Coping after suicide

Through the Blue Lens

Thoughts, visions and smells flood my mind,

My blue lens takes me to depths,

Searching for answers, reasons I cannot find,

Not unlike those whose faces printed upon my soul,

Their tormented families I behold.

My blue friends have blue visions too, All different yet the same hue.

Images of dear blue colleagues who could not evade to feel,

The torment that through service came in a torrent; Abhorrent and real.

Lining streets, a sea of blue laments souls lost,

Comforting, embracing, hopeful – not one more, at what cost;

Through blue lenses my blue brothers and sisters reflect the sun’s rays,

Hold on, make a difference and live for a better blue day.

Inspector Queensland Police Service 2020

Waves of Grief

Waves cause gradual transformations to the shoreline by flowing, rolling and crashing. A gentle surge smooths out yesterday’s undulations and footprints. Ebbing swell, destination anticipated. Breakers thieve off with meticulously deposited sand grains.

And then there are tidal waves. The kind that emerge, unpredictably and escalate. Towering up and hurtling down. Lack of regard for their destination and impact. Overwhelm breaking above, undertow hauling you, from beneath, to the murky depths. And the aftermath. Shoreline eroded beyond recognition.

She had survived storms of loss and endured waves of grief. What struck her hardest was not the physical, emotional or mental anguish of miscarriage, death of a soul mate or her marriage imploding. Loss of her brother by suicide was far worse than any tidal wave. It obliterated the shoreline and changed her so dramatically her former self was unattainable.

She had grown to respect something about loss. Grief was inevitable. Avoiding, denying or ignoring grief produced an illusion of comfort but escape was fleeting. Loss stretched deep and grief permeated into every chasm, entwining deep within to unfamiliar places.

Well acquainted with grief, hindsight warned that this grief would upwell eternally. It refused to release its grip, forcing her to tread water. Supports strongly encouraged her to move on but evaded the magnitude of her emotions. They did not understand you could not go under or over a grief that had seeped to such depths. To reach the shoreline she accepted she had to go through it, at her own pace, in her own time. And that was perfectly fine.

Still half submerged by the pull of grief, a conversation about suicide emphasised something in the whitewash. It seemed foreign, forbidden, taboo but she fought the echoes of stigma and myth. The waves impelled her. A perfect yellow rose lay on the shoreline, glistening. She gently explored each velvet petal. The rose signified suicide prevention and she embraced the thought of learning more. Her involvement cradled her grief and now she can support others bereaved by suicide.

Stumbling through the belly of the whale.

At the height of my grief from my teenage brother’s death in 1990, I stumbled across a former lecturer at an event. He was an outstanding biblical scholar. It was some 12 months since we last met. We chatted briefly. I remember feeling totally bereft at that point in my life. I was like the biblical figure Jonah, in the belly of the whale as it were. The lecturer stopped, looked at me curiously asking, “What’s happened to you?” I briefed him and he was shocked. It wasn’t the answer he was expecting. He explained that he saw a different me. He could see that something in me had changed. It was as if the layers were peeled away. He was looking at the real me. It wasn’t the answer I was expecting! It was a powerful encounter.

He was right. Looking back, I didn’t know it at the time, but allowing myself to stay at ‘belly of the whale’ in all its agony and discomfort was a gift in disguise. I found myself. Before long I left my job and met my husband; both surprising and providential life choices.

Decades later, the whale’s belly beckoned once more. My teenage son’s suicide ideation and attempt crises overwhelm me. I abruptly end my career to face the horror of history repeating itself head on. In desperate search for assistance online, I stumble across Roses in the Ocean. Looking back, I see flickering light breaking through all-encompassing darkness. I didn’t know it at the time, but a random Google search would herald opportunity, growth and healing. A new vocation bids. I lead a simpler, quieter, fuller life and a more authentic me emerges.

Image by Alma Sheppard-Matsuo