Surviving Suicide – Part 44 – Special Edition – The Power of Forgiveness – The “Giving” to You!
It’s approaching the 11th year anniversary of losing my late husband, Rob, to suicide – Dec. 24th or 25th, 2000. So much has transpired since that time, much questioning, acceptance, every emotion possible, lots of learning, healing and discovering and developing new friendships with fellow loss survivors, attempt survivors and those who are suicidal.
Initially I had tremendous anger, not at Rob, but at what he did and the circumstances I was left to deal with. This is an important distinction to make as many loss survivors have anger toward their loved one, not the act. Anger can be very beneficial in the beginning, it gives you the fire you need to do whatever is necessary, it allows you to get things accomplished, but if left unchecked – it can also literally consume you. I remained angry for many years, felt totally justified in my anger and would recite to anyone who cared to listen, “if you’d gone through what I’ve gone through, you’d be angry too!”. I wore it like a badge of honour. My inner circle of family and friends were very concerned at how angry I’d become, I was ready to do battle at the drop of a hat. I kept telling them this too shall pass, but must admit, even I sometimes wondered if I’d ever stop being angry and return to the happier person I’d once been.
I’ve learned since my loss that a suicide loss survivor will never be the same again. You can’t be. You’ve experienced a shocking loss that nothing in life ever prepares you for, there is no rule book to tell you how to cope, grieve, let go and move forward. You keep hoping for the good ol’ days, when things were a lot happier, easier and life wasn’t so tumultuous. I now know that this type of loss changes you forever and although I’d have preferred to never have experienced a loss by suicide, I also realize that the new me – the changed me – is not a bad thing at all. I’ve had a lot of time to learn about myself and how to heal, much of that for me personally was by learning how to forgive.
There is much confusion about forgiveness. It is not something you do for someone else, it does not make what happened any less traumatic, but it does benefit YOU! I went several years in what I call “go mode”, plodding forward, doing the best I could all the while with my new BFF “anger”. I bought a relaxation/guided meditation CD one day and decided to lay down and have a listen. There was one segment in the guided meditation where you were to forgive anyone and anything that came to mind that was holding you back, something you’d like to heal from and let go of.
The exercise was to visualize yourself standing under a beautiful, cascading waterfall. To picture yourself underneath this healing, cooling water as it washed away all your fears, tears and pain. You were then to envision whoever you needed to forgive as standing right beside you, also under the cleansing waterfall. In my case, I envisioned Rob. I was new to visualizing, but did my best and could picture him standing there in front of me, looking straight at me but saying nothing. I made a decision then that I wanted to forgive him, not only for his suicide and the many repercussions that resulted from his passing, but for all his infidelities he’d had prior to his suicide that caused me such deep pain, betrayal, humiliation and did such damage to my self esteem.
I also chose at this time to forgive me too. To forgive myself for staying in a not so healthy relationship for far too long, for accepting less than respectful treatment, for allowing and enabling so many things. It was at this point that I noticed tears running down my face even though my eyes were closed. It surprised me as I rarely cried, but there they were! They were cleansing tears and although they caught me off guard, I felt a shift somewhere deep inside and knew I’d been able to begin the process of forgiving, and that is when so much of my anger left me. I felt much calmer.
I have used this CD hundreds of times, whenever I’m stressed out or unfocused, I know I can turn to this and it always works, I always feel calm, relaxed, centered and able to be in a much better place than when I started the CD. I have forgiven many times, sometimes Rob and I again, other times other people or circumstances. It has proven for me to be a very healing practice and one that I will continue to use.
I also had a dream and I don’t dream often of Rob any more. The dream was most unusual, we were getting ready to board a cruise ship, something I’ve never done. I was there with Rob and we were getting ready to board, when all of a sudden up pulled a car and out jumped his most recent girlfriend. I was shocked and furious and told Rob to get on the boat. Instead he walked to the car. I remember being very cognizant of all the pain, anger and fury rising up in me once again during the dream, I could feel how upset I was all over again. While still in the dream I decided to immediately go to that place of forgiveness that I’d done so many times before while listening to the CD to stop those feelings.
I put myself beneath that waterfall along with Rob, I forgave again and then it came to me to now forgive the most recent girlfriend, along with the many others he’d had affairs with. I felt immediate relief when forgiving Rob and myself, but came to a screeching halt when it came time to forgive the other women. I remember making a definite decision that NO! I was not ready or prepared to forgive the other women. At this point I awakened from the dream and realized that I’d been dreaming, laid there for a while to recall it and clearly remembered that I had chosen NOT to forgive the other women. I felt comfortable with that decision, but knew at some point I’d have to let that go too and forgive all involved.
I recently went to Germany with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and my son. Rob was born in Germany so it was nice for my son to visit his Dad’s homeland and see where his family was from. I’d been dreading the trip initially for many reasons, one being I’d become very distanced from Rob’s family, my choice and doing. I still saw them but very occasionally. So this was a trip to spend time getting reacquainted and see some wonderful sights and Christmas Markets. The trip was phenomenal, we got along very well and it was nice that my son got to spend some real quality time with his Oma.
We were nearing the end of the trip, staying in Munich at a beautiful hotel on Dec. 10th. Our hotel room was gorgeous, the nicest one yet. My son and I shared a room and we had very full days so went to bed quite early. At 3:45am I awoke and was lying in my bed and started thinking about Rob. This wasn’t unusual as we were in his birth place and were nearing the anniversary of his suicide, so I’m always thinking more about him this time of year. I started wondering if Rob could see us, see that his family was all together and visiting Germany and having a fabulous time. I then started talking to Rob, in my head, not out loud and asked him what he thought of it all. I decided to once again do a forgiveness exercise so this time I did not visualize the waterfall, I decided to get into the energy of forgiveness and have a conversation.
I told Rob I forgave him for everything, the infidelities, the ups and downs of our marriage, his mental illness and his suicide and for all that came afterwards. I then recalled his father had also had many affairs, knew how much that had hurt and impacted his family so I decided to also forgive my father-in-law. I’d always harboured resentment at his father for being such a poor role model for his children and in many ways blamed Rob’s upbringing for his infidelities as well. I then went on to forgive my mother and sister-in-law for all that had transpired since Rob’s death, all the things I’d felt they’d done to contribute to the decline in our relationship. I also chose at this time to forgive all the women Rob had had affairs with and this was a real biggie for me and I knew it. I said each of their names, for the ones I knew, I told each of them I forgave them. Then it came time for me to forgive me for whatever part I had played in any and all of the outcomes involved. I knew I too had contributed to not always doing the right thing, that I’d made mistakes too.
I then decided it was time to let it all go, to open my heart completely to be able to open up to being able to love someone again. This was a huge step for me. I said I wanted to let all the pain, hurt, resentment and anger go, to release it from my body, my heart and my soul. I admitted that I’d love to have a wonderful, loving, faithful man in my life again and that I knew the only way I could do that, was to let my old pain and anger go completely. At this point, I felt a huge twinge in my heart and tears came quickly once again streaming down my cheeks. The tears felt hot and I felt as though I was going to choke or cough, so I held the tears back. The tears started up again and this time I let them come silently without feeling like I was going to cough. This entire process probably took several minutes, I didn’t look at the clock, but I felt such a huge relief and release that I knew something had let go.
I then decided to get up, put my coat and slippers on and went outside on the balcony. It was quite cold and a very light snow was coming down. Everything had a fine white coating on it, not deep but just a lovely dusting. I looked out and saw all the roofs and steeples covered and this beautiful white snow sprinkling down. I remember taking a deep breath, realizing how fresh it smelled and just stood there for a few moments taking it all in. I knew something had shifted in me and it felt so good, I felt so light. I took a few more moments out there in the peaceful silence of the early morning and knew things would be different now. I went back in and climbed back into bed and had a very peaceful sleep for several more hours. I awoke feeling very refreshed and looking forward to the new day.
I share this story with you because there is incredible power behind forgiveness. I know for me it was instrumental and essential in letting my anger go so that I could begin healing. I also believe forgiveness comes in bits and pieces, you can’t let it all go at once, you must be ready and really wanting to let the anger go. I’ll admit that in the beginning, I was fearful of letting the anger go. It had become my ally, something tangible that I could count on and knew it would get me through. I also knew at some point I’d have to let it go or it would consume me and destroy me.
I know every loss survivor is at a different point in their journey of grief and healing. What I hope is that by sharing this story, you too shall realize that there will come a time when you are so sick of feeling so distraught, so filled with pain, anger and confusion that you too will make that decision to let it go so that healing can begin with you. I share my story in hopes that it will give you the knowledge and hope that one day you too will begin to heal. The loss will always be with you, but you will learn how to one day be able to remember your loved one and the many good memories you shared without feeling the intense pain. Grief truly is a journey no one can make for you, but you can learn ways of expediting the healing process just a bit sooner than you may have thought possible.
My heart goes out to all who have lost a loved one to suicide, as well as all those in such turmoil that they consider or have attempted in some cases, to end their lives hoping to end their pain. I wish each and every one of you a very peaceful Christmas and may 2012 bring you peace, love and healing.