Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dating After The Loss of a Partner to Suicide

If your spouse has committed suicide, you are dealing with complicated grief issues on top of all the “regular” ones everyone else confronts.

Suicide is a very egocentric act. Any thought of others, and the subsequent pain that will be inflicted on those left behind, is brushed aside because the suicide can not see past his/her own pain.

Ironically, the suicide survivor also acts egocentrically because after the death, he/she immediately wants to shoulder the blame and make it all about him or her. Accordingly, the following “I” statements are commonly heard."

--"Why didn’t I see this coming?"
--“If I had just been paying attention, I would've seen the signs and stopped this tragedy.”
--“It’s my fault; I refused to listen and answer the cry for help.”

--“Why did I have to start an argument over something so inconsequential?”

These questions, and similar ones, are asked in the quest for the survivor to make sense of this irrational act. He/she attempts to apply logic to the situation, or look for a cause-and-effect, because that is how we, as humans, understand and bring order to our world.

Herein lies the dilemma, and the root of the guilt, of a suicide survivor. It is virtually impossible to successfully apply logic to an illogical situation and expect to arrive at a satisfactory answer. In truth, there are very few good explanations why someone would choose death as a solution to a problem, with the exception being the case of euthanasia.

When logic fails to supply any answers, guilt and self-blame are always there as alternatives. The survivor continues to berate him/herself for missing the signs and stopping the fatal act. Keep in mind, it is very easy to recognize clues in retrospect, but life can only be lived going forward. Thus, we must try to make the best decisions with the information that is in front of us at the moment, along with what we have learned from our experiences.

The survivor’s guilt is compounded by the fact that a person’s emotional and rational minds do not travel along parallel highways. One of the greatest tasks of the survivor is to work towards having these two pathways of emotionality and rationality travel more concurrently and eventually merge to come to a resolution.

In order for a survivor to move forward, he/she must accept that responsibility for the act lies solely on the shoulders of the person who completed the suicide. The only person for whom one can be responsible is him or herself.

No matter how much we wish we could go back and respond differently, it is impossible to change the facts of one’s life and erase this terrible tragedy. It is, however, possible to take charge vigorously of one’s own life in the wake of misfortune and chaos.

One of your tasks is to overcome this feeling that you are damaged goods. I know after I lost my husband to suicide, I would think to myself – Are people going to think that I was such a horrible person that he had to kill himself to get away from me?

This was such faulty (although natural) thinking on my part. However, I just wasn’t giving people enough credit. Not once did I get a negative reaction about ME because my husband took his own life. Yes, they felt extremely bad for me having to cope with that type of loss, but I never felt that they thought I was the issue.

Actually, I believe you have to use what you have. So, after a while, I used telling about the circumstances of my husband’s death as a little secret test I gave my dates. I would watch and listen carefully to see how they reacted. As I said, everyone passed with flying colors.

In truth, I say the word suicide whenever I can. I’m on a mission to eradicate the taboo associated with that type of death. If we start talking about it, then those who might not ask for help because of the shame associated with suicide might do so. We also have to let a person (who we think is at risk) know what our life would be like without him or her in it. A suicide most often feels his/her loved ones might be better off without him/her. They cannot see past their own pain to see what pain they will inflict on their loved ones.

But, I digress, so back to dating after suicide ....

The fact that one feels damaged after the death of a spouse, no matter the circumstances, is the first tip-off that grief issues still need more work. It is when you are nearing the end of your grief journey (and about to step back into the world) that you will be ready to feel good about yourself again and where you stand in the world.

It is also my belief that a successful dating “career” will not be experienced until one is ready to welcome new love in to his or her life. There’s lots of work that goes into accomplishing that feat, and, not that time will take care of it, but it does take time to work through all the issues.

Mourners, in general, are in a hurry to get through their pain. That's natural. Who wouldn’t be? Who wants to feel this searing pain go on and on? But, just as you “can’t hurry love”, you cannot hurry the resolution of grief and all the hard work that is necessary to reach higher and more steady ground.

I invite you to look at my website at
http://LNGerst.com or http://FindingLoveAfterLoss.com to partake of the resources I offer to the bereaved and to those ready to find love again.

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