No matter how you slice it, saying goodbye is never easy. It’s painful! We have many situations in our lives that require us to say goodbye to what has been familiar and most important to us. It can be a final goodbye as with death or at times it is just a change in the way things have been. Sometimes we have the luxury of preparing emotionally for the goodbye, as with a long term illness or currently in my life saying goodbye to close friends who are moving to the East Coast.
We want to find closure, therefore finding some sense of peace. Having the time needed to say goodbye can be helpful with creating that sense of closure. But sometimes we have a shocking loss, as with an unexpected end of an important relationship, a sudden death due to an accident, health issue or suicide. When we don’t have that opportunity to prepare, we don’t get that chance to say goodbye. This is the road I have been on for four years. Grieving a sudden loss is a very different experience from grieving an expected loss. It requires a much more thoughtful and nurturing approach. With suicide the road is especially complex. We are left with a multitude of unresolved emotions and possible trauma that take us to unimaginable depths of pain and despair.
On the night of Claude’s suicide, I was given the opportunity to see him before they took his body to the hospital. Of course, my first impulse was to rush to his side, wanting desperately to be with him, hold his hand, wrap my arms around him and kiss him one last time. It took all the strength I had to hold myself back from going out there. What would be the point, I thought, he was gone, that body was no longer my husband. The thought of having to see him again terrified me. I was already reeling from the trauma from finding him an hour earlier, that haunting image locked into my mind’s eye. I felt that I needed to protect myself from yet another image that would seemingly be equally traumatic. Sometimes though, I wonder if I made the “right” decision. Sometimes I regret not going out there to see him one last time. I will never know if that would have made me feel worse or would have brought me some measure of closure. I like to think I made the decision that was best for me in that moment. It still makes me cry to think about it.
One thing that I have learned, is that when it is time to say goodbye to whatever or whoever it might be, there is truly a higher purpose for all those concerned. Even when it does not appear that way on the surface. Even when we can’t make any sense of it at the time. When one part of the puzzle needs to change so do the corresponding pieces. We are not living in a vacuum. What happens to one happens to all. We are all part of an intricate web with each strand serving an important purpose keeping the structure in place. Each of us has an important role in this play of life. The mystery is in how it all unfolds with such perfection. We only need to show up to participate in the magic with curiosity and commitment to serving our part with love and grace.
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