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.

Geese 2 047

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!