

Imagine if we had an entertainment industry/music industry that used a collective voice to talk/sing/write about things that matter—things that really matter.

I finally wanna be alive

I finally wanna be alive

I don’t wanna die today

I don’t wanna die

Thank you, Logic, for bringing suicide prevention to the forefront. Keep doing what you’re doing, keep saving lives.

Listen to 1-800-273-8255 by Logic

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If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide please reach out,
someone is always listening. You are not alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Have you lost a loved one to suicide and need a resource?
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention can help.

*CDC Data

#Logic #suicideprevention #StopSuicide #NSPL #YouMatter #18002738255 #ResponsibleMusic #LogicsEverybodysTour

Grandpa, Graduation, and Dragonflies — After Suicide

She talks about him in the present tense and points out the signs that my hurt and anger sometimes prevent me from seeing. I also watch her cry and hold her tight when I don’t know how to answer the very first question she asked that horrible night in August.

Today marks ten months since my Pops died by suicide. Although every single day brings the sting of grief—the ones when we celebrate something important are the most difficult. One week from today will be a big one. It will signify the end of elementary school for my youngest daughter, his youngest grandchild.

Pops and Bella share a special bond, they always have. He has kissed her boo-boos, protected her from the boogieman, sat at our dinner table helping her learn the ABC’s, and held her hand at Children’s Hospital.

Pops was the one who waited outside her classroom at the end of most days, and the one who walked her to 7-11 for Slurpee’s. He played a hundred games of Candy Land, helped carve pumpkins at Halloween, and pretended he couldn’t tell it was her when she rang his doorbell dressed as a pirate.

I remember taking a picture of Bella and Pops after kindergarten graduation and will never forget the pride in his eyes. He thought she was the smartest and bravest little girl in her class and he made sure everyone knew that was his granddaughter.

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For Bella, Pops held a magical power, and that hasn’t changed. Pops was the one who made every bad day into a good one. He made things fun, and he always made her giggle. No matter what we had planned or where we were off to, she always asked if her Grandpa was coming. He was her favorite. I’ll admit, sometimes I was a little jealous of their relationship. When I was uptight and stressed out, he was calm and smiling. After a long day at work when all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head, he made time to play games and tell bedtime stories. He made our household run smooth. He was a big part of what made us a family during the years we lived next door to each other.

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Bella still talks to him. I know this because I can hear her in the room carrying on conversations with him. She talks about him in the present tense and points out the signs that my hurt and anger sometimes prevent me from seeing. I also watch her cry and hold her tight when I don’t know how to answer the very first question she asked that horrible night in August. After I ended my call with the police department and had to explain what suicide was, I did my best to answer. She has asked the same question many times since.

“Doesn’t he know how much we love him?”

My answer is yes. But when I try to understand that question from a child’s perspective, it breaks my heart. For Bella, there is no doubt that he loves her. She keeps him and his memory alive more than anyone else in this house. Rarely does a day pass without a random observation on her part and she makes sure we know his favorite color is blue, he tells funny jokes, and he hates shrimp.

Those who have followed our journey or read my book know the dragonfly story. It didn’t take much thought to come up with the perfect graduation gift. The only thing better than what I chose would be to make Bella believe that her Grandpa indeed knew how much she loved him, how much we all loved him. We love him still and always will. Love is the only thing that doesn’t end.

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I’m excited to watch my little girl receive her promotion from elementary to middle school. I’m proud of her; she has the sweetest smile, a heart full of love, and she isn’t afraid to share either freely. She’s funny like her Grandpa, and she knows how to worry less and smile more. Next week we will celebrate her milestone with a flower lei and dinner at her favorite restaurant. I’ll hold my tears and try not to let my grief seep out onto her day.

When my little girl wakes up on what will be her last day of elementary school, I’ll sit next to her and watch as she opens her dragonfly necklace. And, I will tell her that her Grandpa knows how much she loves him.

 

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide please reach out,
someone is always listening. You are not alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Have you lost a loved one to suicide and need a resource?
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention can help.

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© R.J. Belle and Transfer Of Pain, 2017

#stopsuicide #griefisajourney #transferofpain #graduation #dragonfly

 

Life After Suicide

After I go through the when and the what of things, I inevitably get lost in the why, and it’s dangerous territory. I try with all my might not to stay stuck there for too long. What is too long? An hour? A day? A lifetime?

It’s been nine months since he died by suicide. Nine months. The same amount of time it takes to bring a life into this world, and that’s been stuck in my head for the past several days. I don’t know why; it’s odd the way I count time now. Perhaps it’s a way for my mind to trick me into a false sense of reality, a softer way to think about time since he died, the after death. It seems every measure of time now is put into categories and depending on who I’m talking to, what we are talking about, or what I’m thinking about, the verbiage might differ but the bottom line is that it’s either before my Pops died by suicide, or after he died. That’s the when of things.

There is also the what of things. I ponder a lot of things now that I never spent much, if any, time thinking about before. Before he died by suicide. Many of those thoughts are far too raw and painful to share. But some, well some that seem so trivial steal every ounce of my energy. They consume me. I wonder what happened to the Chargers hat he always wore, was he wearing it that night? I remember him opening it on Christmas – he loved that damn hat. I have at least ten pictures of him wearing that hat. I wonder why he liked it so much; was it the colors or the design? Did he like it because it was a good one, one he wouldn’t have purchased for himself? I look at photos and stare at the expression on his face, searching his eyes; what was he thinking? Did he know how loved he was? Does he know he’s still loved? I remember the way we teased him about ordering shrimp and how he always referred to it as ‘fish bait’ but I’m not sure why he hated shrimp so much, and I think about that too.

 

I often wonder what his dreams were. What did he secretly wish for his life? Was there anything he wanted to do or learn? Was there a destination he imagined traveling to one day? I think back to conversations we had, and I analyze them now – every single word. Was there more he had to say but held back? I wonder if he wished things for us that went unspoken. Sometimes his eyes appeared blue like a calm sea, and sometimes they were bright green, I wonder how he would have answered if asked his eye color.

After I go through the when and the what of things, I inevitably get lost in the why, and it’s dangerous territory. I try with all my might not to stay stuck there for too long. What is too long? An hour? A day? A lifetime? I can’t answer that for myself or anyone else. I know when I’ve overstayed my welcome in that dark place, and usually, by the time I recognize it, it takes heavy machinery to remove me from its depths. The days that follow always feel flat and empty. It’s hard to be around others, and it’s hard to do anything that resembles living. But I do. I try. The why’s are the worst mainly because they’re irrelevant at this point, but also because no matter how many times I circle the questions, from whatever angle, using any fabrication or reconstruction, there will never be answers. Never.

In the nine months since his death, I could have created life. I don’t know why that strikes me as profoundly as it does. I will take it as a sign that it’s time to breathe life back into myself. I can’t stay stuck here because if I do, then his death will continue to subtract from living. I’d like to find a way to make his death equate to something significant, something positive. It’s hard to write that, and the mere suggestion that something positive could come from his death by suicide causes a feeling of disloyalty. That’s my heart talking and feeling. My brain knows that the only way to make Pops’ death by suicide become something of value is to use his story, our story, to assist others. And I do. I try.

#StopSuicide #YouMatter #ChooseHope

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide please reach out,
someone is always listening. You are not alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Have you lost a loved one to suicide and need a resource?
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention can help.

© R.J. Belle and Transfer Of Pain, 2017

 

 

Celebrating Release Day, Celebrating You

Allowing others to love me, and not being afraid to share and show my brokenness with them is something that’s been difficult for me to do. You left me no choice; I couldn’t have survived your death on my own.

On the eve of release day for Transfer Of Pain, my book, your book, our book, we should be celebrating – it should be a joyous occasion. Writing a book is a big deal, and you always made me feel special on release day’s past. You were my biggest fan; I’d like to believe you still are. Tomorrow, on release day, I will be celebrating you, and I will be celebrating the lessons you’ve taught me.

I will hold on to what you taught me by the way you lived your life. Those lessons are a huge part of what has helped me to get through the past seven months, sixteen days, and twenty-one hours. One of the most important lessons you taught me was how to be resilient – how to go on when life threw a curveball. Losing you was the biggest curveball ever, but I’m still standing. I’m moving forward, reluctantly some days, and ungracefully, but still, I rise and do my best.

You never took life too seriously, and you always made time for us. You could make the most mundane things fun. I can recall countless adventures filled with belly laughs brought on by your silliness. You told me time and time again to slow down and enjoy the little things. I now know that those ‘little things’ were the big things. I try to remember that daily, even on the toughest days. I watch the sunset and smell the flowers. I practice listening to your grandkids when they talk; listening fully and being present in our conversations. I dance and sing loud and off-key to make Bella laugh. Sometimes I hear a belly laugh – it always makes me think of you.

Although I hold on to the things you taught me during your life, I have to admit something: your death has taught me many lessons too. Your death and how you died taught me that each day is a gift. Every moment I have with the people I love is a precious commodity with no guarantee of a ‘next time.’ I’ve quit putting things off because the opportunity might not present itself again. Death is final, and once it happens, there are no do-overs. Instead of dwelling on the many regrets I have of things we never did together, I’m trying to focus on not missing the opportunities in front of me today.

Your death taught me that kindness matters. It matters more than we realize. I often think about your last night and wonder if one smile or a kind word to you from some random person along your path could have altered the outcome of August 13, 2016. I consider what’s hidden behind the faces I encounter each day. What struggles someone might be facing – the ones they mask with half-smiles. I practice kindness more frequently now, even when I don’t feel like it, I do it anyway.

Since your death, I pay more attention to the people in my life. I listen closely to their words, or lack thereof, and I keep an eye out for signs of trouble. I ask questions and offer my ear. I look for the brokenness that most of us are so skilled at disguising. I say ‘I love you’ more often. I love harder and speak softer.

RJ Kingcades window

My inner circle has changed, but your death taught me that allowing others into this raw and painful space is what will help me heal. Allowing others to love me, and not being afraid to share and show my brokenness with them is something that’s been difficult for me to do. You left me no choice; I couldn’t have survived your death on my own.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned since your death is that it’s okay to walk away from toxic relationships. I’ve learned how to stand up for myself. I’ve learned that I’m allowed to let go of people who breathe negativity into my space. I’ve learned that I don’t have to make others happy if it costs me my inner peace for that is too hefty a price to pay. I know now that I can use that rule with all people – family and friends. I’ve learned that I’m worthy of protection and setting boundaries is an important part of protecting myself. The importance of self-preservation is the biggest lesson you taught me when you died by suicide.

I wish I’d learned these lessons while you were still here. I would have shared them with you.

This book is one I wish I never had to write. I wish we were together celebrating some other book release, but I can’t change what is. Tomorrow I will celebrate you and hope that your story, our story, will save someone else. I know that’s your hope too. I will look for you in the sky and feel your presence in the breeze. I will watch for you along my path, and if there is someone who needs a smile or a kind word, please arrange for us to share an encounter.

You matter, Pops, and I love you always.

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#thisonesforyouPops #youshouldbehere #stopsuicide #youmatter #TransferOfPain

www.RJBelle.com

© R.J. Belle and Transfer Of Pain, 2017

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide please reach out, someone is always listening. You are not alone. You matter – you and all of your broken pieces.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.

Beautiful Failure

I’m not sure if failing at suicide taught me a lesson back then, but meeting Fe did – it taught me that I wasn’t alone.

Thirty-one years ago, I failed. It was the most beautiful failure I have ever managed to pull off, and that’s saying a lot because, well, I’ve failed quite a few times since then.

I was young, and lost, and depressed. I attempted suicide, and I failed. I’m not sure if I truly wanted to die, but I didn’t want to live. I was emotionally immature, and ill-equipped to deal with the chaos and dysfunction of my home life.

Following my failed attempt I was admitted to an inpatient facility. I remember being disappointed because I didn’t die, but happy I was going somewhere other than where I lived at the time. I also remember being afraid, not of the facility or the counselors, but the other teenaged patients. I never felt like I fit in and although I had friends, I didn’t connect on a deep level with any of them.

I was checked into a shared room, but the other bed was empty when I arrived. I had been at the facility for a few days and can remember waking up early one morning because they were placing another girl in my room. She was angry and trying to explain to the counselor that she shouldn’t be at the facility. I watched the scene quietly from my bed. When the counselor left the room, she sat on her bed facing me and introduced herself. A hundred questions followed, which I answered without elaborating, then she proceeded to tell me her story.

Fe was the first person I had ever met that I could relate to or that I felt could relate to me. She had an exotic beauty about her; she was outgoing, outspoken, and real. She seemed fearless and never hesitated to ask for exactly what she wanted; she was everything I wanted to be – everything I thought I was not. But she was also broken in the same places I was broken, and if you’ve ever been broken, you know the most powerful feeling is being able to identify with someone who is broken the same as you.

Fe and I would stay awake well past ‘lights-out’ talking about life, sharing stories of our past, hopes for our futures, and plotting; we became BFF’s almost overnight. We were rebels. Well, Fe was the rebel, but I was able to borrow courage when in her presence. We would sneak contraband into our room and to us, back then, that consisted of candy and new notebooks from the facility classroom. Fe ran the place and being with her made me feel like I ran the place too. In reality, and looking back now, we didn’t run much aside from our mouths, but we sure thought we did.

We spent Christmas inpatient, and although there were rules against anything from the ‘outside’ being brought in, they allowed my grandma to sneak in a small Christmas tree. The little tree sat atop a dresser in our room with a strand of blinking lights and a few ornaments. I loved staring at the lights at night while listening to Fe talk.

I left before Fe and leaving her was horrible. For a while I’d felt normal, I felt like I was loved and understood; Fe had a way of making me feel like I was somebody special. We talked on the phone a few times after I left; the facility allowed her to call me, but after a few months she went home, and we never talked or saw each other again.

I never forgot about Fe and most years at Christmas time I think of her and wonder if she made it, if she’s still running things, and if she ever thinks of me. However, it has been many years since I’ve thought about my failure, or the pain I felt leading up to my attempt. I’ve never thought about what would have changed or never been if I hadn’t failed.

Six months ago, on August 13, 2016, my Pops was successful; he died by suicide. What followed was painful, confusing, and lonely. It still is. I’ve been treading water for six months; sometimes praying I wouldn’t drown, and other times praying I would. I’ve spent a lot of time writing, and reflecting on Pops life, and my own. During the 2016 Christmas season, as I was putting up our tree, I thought about Fe, and I thought about my failure. For the first time in thirty-one years, I considered all the things that would have been different today if I hadn’t failed.

There would be four children who would call someone else mom, I imagine they would be entirely different, and I wouldn’t have had the experience of being their mom. I wouldn’t have been able to hold gram’s hand as she was leaving this world or hear the stories she waited to share until we knew her time was short. I wouldn’t have learned the lessons my Pops taught me, and I wouldn’t have the precious memories I have of Pops and my children together. And, this list could go on, and on.

I’ve failed at a lot of things in life. I fear failure but don’t fear it enough not to take chances. I beat myself up for missing the mark or making mistakes that lead to failure. I try to learn from my failures, but sometimes I need to fail a few times before the lesson sinks in enough to take hold. I’m not sure if failing at suicide taught me a lesson back then, but meeting Fe did – it taught me that I wasn’t alone.

It wasn’t until I experienced the pain of losing a loved one to suicide that I considered what would have happened if I hadn’t failed. The pain I would have caused, and all I would have missed.

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#youmatter

After thinking about that time for a few weeks I knew I had to track her down, I had to find Fe. I had to know if her broken parts healed the way mine had, and I needed to share my new broken pieces with the only person I had ever felt understood my type of brokenness. One of the amazing things about modern-day and social media is the ability to find people. A Facebook search produced results; she was the top of the list when I input her maiden name in my search bar. Thankfully she has a hyphenated last name, and there she was, her smiling face captured in a profile picture.

After writing and deleting it several times, I finally hit the send button on a private message and held my breath. I had no idea if she’d want to reconnect or if she’d prefer to leave that part of her past in the past. I hoped she would respond, and I waited. A few days went by with no response, and I doubted my decision to contact her. I didn’t want to open old wounds, I didn’t want to remind her of a painful time, and the worst was wondering if she just didn’t remember me. Then it happened – she answered. I could feel her excitement through the words on my computer screen.

We talked on the phone and filled each other in with a short version of the last thirty-plus years of each other’s lives. We got our calendars out and planned a day to get together in person. Fe still lives in her hometown, and I live an hour away. The soonest date we both had open was a week and a half away, but it had been thirty-one years so what was another ten days?

I drove down to Fe’s house today and smiled the whole way – I think it’s the longest I’ve felt joy since losing my Pops. We sat in her backyard drinking coffee and talking then visited the farm where she works. We walked through rows and rows of sunflowers, talking like teenage girls; we literally picked up exactly where we left off thirty-one years ago. We shared our broken pieces again, older and wiser now, but still as fragile as we were back then in some ways. We talked about love, and loss, and loyalty. I picked flowers for my Pops, and I could feel him smiling down, proud of me for being vulnerable and open to allowing someone inside where the real pain hides. With her, I don’t worry about being judged, and I don’t worry about being misunderstood. The broken pieces we have in common, those pieces we shared with each other when we were girls – they bonded us for life.

Thank God for broken pieces and beautiful failure.

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Fe and I and our broken pieces

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please reach out, someone is always listening. You are not alone. You matter – you and all of your broken pieces.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.

 

#brokenpieces #failure #suicide #suicideawareness #friendship #loyalty #transferofpain

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Look for the beauty – it’s there.

© R.J. Belle and Transfer Of Pain, 2017