Going Through My Own Onion-like Layers
Healing after losing a loved one to suicide is a lot like peeling an onion. Some layers are thick and solid. They require time, patience, and some effort to break through. Others are thin to the point of transparency, but sticky and hard to let go of. Some layers will flood your eyes with tears while others break your heart; the memories so sweet you want to keep them with you forever.
When I began my own healing journey I was so naive. I thought all I had to do was learn to forgive my parents’ abrupt departure, accept their choices, release my anger, and get on with my life. I learned instead the process is a tangled web of inaccurate memories, a lifetime of habits and behaviors, often handed down through generations, but most of all, learning to accept myself, imperfections and all. I had to recognize and own my emotional and mental weaknesses. But the most important part of the process is learning to ask for help even if, for a while it feels like giving more than receiving.
Going Beyond Outdated Family Patterns
It’s about seeing family patterns that are long overdue to be jettisoned and recognizing it’s my responsibility to cut those cords. In the process I had to admit I struggle at times, and I had to share those struggles with others because we all need to know we’re not alone.
I’ve reached a point in my journey where I need to expand my reach. I have to become part of a larger group seeking to re-educate people, not only about suicide but our overall mental health, because the two are indelibly intertwined.
People need to be able to say “I’m not OK” without fear of repercussions or judgement. It needs to be as natural and accepted as admitting you have the flu, or gallstones, or cancer.
Tragedy Often Alters Our Trajectory
On November 7, 2018 a mentally disturbed young man took the lives of 12 incredible people at Borderline Bar and Grill before taking his own life. It was a place I called home; a feeling shared by many others.
As we continue to grieve the loss, both of our friends and family, and a place we called home; a place we believed to be a safe haven; a place where troubles and stress were left at the door, we embrace our extended family. Some who lost so much more; a beloved child, a spouse, a lifelong friend are setting examples for the rest of us for what love truly is.
Michael Morrisette lost his cherished youngest daughter, yet continues to encourage love, understanding, and more; social consciousness. He constantly offers opportunities he’s already taking to give back. Recently he introduced ChangeDirection.org (#ChangeDirection) to the Borderline family. They are offering resources to help us help each other and to educate people about the signs which show someone is in distress while doing their best to hide it. Most of all, they’re on a mission to change how our culture views and responds to mental health and mental illness.
People Who are Suicidal Need More than a Band-aid or a Phone Number
I’ve seen a lot of people and places claiming to be committed to helping those who have experienced a suicide as well as those who might be considering it themselves. Too often, I’m frustrated because their primary solution is to give you a number to call. In my opinion, if someone is desolate enough to be seriously considering suicide as an option, giving them a number to call, or posting an impersonal sign on a freeway overpass is confirming their mistaken belief that no one cares. It’s relinquishing responsibility to reach out to them ourselves.
One of the many lessons I learned in the last decade or so is how many times I, myself am not OK. Leaving me alone to figure it out might be what I say I want and need, but in reality, it’s probably the worst place for me to be.
I’m nowhere near the dark, tangled place my mom found herself, nor do I have the dreadful medical report my dad got a couple of days before he took his life. Still, I have been depressed enough to believe no one would notice if I disappeared, and certainly, no one would be the worse for it. Talking to friends who’ve been there as well, and some who’ve slipped into even deeper, darker waters, I’ve learned being alone only gives you more time to convince yourself the world is better off without you.
Giving of Ourselves
ChangeDirection.org recognizes the urgent need to reach out to those who are feeling hopeless and disconnected—before it’s too late. They offer tools, support, and guidance to help recognize when one of your own is tumbling headlong into a pit of despair, and needs help arresting their downward plunge. They recognize a person in that state has already decided they’re not worthy, and the last thing they’ll do is ask for help. Even if help is offered, they’re likely to decline over and over, unable to believe anyone really wants to help them.
June 9-15, 2019 is “A Week to Change Direction” which they describe as:
…a week of action, advocacy, culture change and fundraising for organizations, corporations, universities, communities, and individuals! Our aim is to increase knowledge, raise awareness and increase support for efforts that are working to change the culture of mental health globally so that all in need receive the care and support they deserve.
I hope you’ll join me, Michael, and everyone else who has lost someone as a result of unrecognized and untreated mental illness, or who is suffering themselves, or knows and loves someone who desperately needs to be able to accept the help we can all offer if we start being more aware.
Together We Can Turn the Tide of Suicide and Mental Illness
I didn’t have a village when I started the long, uphill journey out of the abyss not created, but exacerbated by my parents’ suicides. I only had 2 daughters who needed their mother, a stubborn streak that wouldn’t let me give up, and a penchant for writing.
In hindsight, my journey might have been shorter and more pleasant had someone reached out to me, but I might not have realized I needed to learn to both reach out to others and accept help myself. I needed to have the perspective of believing I didn’t deserve help to understand how important it is to keep trying when someone says they’re OK, though it’s clear they’re not.
I may not have had a village before, but I have one now, and being part of that village means taking what I’ve learned and using it to help others. Will you become part of the change too?
Finding a Powerful Tool in Gratitude
My gratitudes today are:
- I’m grateful for the lessons I learned the hard way. They didn’t make me harder, they made me more compassionate and socially conscious.
- I’m grateful for the examples set by my daughter Heather. She is one of the most giving, socially conscious people I know, and I’m often ashamed I don’t do more when I see how much she gives.
- I’m grateful for the people who are my village now. They uplift me, and give me opportunities to practice what I’ve learned when it’s my turn to give back. They help me understand it’s OK to not be OK, and that they’re there for me no matter what.
- I’m grateful for people who demonstrate by their own actions how much we all can do to make things better.
- I’m grateful for abundance; friendship, love, support, inspiration, motivation, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward