December 16, 2016

To Those who have Lost a Loved One to Suicide.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” ~ Robert Fulghum


It’s a godawful blow to our whole being that leaves us long past winded.

Our heart drops out of our chest, as if it were tied to a dumbbell and thrown out to sea. Our skin goes numb, and our hair stands on end.

A scream might erupt from our belly, but we’d be one of the lucky ones if our throat would let it out.

“It’s not possible. I spoke with him only three days ago. Only yesterday. Only an hour ago.”

The mind spins. Or maybe it’s the world spinning. Everything else seems insignificant.



How can this be?

What do you mean, I can never talk with him the same way, again?

How can he be there one minute, and gone the next?

What if I hadn’t been such a selfish idiot, so busy with my own life? What if I had taken the time to engage, properly?

Emotions flood.

Anger even. A lot of anger. Sheer pandemonium. And yet—stillness. No movement. No sound. Perhaps not even a facial expression. Just absolute shock. The kind that leaves you in the lurch and catches in your throat. The kind that spins around your head without making sense. The kind that sits in your stomach like a stone, saying:

You knew. You knew he was capable of this. When you heard he was gone…you knew it was suicide.

At least, this was my experience, when I lost my friend to suicide last month.

I’m still coming to terms with it.

I have no qualms with death. I recognize it is the reverse side of the coin of life. It is inevitable. For all of us. It’s just the impermanence of it all that blows everything out of the water. I mean, there was still so much life for him to live. He was only just getting started.

Isn’t there enough time to be dead later?

The acceptance of it seemed to roll in, long before my heart could begin to mourn. The acceptance of death. Not the acceptance of the space it left in my life. I still sort of feel like it’s a huge joke. To test my—my something. I don’t know.

I still feel like he’s going to rock up one morning with a huge goofy smile on his face and say,

“LOL, Cat! Just kidding!”

I wouldn’t even think it was a sh*t joke. I’d just be monumentally happy to have him back in my life. There’d be no room to be angry with him. This kind of thinking is neither here nor there, really.

He’s gone.

To anyone who’s reading this, I don’t want to say, “everything happens for a reason.” Honestly, I think we make our own reasons for things.

I don’t want to say, “he’s in a better place now” about your lost loved one. I don’t know and couldn’t say whether there is anything after death or not. I don’t think we’re really in a position to know, until we get there ourselves.

But I do feel that we are never really separated from the ones we love. Space, time and death seem irrelevant, because our loved ones still take up space in our hearts. We still know what they would say or how they would react. We know, as we go about our lives, what would make them laugh. What would make them angry, what would inspire them and how mean they could be on the electric guitar. Or anything, for that matter—whatever your dear one was marvelously good at.

I do want to say how incredibly sorry I am for your loss.

I want to wrap my arms around your heart and tell you I know “condolences” is an empty word, which holds little warmth. But your people are thinking of you. And they are thinking of your lost one. And there’s something in that. The way the death of a loved one brings people together. I hope you have people in your life who will meet you in that space of acceptance and grief. In the space where great love meets the great unknown and tips its hat in a mighty bow of reverence and surrender.

I hope that you—and all those you love—will galvanize your strength. Love those you still have, with fierce tenderness.

I hope you will take great peace and joy from the little things.

I hope the spinning top will settle in you and that you will find your center and a love that melts the ice and jagged edges, within.

If you were the one who found your loved one—I hope your heart will find the strength to face the void and seek shelter and homage in your own heart and in the hearts of your friends and family. I hope you will not isolate yourself. Even if, sometimes, it is only the forests and mountains that seem large enough to handle your grief with any grace.

I hope you have forests and mountains in which to seek refuge. And that the wilderness in you has a spot of wilderness in which to simply be all you need to be. I hope the images you’ve had to face will make you more resilient in the face of death and more ardent in the face of life.

I am told the grief fades, somewhat, with time. But that we will carry these people with us, always.

I hope so.

I hope the courage, resilience and strength that were my friend never leave this Earth.

I hope the love you have for your lost or stolen one burns brightly. And that your fire will propel you to greater levels of life, purpose and meaning. I hope you will choose to transmute the pain into something that brings you great sustenance.

I hope you will continue to let your love show.

I hope you will choose only to live more brightly.

I send you my love and heartfelt wishes for your deepest healing.


Author: Catherine Simmons

Image: Jem Yoshioka/Flickr

Editor: Toby Israel


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