Healing after a Suicide Loss:
Which is More Important, the Journey or the Destination?
Posted: March 20, 2023
The Journey vs. The Destination
I ran across a meme on Facebook last week that asked the question "Which is more important, the journey or the destination?".
In the past I have written articles like : Healing is a Journey, Not a Destination, where I had tried to touch base on what we have learned in the almost 14 years since we lost our son John to suicide. Most folks have heard me talk about the journey of healing that takes place for suicide loss survivors. It is a deeply introspective walk where we often question many of the "givens" we had in our life before the loss. Our lives are fundamentally changed by the loss and it truly is up to us to decide where this journey will take us.
I always thought that the answer to the question was the journey, because there is no destination called healed. Healed is a mythical place. There is a place called healing, it is a continuous place along the journey and most suicide loss survivors don't even realize it when they arrive there. We tend to beat ourselves up because we are still having difficult thoughts and feelings long after the loss. Our own emotions often prevent us from understanding that we have made it through what was likely the most painful moment of our lives. Survivors rarely give themselves the credit for how far they have come, and they focus on how far they think they need to go.
Healing is a journey of a thousand small steps. It begins at the fork in the road that occurred when our loved ones died by suicide. We have to choose which of the three roads at the fork we will go down.
The first road is looking back at where we have come from. Most survivors spend a lot of time reminiscing about what was and thinking about what they "could of, should of or would of" changed to prevent the loss of their loved ones. We would love to go back and change things or enjoy what we had.
The second road is the path we thought we were going to take before the suicide loss of our loved ones. We thought we knew a path forward into the future with them. Once they die, that road is closed since they can not be with us physically to complete that journey.
Many people freeze at the fork before they begin the journey down the third road. The third road is the road we choose by our actions and thoughts after the death of our loved ones. Survivors start the long journey into the unknown on the journey to the "new normal" (A phrase I hate). Integrating our grief and carrying it forward involves starting to learn what the future holds and how it can bring back the spirit and energy we had before the death. You do not leave your loved one at the fork, you actually carry their spirit and thoughts with you as you move forward. You loved them, so it is not surprising that you would continue to love them in your hearts as you move forward on this new and scary road.
So I went ahead and read the Facebook meme and the answer that they share is "the company".
I stopped and thought about it and realized that the company that we keep on the journey is probably even more important than the journey by itself. The company are the folks around us that understand and help us through the difficult moments we have faced after the suicide of a loved one. They are the people that lift us up off the ground and help us find our feet to stand on. I touched on this when I wrote Day 2,922 of our Journey: The Gift , where I realized that there were all sorts of people that had empathy and compassion to help us along our journey. Borrowing from something a friend said when I first wrote the blog, there are people who are firefighters for our souls. They rush into the proverbial burning building or car wreck and help carry us out. They offer the treatments we need to get through the unimaginable. They give us the oxygen we need to breathe. They may just stand by silently as we unload the latest issue we are facing. They have the ability to stand next to us and understand that they can't fix us, they just need to be with us. They help us find ourselves among the wreckage.
So I now think the correct answer is "the journey with the right companionship. "
We all have the ability to heal and help heal others along this journey. While many try to do the journey alone, it is better done with others who ask nothing of us and generously offer what they have. We have been given insight and empathy by those who shared their insight and empathy with us. We gather strength and knowledge. We understand that there are companions that truly wish for us to find inner peace. One of the reasons I believe that support groups help is because we realize that we are not alone on this journey, we have company.
Mr. Rogers of childhood TV fame once said "Look for the helpers"... "Because if you look for the helpers, you know that there is hope"
Know that there is hope after suicide loss and know that there are helpers there to help you find it on your journey of healing.