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For the past two years I’ve lost a loved one to suicide inside your month. There – I said it.
It’s been a quiet grief. These have been difficult deaths to process and, not knowing what’s acceptable to say in public, I’ve kept mostly quiet out of respect for those who mourn.
And yet, I am also mourning. My pain is real and it remains. Same too with the unanswered questions which linger, like debris that’s sunk to the bottom of the ocean – still there, but normally out of sight.
Autumn has been unusually warm and charming this year. The golden leaves that glisten skyward in the hot sun. Jupiter hanging out at sundown next to the moon. It’s been hard to reconcile today’s beauty with yesteryear’s yearning for one more chance to show that it’s worth waiting for brighter days. This October, a new chance presented itself.
My heart began to pound when I missed a call from my friend, a single male in his 30s. His profile resembling that of the ones I’ve lost to suicide. In haste, I dropped everything to call him back. Once the initial catch-up chit chat tapered, I expressed my concern and asked: “How are you doing?”
He said he feels fine for several weeks. Then for a week he can barely drag himself out of bed. The depression. The anxiety. This time of year is worse than the dead of winter, at least then he can skate and ski. The warmth and light of summer is exchanged for cooler, darker, shorter days. These destabilizing changes upset familiar routines. Autumn is the toughest time of year for him.
I felt sincere gratitude that he put words to his pain. I was so thankful that he reached out. Because, if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have known how he was feeling and I wouldn’t have known he needed support. Only God saves, however, I can be a source of support pointing toward the light.
I want him to know what I wanted my cousin and friend to know, and what I want you to know too: You are loved. You are wanted. You are an irreplaceable gift. The world needs you. Your pain is not a burden. It unlocks compassion in this oftentimes cruel world. You are responsible for your wellness, but I want to be present to you. You are not alone. This too will pass. I’ll stand alongside you until it does. I love you. And God loves you more.
October, my eyes used to be unaware of your underbelly. Until the shock. The agony. The confusion. The guilt. The anger. The reflection. The compassion. The remembrance. The magnitude of these feelings that were once foreign but have now become familiar. Lost innocence. No turning back. This is what it means to be human in relationship with other humans. Love has shattered my heart.
Yet, my faith grounds me, especially in times of violence, oppression, suffering, loss and grief. I remain firm in hope – a supernatural hope rooted in mercy and forgiveness.
Fr Tim Boyle
10/24/2022 08:11:55 am
Hi Sara,Thank you for your letter.. these losses especially when we were not able to be together seem so much more difficult to bear. A friend and I were called last December to support a daughter whose father had just taken his life. Two other friends lost dear ones to medical death.We need to talk about these losses and to do so without offending the sensibilities of those who think we should be discrete.Once again thank you so much..Fr. Tim Boyle
10/28/2022 10:35:32 pm
Thank you for being the first to respond to my letter. Hearing that it resonated with at least one person meant so much to me. And knowing that I’m not alone in confronting loss in these last couple of years, especially, brings a sense of connectedness. Thank you for reaching out.
10/24/2022 06:14:02 pm
I am finding this October to be the most difficult one I've ever experienced. This entire year has been difficult. When I read your letter, it gave me renewed hope that I am not alone, I am not a burden to society, that I am loved, especially by God, but most especially that I'm needed even if I don't feel it. I'm so sorry for your loss and I love your letter. I am grateful for your profound words.
10/28/2022 10:41:10 pm
Dear Claudia, Indeed, you are not alone. These past couple of years, the last year in particular, has been one of the toughest times of my life as well. I’m sorry it’s been so tough for you, and I’m so grateful we have found one another (at least online) to validate one another’s experience. I’ll pray for you, please pray for me!
10/24/2022 09:50:50 pm
Hello Sarah, may God Bless your heart and thanks for sharing your letter. Kind regards - Lawrence
10/28/2022 10:53:43 pm
Dear Lawrence, You have no idea what your simple words of encouragement have meant to me. Thank you dearly. Yours truly, Sara
10/25/2022 10:22:09 am
10/28/2022 10:44:29 pm
O Peggy, what joy your eloquent words brought me. What a gift to read your feedback, which summarizes what I hoped to have conveyed to the readers: “a heart broken open by love to release the balm of compassion.”
10/26/2022 05:59:41 pm
What a profound and beautiful article. You are brave Sara and I commend you for putting your heart and these words out in this public space. Only when we can be open and authentic with our feelings, can healing take place. May your words help others, as well as you and your own family, heal in such turbulent times.
10/28/2022 10:51:33 pm
Melanie, You are right to say that healing comes from bringing our wounds out from darkness into the light. Holding on to shame, guilt, confusion doesn’t make them go away, in fact, it can make them grow stronger. Thank you for being a soft place to land as I put words to my grief.
11/23/2022 09:47:58 am
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Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers