I wrote this article four years ago after I received the news of a suicide that impacted someone close to me. She and her family made every effort to give their family member the help she needed; they were unable to save her. She and her family have suffered unspeakable pain in their struggle to accept the unacceptable.
“She did not make it,” the message read.
I knew what the words said, but my mind would not allow me to believe what they meant. Without a logical way to explain her sudden death, my mind refused to accept the situation. The pain and the grief were too great; the truth was too painful, too shocking, too awful.
Often, the situations that cannot be explained are the ones we fear the most. When a tragedy occurs, the first question we usually ask is “why?” The human brain wants answers. It is harder for the mind to process the events in our lives when there are still unanswered questions.
Eventually, we are forced to accept the unacceptable. We cannot change what has happened, but any answer we can find to the question, “why?” gives us the ability to do something to defend and protect ourselves moving forward, even if it is an imaginary solution. People come into the world with a fear of annihilation and an instinct to survive. We need to feel that we can act on our own behalf or that we have a protector who can, in order to stay safe.
Grief is not a moment in time, it is a process. Slow and steady is the only way to face a situation of this magnitude. In my office, I have several turtles. They represent the most effective way to grow and heal.
Allow yourself to question, and feel all the feelings you have without judgement or shame. You will be angry. When you feel overwhelmed, do what you can to back away from the emotions until you feel you have the resources to face them again. As several people have said to me over the years, “Turtles have a shell to go into when they need it.”
Surround yourself with loving caring friends--friends who will hold you emotionally and physically, people who are able to hear all of your feelings of grief, pain, and anger. Comfort comes from unexpected places at times like this. We face the truth and feelings one minute, one hour, one day at a time.