Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world your beautiful self!

Posts tagged ‘understanding’

Judging Us By Our Outside Packaging

Judging on Looks Alone

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenwalton/17392785562/in/photolist-suWzc9-U1NXcb-XmjtCz-ed6kDh-24cGXED-zvNtw-22hdaT5-bnJAmT-29fwg6w-LeUtLe-28yjcKQ-29yKVqS-Zb4Czw-W3tEvE-W3j5Pq-25x3t69-28xQ2mC-G9mvwr-8B5AY-oAW92o-26oKdUj-27arySt-4RRRF-eRZ2Bz-vno6N-pNuMcR-bu8ZCf-b25rgp-qybkvh-8EJH9F-4drg3M-Gc4PnH-s6rhjo-5tu11t-pokUf-26gCo3c-7RnzT6-5ZrAGk-2436Pw7-7aoRuc-qsPPki-HeAyJc-5sJFgL-7Dje8Z-22ZDBAn-qQCAvU-5uSc-21sAW6c-WWzhBC-o89HnThere’s a lot of talk these days about the damage we do judging people by the way they look, whether it’s something that’s seemingly fixable like clothing or hygiene, or a physical trait such as skin color, ethnicity, or a disability.

Years ago, I was in a pretty bad place in my life, and went everywhere in either sweats or leggings and a baggy shirt. My hair was typically pulled back and my face didn’t know the meaning of makeup. It didn’t matter if I was running to the market, dropping the girls at school, or going to a teacher conference. My uniform was the same.

A few years went by and I heard a teacher friend saying how disrespected she felt when parents didn’t dress up for her. I was unpleasantly surprised at the time, but thinking back on it, I’m horrified.

In my own case, I was struggling to keep things together, trying to get a business going so I’d be more available for my daughters’ activities, and managing an unwieldy load of emotional crap at the same time. Making myself pretty for a teacher or administrator was the least of my concerns. There were days it was all I could do to get out of bed, feed the girls, and take them to school.

Basing the Respect We Give Solely on What We See

In hindsight, I realize I wasn’t respected or taken seriously by teachers or administrators in those days. https://www.flickr.com/photos/alisdare/6821200265/in/photolist-UB4c9G-eC7695-hBLDD-93L9XM-kYuVpf-UB4c3u-frGcgF-Dj96KV-ECCKLH-763CL-aB2kxX-NLUMEQ-boLrc8-7JVP3y-5qPdx9-27zcEPH-SErX9e-mhx3sb-d3Kv1w-bbHV92-edSAMq-gcdFEN-2brCHxp-aKBVjr-f9axWB-4F2voD-oGGEo9-f5xtRv-daC8zs-cFevC-eEFrNs-2ag28y-c6ahLG-nMywhk-BTQ5Yy-8iov8y-oAG89o-r8xj63-7yzik8-FktH6-fAebFr-psM1h-dTPcPi-8inAep-9Qj2wX-6Vi7Tw-D7zjy-d3cgUS-6acoir-g6L2UEThey met with me, sure. But it was always a “my way or the highway” attitude they projected.

The worst part of this to me is that as educators, they influence our children and pass on their judgemental attitude as an accepted mode of behavior. Never mind they have no idea what a parent is going through unless a child happens to share something (assuming, of course, the teacher is listening between the lines as well).

Now I know being a teacher is getting tougher by the day, but if what I heard and felt is correct, then we need to take a look at expectations and perceptions. It shines a pretty bright light on why there are such disparities between the education kids get in suburban areas vs. inner cities where there’s a higher rate of people struggling just to hold things together, and for whom dressing up to meet with a teacher is the last thing on their minds.

Looking Past the Smiling Faces

That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty who are holding on by their fingernails in the suburbs too, but all too often, their ignorance of what the educational system deems appropriate behavior and dress code are masked by other factors. For example, as a single mother, I noticed a marked coolness on the part of the other women when I was active with the band boosters; a chill which was confirmed by some of the other single moms. In fact, it was actually made blazingly clear to one woman when it became known that the man she was always with was someone she lived with but wasn’t married to. Somehow, we were undesirables, not only in the eyes of other parents, but the school system as well.

It didn’t matter that most of us not only worked at least one job, and often two or three to keep food on the table, clothes on our kids’ backs, and a roof over our heads, then dedicated countless hours to their activities as well. Nor did it matter that we often worked twice as hard as the ones who were happily married. I used to believe it was because they saw us as a threat, but now I think it was simply that we dared to be different and manage our lives without a man to help us or worse, validate us as someone who fit the conventional model.

It doesn’t surprise me that most of us weren’t perfectly coiffed or made up when we showed up to support our kids. Those who shunned us were blissfully unaware of the often Herculean effort it took us to show up and take an active role in the proceedings.

We All Have Challenges. What We Need Most is Understanding.

I certainly don’t remember anyone ever asking if one of us was all right—unless of course it was one of https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisyarzab/40513877112/in/photolist-24J5dbC-xLBnC-qDMybP-8uuvzF-er1tf-8S5Btn-5NYfwV-LihYBt-g4kBQ-S442nL-ceYb9U-g5JpWL-jTQZz6-cfHP9u-fauq5P-ahCCN2-isiMDz-6ViLeY-2EJXG4-HC2MUT-BU26S-5jegSL-VYGMA1-5j9Xzn-eB4adY-nBPSrp-5j9ZhH-dkoQLa-nbdfPZ-4FD4L1-dZ3Vjx-mbSGYM-dsW4Bs-6w75Kx-7sZRqK-8KRTG2-Mysc7N-LM2cLA-eXrUyD-faz3Az-dAR84B-8S8Fa7-7hKbWd-pYwhq-z2MhH-6jxdb7-261SwZS-ee4Pp7-vv8vw-8TKhq3the other single mothers. And we sure weren’t going to reach out to anyone in the secret society of marrieds for help. Showing even the slightest sign of weakness to that pool of piranhas was taken as an invitation to attack and consume.

By the time the girls reached Middle School, we’d been through several kinds of hell; way more than anyone ever suspected. I’d survived an ugly divorce in the midst of which my mom committed suicide. I’d been laid off from a job, only to go through another layoff, and a closure due to forced bankruptcy with another company, all in the space of about 2 years. I was trying to make a go of my own consulting business, but with no marketing skills and a negative outlook about almost everything, I didn’t exactly have clients knocking down my door.

Dancing helped, but when the girls reached High School, that, too ceased while I immersed myself in their activities and the barely concealed disdain of the married women.

Teaching Our Children Compassion

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jkfjellestad/17408694382/in/photolist-swm7k9-5RUVz2-mJjTbx-5RZcQG-LaVetu-ehWSkL-mJjNaa-mJncXh-UQc1nx-mJkdTR-mJnhJS-UNopBe-TLtd22-UnTzSt-UKUNfQ-TvXc6r-UWzrjN-g9uykn-H7hkTY-27dmuiJ-dPKPg5-StARkr-H28Np7-TLyHW2-SasSyJ-ovj4Jg-TDQz2w-g9v3mc-H7rXSy-UWEf8E-qxwgcP-X7uFem-TyrPG7-g9uRij-g9vmqr-TLF3sZ-683YTJ-4DjRMh-5R69WX-eiwKNy-873BnY-787D4h-g9vKLK-UWGbnj-TytBPA-p92cJn-Ufcsfy-URnUfu-TrXPo4-UMmQvhWhile I can empathize with teachers who want to be taken seriously, and know their jobs aren’t exactly easy, I hope my experience is the exception rather than the rule. I hope our educators are the first to follow the old adage: don’t judge a book by its cover. and remember if a parent isn’t dressing up for them, it may be something far more insidious than disrespect which has them presenting themselves in all their naked and unadorned glory.

Being a single parent is hard under the best of circumstances. But when you get no support from the father (or mother as the case may be), or they add to your burden by being difficult; when money is tight and you have to tell your kids no; when your job is kicking your butt for 8 or 9 hours a day; the very fact you’re showing up at all is, in my opinion, an act of ultimate strength. What you wear when you show up, as long as it covers you with reasonable decency should be the last thing people notice about you, much less judge you and mentally condemn you, assuming you lack respect for their lofty position.

As always, there’s a lesson for me in this memory and story. I’m far from innocent as far as misjudging people based on what I see instead of giving them a chance to show me who they are on the inside. Remembering how I felt is a painful yet poignant reminder to give others the same consideration I would have them give me. In other words, give people a chance to show their true colors, and don’t assume the outside packaging in any way, shape, or form tells the whole story.

Gratitude Instead of Judgement

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the challenges I’ve gone through and the lessons they’ve brought me.
  2. I am grateful for opportunities to revisit past hurts and find the lesson contained therein.
  3. I am grateful for those who directly, or even inadvertently point out areas in my own personality and behavior that need work.
  4. I am grateful for the people who did take the time to ask if I was OK, even during the years when I wouldn’t ask for help no matter what.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, opportunities, friendship, inspiration, cooperation, compassion, kindness, 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.

Memories Stored On Calendars

Memories Give Us Pause

Every year at this time, I write a post of remembrance, but this year is a little different. On September 10th, I began thinking about all the dates on the calendar which make me stop for a moment and remember, not necessarily what is good and right in my world, but what I’ve lost, and how it has impacted the woman I am today.

March 12th was my mother’s birthday. She would be 84.

December 27th was the day she took her life. It will be 25 years this December.

September 28th was my father’s birthday. He would have been 87 this year.

And September 11th—for most people, the day we remember when terrorists took down the World Trade Center with a passenger plane full of people, and targeted the Pentagon with another. But for me and my daughters, the memory is quite different, and far more painful because for us, it’s personal.

Our Personal Sadness

On September 11, 2003, my father wrote a note to his girlfriend, smoked one last cigarette, put a gun in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. His girlfriend and best friend found him a couple of hours later when he missed the daily check-in call from the girlfriend and wasn’t answering her increasingly frantic voice mails.

Some people read my words and assure me the anger will pass, and that diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer he received 2 days before his death meant he wasn’t in his right mind. To them, I can honestly say, my anger over him leaving without saying goodbye to me, my daughters, my sister and my nephew has long passed. I understand why he did it. The only time I ever saw my father cry was after the long ordeal of watching his mother die of the same disease. In his position, I can’t say I’d have made a different choice.

At the time, I was less angry about the act, and more with the fact that it was just under 10 years since my mom had also checked out by her own hand. Her reasons have never really been as clear-cut as dad’s, but I’ve accepted the fact that she, too had her reasons. I’ve had nearly 25 years to learn, and at this point, probably millions of words I’ve penned to facilitate the healing process.

Time Heals, But Brings Clarity With It

My anger with my father takes a different direction now, and yet, it too is tempered with understanding. https://www.flickr.com/photos/14778685@N00/5620269958/in/photolist-9yDmsb-9wLFJL-psqyLM-9eAGhb-8JDGi-22seJFb-eSRPY9-iPbhs5-nG8C4Y-ar7VdX-5cMaFn-enkvir-bqUWhr-5cMehe-5cRtPA-5cMbV6-7JBXyM-9NcXFu-akjnB4-f24BV3-Y4j9hL-C7FKVi-VTy9k3-8kdguW-4rv5oP-bJ1Fkv-8nE69a-f3h27J-4uSagZ-coUiM3-NioBNY-8r29ho-6Tj8Fy-6sU9p1-dRZwBZ-UWF6WG-8nMjbJ-dY99M6-oFhtwA-f32MKz-RtLuuB-9gdY6g-8n6qjK-iebqgz-dS9hDW-UUq24S-bt2EvL-LynnF6-nUg6Ge-auC2dzI know he did the best he could with what he had and where he came from. In truth, I’m angrier with myself for playing his warped and twisted game for so long.

For most of my life, I was certain my dad not only loved me, but favored me over my sister. Maybe he did, but if so, it was for all the wrong reasons. My sister was wise to his manipulative games decades before I ever figured it out, and went her own way. She understood him better than I as she’s the one who is more like him. I mistakenly believed she favored mom until recently.

Both she and dad wore their cold, hard exteriors like armor, and used sarcasm as a shield. But there was (and in my sister’s case, probably still is) a level of bitterness beneath the armor which further shields from honest, messy emotions. As I’ve learned, though, it also shields from the good stuff; the love, joy, compassion, and empathy I’ve come to appreciate in myself.

Mom wore her heart on her sleeve, though she tried very hard to cover it up. Her efforts to belong, to fit in, to be accepted were often heartbreaking to watch. I hardened my own heart so I wouldn’t have to watch hers break over and over again. Maybe Dad did too?

A Conglomeration of All Who Came Before

As time goes on and the dates come and go bringing memories and new insights, I realize I’m a little like both of my parents, and a lot like neither. Much of the deviation though, has occurred in the last 10 years. Until then, I held everything in and stumbled through life with my feelings treated as unwelcome guests. That’s the way I was brought up, and the only way I knew.

But when I started writing; when the feelings I’d held in check at great cost came tumbling out onto the computer screen, I found a part of myself that resembled not only neither parent, but none of the family I’d once been close to either. I became an enigma, not because I had always been different, but because I was the first and maybe the only one to break out of the mold into which we’d all been cast.

I let go of the blame, the bitterness, and the need to hold a grudge. I forgave and learned to recognize the need to forgive myself most of all. Even now when I drag out old feelings and find they were buried in lies, I allow them to flow, then forgive all over again.

Letting My Pen Lance the Boils of My Hidden Emotions

https://www.flickr.com/photos/matt_rogers/32072645186/in/photolist-QS9G29-7jFGWM-jSSXTn-gWnnAn-7jKzg7-k1Q3Ez-49HGS-JaXYoH-6HUNQF-7jFHgR-nQzqNh-fzUL6w-hx2nML-a4N44-Z3xc8b-6ef9HF-aEXdio-m2HqQt-bBKzg2-kbdf3P-5Db73z-b7AkyD-6zJzQw-7dEU9V-ZDftY1-fY9zv8-7pBPUc-bmfwto-7eXMSj-9NdNPm-8EVVBC-6JNLK8-6nNaux-c28A2C-9atUf8-7oMuuJ-9YvpG-vdJj7-ecCm-8LJzww-eEd6oi-BQX1p-XZKjij-k1Q1px-E6Miuc-6zrveY-j2kDUf-7vaq24-7fnH1m-dDHfZsThe revelation about my relationship with Dad came during a free-writing session which began with a writing prompt. An otherwise benign prompt became a tear- and anger-filled rant about how badly he’d treated me all my life. It churned and boiled inside me for a little while. Now I realize he not only behaved as he’d been taught, but loved me as best he could. He made me strong and independent, maybe in the extreme. It has been up to me to find the balance. I had no good example to follow.

I’ve hypothesized I come from a long line of Empaths who closed themselves off rather than feel everything that bombarded them. The choice was made more from fear and lack of understanding than a lack of desire or inability to embrace the sensitivity and accept the responsibility this sometimes dubious gift requires.  More and more, I’m convinced that’s true. I’m certain Dad would have been a wreck trying to deal with all the angst I had as a teenager, or the misery I tried to hide during my marriage and divorce. He already knew how to close himself off, and used it to good purpose to protect his own delicate psyche. Mom spent her whole lifetime trying to fit in, yet always sensing negative thoughts and feelings, especially those directed at her personally.

Lack of understanding and an inability to filter out the negativity and even anger emitting from her close family must have been painful in the extreme. The alternate spirituality she tried to turn to and draw my sister into as well makes more sense as I continue clearing the muck from my own mind. In her own way she sought what I found when I learned, first to shield with outward facing mirrors, and later to filter with elemental assistance. My own early extreme shielding gives evidence to my early need to shut the outside voices and emotions off completely until I learned how to be selective about it.

Remembrance and Healing

The dates bring an upsurge of feelings and thoughts. But more than that, they bring opportunities for more healing, more understanding, and more forgiving. My parents weren’t perfect. Nobody’s are. But they weren’t horrific either. In some ways, they might have been ignorant to what they were doing to their offspring, but again, I think most parents are to some degree. They all do the best they can with what they’re given, and both of mine weren’t given a full toolbox in the first place. There were more empty spaces than full ones, and I don’t think they had a clue what was missing or how to find it. You can’t miss what you don’t know exists in the first place, right?

I’ve gone, in the last decade from angry to compassionate, to understanding to resigned, and a bunch of other things in between along the way. My journey won’t be done until I lay my own head down for the final sleep. That, too is as it should be.

We learn, we grow, we become stronger, and we become lighter Beings because of the experiences we have and how we learn to adapt and thrive from each one. When we allow the journey to continue unthwarted and to share what we’ve learned along the way, no matter how painful, we shine a light for others to follow, and perhaps learn and grow themselves. Throwing up walls as I did for so many years put the process on hold, and perhaps even gave me additional barriers to cross and lessons to learn.

I don’t regret any of the challenges life has thrown me. I don’t think I’d have ever come out from behind my walls without the gigantic kick in the pants my parents’ suicides gave me. I was lodged pretty solidly and needed what amounted to a volcanic eruption to get out of my own way. It wasn’t pretty, but then, most eruptions aren’t. It was exactly what I needed to become the person I was meant to be.

No regrets, no anger, no blame, and no illusions.

Infinitely Grateful For What I’ve Been Given; The Good, The Bad, and The Horrific

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve been given; the easy and the painful, they all made me grow.
  2. I am grateful I can take what I’ve learned and share it with others who might need to hear what I have to say.
  3. I am grateful for understanding friends, and even virtual strangers who find value in the sharing of my own life’s convoluted path.
  4. I am grateful for the ability to write at length on things which at one time (and sometimes still do) reduce me to a puddle of tears and misery. Only by continually wading through the emotional swamp can I clear it and make the land clean and ready for fresh growth.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; caring friends, loving children, a life that’s as people-y or non-people-y as I want it to be, days of quiet contemplation, joy, time spent with friends where love flows, and sadness is shared, inspiration, motivation, peace, health, harmony, 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.

Alone for a Reason

Alone Again, Naturally

I woke today after an exceptionally good night of dancing feeling strangely…icky. The lingering joy which usually greets me when I wake was replaced by a dark, writhing pit in my stomach. Thankfully, I have my normal morning routine of writing three pages of thoughts longhand. I don’t think I’ve ever needed it more than I did today.

It took me two pages to come to the realization that everyone I know has some sort of support group close by. It might be a loving and devoted spouse, or kids, or a close circle of friends; often it’s a combination of things. Meanwhile, I’m alone. If something happened to sideline me for a while, I really don’t know where I’d turn.

Life’s Challenges Come at Just the Right Time

But before you start thinking “Oh, poor Sheri”, let me get to the second part of my realization. Those people are all going through some kind of trauma or difficulty in their lives right now. It might be an aging parent, a death, the spectrum of an empty nest, issues with a child, injury, or some other disaster. But having that support group means they aren’t facing the roller coaster of emotions alone.

I, on the other hand, got my traumas and disasters over with early, while I still had at least a couple of people around to help me get through them. One child did her middle-of-the-night disappearing act over 10 years ago, setting off a chain of events which would ultimately have us leading completely separate lives. The other lived with me until shortly before her marriage. Even so, she stayed in the area another year or two. When she moved away, I may not have had a support group, but I had a life which kept me busy, and that’s nearly as good.

My parents both passed when I had work, the girls, their activities and a dozen other things to keep my mind occupied. Eventually, I even went back to my long-neglected writing. In their own way, they even inspired, and continue to inspire my writing in ways they never were able to do while alive.

Turning Bitter Fruit into a Tasty Treat

Instead of crawling into a hole and feeling sorry for what I don’t have, I see an opportunity to be more. My performance on the compassion spectrum can still use a lot of work. I still see people as strangers and tend to be territorial when it’s not necessary or even kind. I still take small snubs personally without taking into consideration the challenges my friends and acquaintances are doing their best to navigate. I see the support group and ignore the obstacles which need extra hands to clear away.

I’m reminded of the story of the coffee, the carrot, and the egg. The carrot when boiled becomes soft and flexible. The egg becomes hard and unyielding, and the coffee makes the water better. I find I want to be the coffee but am struggling in my efforts, often making the water bitter instead.

Yet it’s mornings like this when I experience my greatest revelations; my purest insight into my purpose for being in this particular lifetime. It’s the things I struggle most to learn; love, compassion, patience, supportiveness, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, I’m here to not only exhibit, but encourage in others. I may be a long way from learning what I need to know and embrace, but I’m a lot closer than I give myself credit for, especially given what I started with.

Being the Grown-up in My Relationship With Myself

My inner child continues to fight to be the center of attention. My biggest challenge is in teaching her she needs to give first. It’s her selfishness which leaves her out in the cold while others enjoy the warmth of hearth and home. It’s her unwillingness to recognize others are struggling with their own demons which has left her teased, shamed, and ostracized over and over again. And it’s the fragility she has covered over with a seemingly impermeable shell which makes it difficult for people to get to know her soft side and see how much she really has to give.

I was originally going to post a piece about fears which I wrote between dance classes yesterday, but when I woke this morning, this topic seemed to be the more important of the two. The fear piece will be waiting for the right moment, but today, compassion seemed to be more timely.

It might be in part my monthly response to the Full Moon. I do tend to react more physically and emotionally these days than I recall doing in the past. Maybe it’s because I’m post-menopausal, but I think that’s coincidental more than causal. (as I write this, I realize I started it at 11:11 on 6/11. The coincidences in my life keep pointing in the same direction. I also finished it at 1:11!). Or maybe it’s that I have time for introspection and self-reflection and am not exactly satisfied with what I see.

Where I Am and Where I Am Not

Putting aside where I am on my career path. Ignoring for a moment the many things I can point to that I don’t have. My personal development has a long way to go, which is pretty daunting when I admit how many decades I’ve had to work on it.

Even after writing several pages of self-revelation this morning, I still have the knot in the pit of my stomach. Though some of the darkness has lifted, I’m clearly not where I need to be right now. I’ve shown a marked lack of compassion in the last week or so, and I’m ashamed of myself. My inner child really needs a good shaking right now to stop feeling sorry for herself and focus on being a better person.

Thankfully, today is a new day and a new start. It’s up to me to make the most of it.

And finding a Reason to be Grateful

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful I have a new day to make positive changes.
  2. I am grateful for the mistakes which make me see what I still need to learn.
  3. I am grateful for the friends I do have who accept my flaws even when I, myself don’t.
  4. I am grateful for the energy to dance for hours and sleep the sleep of the innocent, even if I wake feeling not-so-innocent.
  5. I am grateful for abundance: lessons, friends, energy, health, happiness, inspiration, motivation, Universal head slaps, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Completing the Circle: Suicide’s Forgotten Victims

Remembering the Forgotten

I see a lot of posts lately about how people get depressed and contemplate suicide around the holidays. They’re typically followed by a number for the Suicide Hotline.

What I don’t see is any reference to those of us who may have lost someone to suicide during the holidays. I want to stand up and shout “Hey, we’re still here, and it still hurts, even 10, 20, 30 years later. What about us?”

There’s no hotline for survivors of suicide. No outpouring of love and concern. No admonitions to care more, love more, or give extra attention to suicide survivors. But in my opinion, there should be.

Suicide is Tragic, No Matter Which Side of the Fence You’re On, but it Doesn’t End with a Death

I’m not trying to minimize the fact that suicides and suicide attempts do increase during the holidays. If you’re already sad and depressed, all of the exhortations to be happy and joyful and to buy presents you might not be able to afford are certainly enough to drive one over the edge. What I am trying to do is raise awareness for those of us who didn’t recognize that sadness in someone we loved until it was too late.

What I am trying to say is that we who have lost someone to suicide, especially during the holidays suffer whenever we see one of those community service style posts. We suffer because we didn’t see the signs; because we didn’t call a hotline to help prevent our loved one’s act. But more, because we know first-hand that even if we had, it might not have helped.

Left Behind Should Never Mean Isolated

Someone who commits suicide during the holidays, especially an adult, is probably not new to the idea. The idea of ending it all doesn’t just pop into their head on a whim. Chances are, they’ve been feeling sad and unwanted or unneeded for a long time. The forced jollity of the holidays is simply the final straw, eliminating any second thoughts they might have had that they still have a purpose. It doesn’t matter what the people around them think. They feel extraneous, and they are in charge of the actions they take based on those feelings.

But those who are left behind, whether they found the lifeless body or simply dealt with the feelings of helplessness, guilt, and grief afterwards must revisit the death year after year. The holidays are just another reminder of someone who is no longer around to share the joys, the sorrows, and everything in between. They’re a reminder that we didn’t or couldn’t do enough to make someone feel they needed to hang around a little longer.

Opening Hearts to Suicide’s Forgotten Victims

Please, while you’re offering avenues to prevent suicide, also open your hearts to those who lost someone to suicide during the holidays; the most wonderful time of the year. You might not even know who we are as many won’t talk about it. If they do, they won’t open up unless they know someone who has suffered the same loss.

I suggest we make the holidays a time of more hugs, more compassion, greater understanding. Most of all, make it a time of paying more attention to the people around you. Notice when their smiles don’t reach their eyes. Notice when they seem to move more slowly. Notice when they retreat to a corner during celebrations and don’t seem to be getting into all of the joy and happiness we’re supposed to be feeling.

Give heartfelt hugs whenever you can. Not those almost embarrassed kind of hugs with the back patting you’d give a fussy child. A real hug where you hold someone, heart to heart, giving and receiving warmth. A hug that says “I may not know what you’re going through, but I care and I’m here for you, even if all I can offer is this hug.”

Remembering the Value of Family, Warts and All

I learned a lot this weekend when I saw my family for the first time in 20 years. I learned that even though they know my sister and I no longer have a relationship, they’re not judging, simply trying to understand. I learned that in many ways, my parents’ suicides will always be the elephant in the room, but we can still love each other in spite of it. I learned to appreciate how much my parents spared me as I watched cousins dealing with a mother whose mind is very child-like now, and a father who is crouched and bent and likely in a great deal of pain much of the time. I also learned how much it saddens me that my parents didn’t get to share the girls’ milestones and accomplishments.

The biggest thing I learned, though, was that my family is still there after all these years. For some, being around me might be awkward and uncomfortable but they’re willing to make the effort. For others, I truly believe they don’t hold me responsible for my parents’ actions, nor do those actions make it difficult for them to be near me. I don’t seem to serve as the constant and unwelcome reminder of their own loss I believed I did. And I met extended family who were warm and welcoming without prejudice.

Yet, I still feel sad that my parents aren’t here to share the holidays with us, with their granddaughters. Perhaps I always will. I have learned to fill my heart with love, my home with friends and my time with activity. Most of all, I express my gratitude for all of the blessings in my life right now, and still to come. I am here for a reason. I have a purpose. Most of all, I am worthy of love, success, and fulfillment.

Part of that fulfillment is being a haven for those who’ve lost someone to suicide. Won’t you help me extend that haven this holiday season?

Gratitude, the Greatest Healer

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful I am able to help other forgotten victims of suicide and that so many have reached out to me in the last few years.
  2. I am grateful to be able to raise awareness of the struggles suicide survivors endure.
  3. I am grateful to have reconnected with my family. There are some seriously amazing people in my clan!
  4. I am grateful for the ability to express myself in writing and perhaps raise awareness where awareness is lacking.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, family, hugs, compassion, kindness, sharing, caring, peace, harmony, success, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Moraleida via Flickr

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