“I’m just goin’ down the road feelin’ bad,
tryin’ to get to Heaven before they close the door.”
This phrase from the Bob Dylan song (from his 1997 album, Time Out of Mind) has been on my mind from the moment I woke up this morning. It took me until noon to figure out why. Five years ago today, my brother Steve had been goin’ down the road feelin’ bad. Five years ago today, he drove his well-worn red truck into a gravel pit on the outskirts of Kindersley, Saskatchewan, Canada, and took his life.
Bob Dylan was his hero in life. Bob Dylan’s music is Steve’s emissary in death.
In 2008, I launched Did You Know I Would Miss You? – A Healing Journey, a memoir/guidebook about mending the heart after losing a loved one to suicide. (I’ll be giving a talk about it at Banyen Books in Vancouver on May 13 6:30-8:00 PM.) Having felt pretty light ever since, I have assumed that I no longer needed to walk the healing path.
On January 24, 2010 at 6:00 PM, I’m going to be giving a talk at Valley View Funeral Home in Surrey, BC to a group of folks who have lost loved ones to suicide. It’s the first talk I’ve given since the launch of my book, Did You Know I Would Miss You? in November, 2008. Why has there been such a delay, given that I wrote it because people need it, and given that I’ve had a lot of great feedback on it from my readers? In fact, this is my first blog about loss by suicide. What’s that about? My hunch is that I haven’t wanted to acknowledge my loss. I was naive after producing my book, thinking that by telling the truth about my brother’s suicide and about my own grief, guilt, shame, and regret, and by charting the healing process for others, that I would somehow leave it all behind me and it would never be able to hurt me again. Talk about magical thinking. My hunch is that the sense of loss just goes underground, into the subconscious. Not necessarily a bad thing. Who wants to continually and consciously feel the pain of losing a loved one in such a sad and brutal way? We wouldn’t be able to function. But pain that is lodged in the subconscious can still affect us. It can prevent us from taking risks, from living fully, from feeling the full spectrum of our feelings, from being creative… In my case, it has prevented me from sharing my book, the single most important work of my life – at least so far.
So how do we deal with this loss that knows no bounds? From a loss that, according to the American Psychiatric Association, is comparable to surviving a concentration camp? Recognize that it’s bigger than our will or our egotistical insistence that we’re immune or have transcended it. Acknowledge it, breathe into it, and see it as a reminder of our humanity. Suffering is part of the human experience, at least for most of us. When we try to deny that, or gloss over it, we separate ourselves from our loved ones who are still living, and from other wounded humans. At the heart of our suffering is our love. Something we have never lost and never will. Let’s send love to that inconsolable part of us and to all others who have suffered loss by suicide or by some other means. Let’s send love to our brothers and sisters who couldn’t bare the pain and took their lives. Let’s share the love that also knows no bounds.