Suicide Aftershocks VOL VI: Gestation, Endings & Beginnings. It’s Time I Write a New Story

While contemplating this month’s Blog post, it occurred to me that my first in this series was written almost 9 months after my husband’s suicide.  Nine months is the gestation period for human development and signifies incubation, evolution and emergence.

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wombwisdom.me

I hadn’t considered the significance of that timing.  I was ready, at that roughly 9 month mark, to work again and to put myself out there in an authentic way.

Now, roughly 18 months post suicide, I’m ready to be done with this “Aftershocks” series.  This is the second gestation period from which I’m grateful to be emerging.  I feel as though I’ve been birthed into a better, stronger, more capable and kinder version of me.

We can’t have new beginnings without endings. While I wish certain endings had occurred differently, I’m grateful to be transitioning into the next cycle of my life and look forward with enthusiasm—incubation complete– for now. I am freed from the most recent womb of gestation.

As I stated in the first volume of this “Aftershocks” series, “In the grand scheme of things, that’s the simplicity of what has occurred for all of us these last 9 months.  Moments in time strung together and defined as an experience”.

These last 2 gestation periods do not define me

I am not defined by my marriage or by my husbands’ suicide.  These experiences have smoothed my rough edges and brought a depth of grace, compassion and knowingness of interconnection that is beyond anything I knew before.

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…his heart grew 3 sizes that day-Grinch

 

They have taught me to embrace the vast ocean of my own strength, stretched my fixed boundaries into fluid response and blown open my heart into a boundless and inexhaustible reservoir of love and wonder.

 

 

I’ve used the term “Ground Zero” as a marker for the day of Bill’s suicide.  I officially lay that to rest now and re-purpose that phrase for myself.

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Today is Ground Zero for the story of my life—for the beginning for my new story.  A new journey I am excited to create and embark upon.

Here’s to birthing our dreams and allowing life to unfold in its ever fluctuating beauty of beginnings and endings while choosing to stay awestruck and humbled.

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Osho Zen Tarot

In humble gratitude for this miracle called life,

Kim

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Rise!

Suicide Aftershocks VOL V: Synchronicity and Windows of Opportunity, and How a Canine Helped Unpack my Heart and those of my 3 pups!

Early this year, about seven months post suicide; I was sitting at my computer aimlessly wandering through emails.  My late husband’s email address was still active and receiving as I had not yet dismantled his accounts.  He had an account with a site called NEXT DOOR.  It’s a website that allows you to connect within your neighborhood to promote community, communicate real time with neighbors and happenings and go local.  (www.nextdoor.com )

As I was scanning through the mail, a post on this site came up of a neighbor looking for a daily dog sitting situation for his very large and active Belgian Malinois.  I clicked the link and responded that I was interested and gave my phone number before I even realized I’d done it!  Once I clicked SEND, it hit me that I’d put myself out there. My mature, fear based response was to immediately delete my husband’s account and pretended it never happened!  I didn’t think I wanted any kind of commitment plus I had three dogs of my own.IMG_0595

A couple of days went by and the matter slipped my mind (or I blocked it out) until I received a phone call from the guy looking for dog sitting.  This was one of those synchronistic situations where I decided to roll with it even though my mind was screaming “DON’T”.  Coincidentally, he was immediately able to bring the dog by my place for a meet-and-greet to see if we would all be a good fit. My “normal” at that time was far from normal.  I was on edge, defensive and anxious a lot of the time, in relatively deep grief and quite scattered.

I have about ¾’s of an acre fenced on the water which is essentially my own dog park.  The owner and McLovin’ the dog arrived (names have been changed to protect the innocent!) and things went great.  We decided to give it a go which meant I would have McLovin’ daily for an hour.  I was weirdly excited and scared at the same time.  My heart recognized that this was a window of opportunity for me but my mind was telling me that it was a mistake to have a mid day commitment long term.

Our first day I thought—I LOVE this dog AND I’m remembering why I don’t want a puppy!  But my heart was singing!  This dog was a giant, pain-in-the-arse dose of presence! He’s smarter than me, curious and full of vitality which in dog speak equals trouble, opportunism and loads of adventure.  He needed eyes on him at all times.  This meant that my routine went out the window and I had to be fully alert and engaged while he was with us.  This shift of focus was powerfully transformative.  It allowed my mind to relax, my edges to soften and my heart to open again.IMG_0621

IMG_0504McLovin’ and my biggest dog, MacTavish, became best buddies instantly and my 2 little ones were equally captivated by him.  He clearly liked us too, and his very being-ness created an entirely new dynamic in my home. IMG_0631

This giant puppy engaged my dogs in a playful and experimental way, bringing out the inner puppy in them and effectively eradicating the grief and pain that they’d experienced in the loss of my husband, prolonged exposure to his depression, as well as my grief and diverted focus.

I kept him in general 2-3 hours daily simply because it was so much fun. He brought a joy and lightness I needed desperately in my environment—in my home.  This is so relevant because most of my friends were uncomfortable coming to my house as it’s ground zero for my husband’s suicide.  I nicknamed him “McLovin’” because he’s the definition of unconditional love on four legs.  He’s silly and affectionate in a full body, roll all over you and against you kind of way.

My mood never mattered to him—he was forever happy to see me and even more so to come to my house and play with the pack.  If I stopped and sat, he’d immediately be on me—literally!  He would sit or lay on me instinctively knowing what I needed to lay down my guard and navigate back to my heart.

Daily, when I left to get McLovin’, my dogs would wait at the window patiently for our return and then pine away for him when I took him back to his house.  On days I would leave and come home without him, my dogs would howl and cry—berating me for coming home alone!

This is the beauty of synchronicity and taking chances—the willingness to go beyond fear and just roll with it!  It obviously didn’t occur to my rational mind to bring in a new puppy pack mate as “healer” for my dogs, my home and my heart, and yet that is exactly what happened in the most unexpected, fun and joyous way.

In short—a situation I was scared to enter quickly became one of the most profoundly transformative opportunities in this very difficult year.   A window of opportunity that I allowed myself to open, for which I will forever be grateful.  And it came in the unexpected package of a very big puppy, who, to loosely quote the following song, “shone a light into my darkness”.

So here’s to leaping through windows of opportunity with reckless abandon!

Joyfully unpacking my heart,

Kim

SUICIDE AFTERSHOCKS: VOL III Southern Women’s Wisdom–Discomfort and the Power of a Pause

During the last few months I’ve found myself referencing my husband’s suicide in conversation as the B.E.  (Bill Event)

and making time distinctions based on before and after Bill did what he did.  It feels healthy for me and lighter than using the word suicide.  He simply did what he did-what he chose to do.business_110009277-012914-int

As time passes and I’m happier and more present, how he died is becoming almost irrelevant.  Interestingly when people ask, I pause to decide how direct I care to be in that given moment as my experience has been that most people can’t really handle the truth of suicide.  They seem ill-equipped to respond without judgment.  Most become highly uncomfortable or pretend they didn’t actually ask how he died, rather than pausing and considering a response.

Suicide.  Just the word causes discomfort. Suicide carries so many judgments—social, religions and familial.  When I do use that word, it’s not that I’m choosing to make others uncomfortable.  I am simply choosing to honor myself and respect the level of comfort I’ve been able to achieve in the aftermath of a horrific situation.

 

58d7e6020950c8147cc62a476d63af49The first statement one of my brothers made to me the day of the B.E. was, “I didn’t know your marriage was that bad”.  He maintained this position and even went so far as to publicly state that he and everyone else knew that Bill’s suicide was my fault.  This was my BROTHER! 

A person I considered a friend commented, “How could you not know—you’re so intuitive. This is what you do!  You must have known this was going to happen!”  This was a FRIEND!

My dad’s reaction to my first and only crying phone call to him in the days immediately following the B.E. was, “Quit living in the past.” He said this just prior to hanging up on me.  This was my FATHER.

So I did the only thing I knew how to do and called a girl friend—

a bit older than me and raised in south central Virginia.  Her wise counsel came in the form of a question.  After hearing my pain over the judgmental and insensitive comments being made, she asked,

“Kim, does your Father have a vagina?  Do any of these people you’re speaking with have vagina’s?

I responded no, that they did not, in fact, have vagina’s.  Her response, classic, quintessential southern pragmatism, “Don’t you know you can’t have a conversation when you’re upset with a person lacking a vagina?

Enough said.  I was laughing while crying and oh, so much better!

A girlfriend I grew up with reminded me gently, “Honey, if common sense was lard, your family wouldn’t be able to grease a pan—I don’t mean you of course!”

Another grand moment came while at different girlfriend’s house in central Virginia.  I walked into a group and reacted – inappropriately– to a random participants comment about the B.E.   I kind of lost it and got angry –I really wanted to kick this person till she bled!  (an inappropriate response, I know–but I did pause!)  To avoid any verbal escalation, I went to my friend and said I need help getting under control!  She responded with,

“Well honey, that’s what the back yard is for—you go on out there and stay as long as it takes and I’ll make you some tea!”

8 or 9 weeks after the B.E. I was heading into a meeting with 2 executives and 7 trainers of a global organ harvesting and transplant organization.  The meeting was taking place because—well, that’s another story!  This meeting was a big deal for me and I was still quite emotional but in the “let’s get’er done” frame of mind and knew I needed bucking up before entering the meeting.  Like every southern girl would—I phoned a friend—with a vagina!  She told me,

“Tighten up that corset, put on your lip gloss, lift up your chest and speak slow and syrupy sweet—you got this.”

Scarlett Tightening up!

Scarlett Tightening-up!

Southern comfort no –alcohol required!

Here’s to the strong, proud and direct women in my circle—southern or otherwise!  Thank you for the perfect and timely wisdom and powerful support!

With warmest aloha,

Kim

Challenge:

Pause.  Practice pausing and taking a breath while you mindfully consider an intentional response.  Perhaps nod your head while you pause so the person you’re with will know you’ve heard them—if on the phone, during your pause make a sound like, “hmmm” so the other knows they’ve been heard.!  This technique can create connection, deepen relationships and communication and allows you to learn to listen from a place of desiring to hear rather than from the place of desiring to be heard.  Pausing often times allows the other to hear themselves, as well!

 

 

Suicide Aftershocks Vol II: Intimacy and Grief and Are Massage Therapists Supposed to Cry???

I’ve found that most people who are not blood related or partners will only hug for about 4 seconds. This seems to be the socially acceptable and proper length of time for non-intimate hugs regardless of relationship.  I’m amazed how uncomfortable people become if expected to rise to the circumstantial need of another when it involves hugging, touch or physical comforting when the other is obviously in emotional pain.

Natural!

We all know how vulnerable it makes us to ask for help when we’ve been emotionally ambushed by life.  One person’s pain cannot be compared to another’s.  We’ve all experienced hurt, loss and pain.  While we feel these emotions along with loneliness and sadness over life’s circumstances, we don’t always feel grief.  Grief occurs generally when there’s a death, (or 7 as in my situation). It can also occur when blindsided by an ending of marriage or career.  All of our emotions require our attention and focus in order to integrate.

But grief requires more.  Grief is intimate and crushing and vast.  It requires thoughtful navigation through its depths to survive intact and eventually nurture the ability to access wholeness, light and joy.  Our culture is comfortable with sharing and bearing witness to accomplishments, successes and happy things, but seemingly has lost its ability to witness personal tragedy, grief and the sometimes ugly growing pains of being a human.

During the first months after my husband’s suicide, I asked a few of my married friends if they or their husbands would be willing to let me lie on the couch and be held by either one of them!  I just wanted to be held—to cry—to be witnessed in my grief or simply not be alone with it for an hour or so.   This request was ignored, brushed off with laughter or agreed to with no opportunity being created for it to happen.  I understand and yet I don’t.

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Backyard Nurturing

Being the capable woman that I am, and unwilling to seek out “companionship” of the one-night-stand sort—

I booked a massage at a reputable establishment and showed up on time.  I informed the 20 something young woman that I was a bit fragile and might cry—that it had nothing to do with her and if I did cry, to please ignore it and move forward with the massage.  Within 20 minutes, I was wrapped in the sheet, sitting on the side of the massage table holding and comforting the therapist as she cried because she lacked the tools to separate her personal issues from mine and did not have the emotional maturity to hold space for my grief (A grief she knew nothing about as I had not shared details).  As I sat holding her, witnessing, comforting and allowing her to show up exactly how she was in that moment, I thought, “WTF?  Am I an idiot?  I’m paying for this?  This is supposed to be about me!  This is what I need from her!”  (MY humanity was showing!)

I realized in that moment that grief makes space.  It opens primal flood gates in our being-ness tearing down all mechanisms of compartmentalization.  It forces access to the deepest parts of ourselves and our shadows and thins the veil between how we are “expected” to behave and show up (shiny and bright) and how we wish we could (tattered and thread bare but real).  Sadly, as a society, we don’t want to see anything other than happy projections.

My grief opened a portal for this young woman to access something she’d turned away from at some point in her life.  Without analyzing it—without speaking or making meaning, we sat in grief together—not exactly how I wanted it, but in communion and authenticity and extremely intimate as we were strangers.(and I was naked wrapped in a sheet in a dark room!)  Our burdens were lighter afterward—although neither one of us would have chosen that scenario.

I realized that I was able to give what I wanted to receive.  There’s a healing power to that.  I did pay and tip this young woman.  I booked another massage at a different location and an almost identical scenario unfolded.  I behaved the same way, with love and allowance, although I paid somewhat begrudgingly this time!  After all, my needs matter just as much as everyone else’s!

While learning a lot about grief and myself through these 2 experiences, I still wanted a massage!  I asked a friend for a referral and was led to a male MT—retired military and specializing in sports massage.  It took me a month to commit.  I finally called and left him this message.  “Hey I’m Kim—I was referred by M.  Here’s the deal–I might cry—been through a lot—if you can’t handle it, don’t call me back.  Thanks.”

Within 30 minutes this therapist called me back laughing and said to come on in, he had daughters and he’d seen worse!  So I did, and I didn’t cry!

Now—a year later, I’m genuinely happy and joyful most of the time.

I’ve noticed that my friends are all comfortable hugging me again and I appreciate and enjoy it.  I’m grateful they’re allowing me to be my normal “touchy” self, without making it mean anything.  At the same time, I recognize that an important opportunity was missed in their inability to be available to and for my pain.

I make these observations without judgment or finger pointing.  They’re simply observations about our humanity.  I truly believe we all show up the best way we can in any given moment.  I can clearly see events in my past where I wish I had been able to show up more fully for my loved ones.  The question is, “do we grow and learn?”

Because of this great opportunity to lean into;  uncomfortable–unhappy–ugly–raw-painful and dark for 6 long years through so many deaths and leavings, I have cultivated the ability to hold multiple states and perspectives at once;

—to agree and disagree; To want and not receive; To receive and not want what is given; to love and despise; to be joyful and grieving; to reject while at the same time accepting; to be angry and forgiving; to have no clue and yet understand deeply.

Had the massage therapists been able to hold multiple states at once– my pain and the task at hand; empathy without sympathy; interconnection without engagement; what different form of healing might have occurred for us all?

Here’s to loving it all, allowing all aspects of our humanity and relentlessly asking for what we want whether we get it or not!

“Hugging is natural, organic, naturally sweet, free of pesticides, and preservatives. Hugging contains no artificial ingredients. It’s 100% wholesome. No calories, no caffeine, no nicotine.” (borrowed form http://www.poofcat.com)

This month’s challenge!  HUG—hug for more than 4 seconds—Go crazy and be one of THOSE people who hug uncomfortably long!  Hug heart to heart—Put your chin over the hug-ee’s left shoulder and breathe deeply!  Give the gift of connection through hugs—(I’m assuming you won’t hug inappropriately!)

With Warmest Aloha,

Kim

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RISE!

SUICIDE AFTERSHOCKS; Beneficiant & What beauty will I create in the space provided? Vol. 1

In 2011, life happened—like life always does and choices were made by me and my husband resulting in our relocating 5000 miles back to Virginia from Kauai in 2013.  For 5 years those happenings in my world presented as family elders becoming ill, 4 deaths, daily care taking, and all the stressors complicit with up-rooting your entire life, careers,  relationships, and the constant daily logistics of dealing with the overlap of our “living” while navigating the dying, illness and the dismantling of lives that had ended.

Fast forward to June 20, 2016.  By 8:00 a.m. that Monday morning, my husband had taken his own life less than 30 feet from where I stood feeding our dogs.

This is the first time I’ve addressed this in a public format.  I am choosing to do so because I find myself, more than 9 months later, benefiting from exactly where I am because of the choices I made, or didn’t  and because of the choices made by my late husband.

The word beneficiary is defined as, “benefiting from; receiving favor; being granted a privilege, or having a gratuity bestowed upon you.

Most often, we equate being a beneficiary with receiving money, property etc., after another’s death.

Having dealt now with 5 deaths and the myriad of legal-ease, documentation and bureaucracy that is required to “officially” close the books on one’s life, I started to explore just how I truly am benefiting from the way my life has shown up, comfortable or not, through my choices or the choices of others.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far….

I learned/ I am beneficiary of/ I choose;

  • I continue to choose raw authenticity when the waves of grief, sadness, regret and reality wash over me.
  • I chose to grieve well—to live the experience completely so I could process it completely and live fully present through it regardless of the pain as a means of self-love so when I arrive at “DONE” I can move forward in freedom.
  • I learned to ask for help, and allowed myself to receive it.
  • Grace—grace for those individuals, family and friends who simply couldn’t show up.
  • Allowance for those who couldn’t show up colored by the fundamental truth and knowing that their inability had absolutely nothing to do with me or their love for me.
  • Deep humility and gratitude for the people who came immediately and who stayed for the dirty work—the aftermath of my raw and seemingly inexhaustible grief, guilt, doubt, self-questioning, etc.. These same people who have stayed and held space for me to find my happiness again and are as equal to the task of allowing my joy as they were my pain.
  • The purge of situations, people and expectations from my life because I was/am no longer willing to show up in familiar roles for “them”. This was painful initially as from the outside looking in I had lost everything.
  • The rebirth of my “beingness” rather than filling a role of “wife, step-mother, friend, caretaker, daughter, sister”.
  • Reclaiming my integrity—self in relation to self. I am no longer willing to let anyone else’s well-being or opinions hold more importance than my own.
  • I continue to benefit from honoring myself—guilt free—for the choices I made knowingly during my marriage and with family members. This gives me the ability to learn from the dichotomy I chose to stay in without victimizing myself or creating drama.
  • I learned to be kind to myself and allowing when I was less than proud of my behavior or reaction in various situations.
  • I learned to “lean into the jib”, and get after creating something beautiful in this huge space that’s been provided.
  • While this may seem harsh or too pragmatic for some, an unnecessary distinction for others,–I fulfilled the terms of my contract—till death do us part—I’m ready for LIFE—and I’m grateful for this feeling of inspiration and excitement.

From one perspective, I “lost” many friendships as people could not hold the space for me to show up other than as the consistent, happy, solution-finding anchor most of my circle experienced me to be.   For others who left, they just couldn’t handle the gritty, ugly, authentic pain as it had the potential of forcing them to rub up against something equally uncomfortable in their own lives.

Beautiful spider web with water drops close-up

Perhaps entangled in all the leavings was an inability of those individuals to allow me the space and the grace of being weak, needy or vulnerable for just a moment in time.  For this I am grateful.  This experience has deepened in me the ability to see beyond a moment and hold space for any moment to morph into the next even more magical possibility.

In the grand scheme of things, that’s the simplicity of what has occurred for all of us these last 9 months.  Moments in time strung together and defined as an experience.

My moments were filled with the crushing weight of holding a loved one while his body released all life that was left as his soul withdrew—by his own powerful choice.  I am the beneficiary of having been imbued with the strength to respond with love and be with him through his death as I was with him through our life.  I was/am blessed with the gift of trust.   This trust allowed me to lean into that vast ocean of grace which was represented by LIFE showing up to support and love me immediately through the people, opportunities, beauty and magical moments that ensued and continue to unfold.

These next 9 months will be the same in that they will be a series of moments strung together which we will define as an experience.

So the questions I ask myself now include, “What beauty will I create in the space that’s been provided?  What intention will I imbue in the moments to come?”

How about you?

With warmest aloha and deep appreciation for all of life,

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RISE!

Kim