What I learned at my first group for survivors of suicide.

From the series - Learning to Live 

Before my first group meeting I thought a few things about the situation at hand. My dad took his life May 3rd, 2013. I thought I was too busy with work to go to groups, I thought I was too busy to give this notion that it happened a moment of my time, I thought I was angry, I thought I was fine with it, I thought I was alone, I thought he didn't love me, I thought he did, I thought I would never heal, I thought there was no reason to carry on, I thought I was going to retire because life is precious and I can't waste a second working, I thought, "I'm a health coach, surely I should have all of this together and not be weak right now." I thought I couldn't express sadness or pain because I am supposed to be helping people get healthier and how can they trust me when they see me struggle. I thought my broken heart would make my coaching ineffective. I thought friends were always there for each other. I thought both genders committed suicide equally. I thought I didn't need group. I thought wrong. 

What I have learned from Dads passing is that it truly is making me stronger, happier, healthier and a better coach. I knew all of these things before but now my sense of purpose and life is more vibrant and thriving. "Do not dwell on the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." Buddha. Each moment is a chance to make it the best moment ever and by remembering that I have began to build myself again. 

The reason I say I am becoming more happy is because the initial reaction is to be sad, blue, depressed, distant, or any number of melancholy things. To follow the path of being depressed would be to let my mind decide my fate. Since I operate my mind I choose my mood. By deciding to see that life is beautiful and precious I choose to make it happier each second, each hour and each day. When a person makes choices to be happy, then a healthy life is hopefully close behind. 

What makes me happy is going snowboarding, rock climbing, being active and seeing friends and family. In order to do this I must use preventative measures to keep myself healthy to increase my longevity and at a level in fitness that will let me enjoy all life has to offer. A person can have "treats" as much as they like. For myself I feel like those treats are exactly what stands between a faster mile and me. The treats stand between someone with high cholesterol and the operating table. The treat or the insulin. The treat or playing in the yard with kids or pets. The treat or the slopes! The treat or RAGBRAI. The treat or the grave before 60. These are not absolutes but for myself I don't want to look back and say, "Why did I do that?" To live with no regrets means to me to live exactly how I feel is best for myself. What I think is best for me is to give my all to make this the most wholesome, healthy and fun life there is available. Dad's passing has opened my eyes to a healthier life, if that's possible, because now I don't just do it to hopefully live longer, but I do it because I don't want to waste time on the sidelines. We just don't know how much time we have here. 

“The Master said, “A true teacher is one who, keeping the past alive, is also able to understand the present.” (Analects 2.11)” ― Confucius.  Most things that a person encounters in their early years will eventually play out in a negative or positive manner in their life. These feelings can then manifest into their life in a number of ways, that's where I come in as a health coach. Having an outside perspective helps clarify and heal those feelings while taking into account the present situation at hand. The addition to my coaching that has come about since Dads passing is that I am now more fully equipped to reach out to my clients that have had someone pass by either natural causes, accidents, suicide or any way. I had existing patients that after it happened I had a heightened awareness to the topic of death and we were able to determine that a great deal of pain was lingering from a past death. We discussed it at length and now today (well not today but last fall), they were able to go back out to the garden again, reconnected with their spouse and increased their frequency at the gym. I miss dad more than anything in the world but I feel this gift of connecting with clients on a deeper level has made me a better coach. 

The last two things I learned at my first group meeting were shocking. Many people have become distant from or lost all together their friends after their loved one took their own life. I can admit that it has been bizarre for myself but I also have businesses and a family at home (Rob and Chakra). What always seems to come up is that the friend seems to not know what to say. My friends have been amazing. They offer help or comfort. They call, text or visit. Pretty much my friends have stayed the same as they were before it happened. For anyone that is not sure how to approach or react I have included a link at the bottom of the page for helpful information provided by the Survivors of Suicide website. Personally I like talking about Dad. I think many people are shy or not sure what they should or shouldn't stay. To me I reference him like a best friend that has moved away. It's not like he didn't exist! I don't want to lament over the topic but I also do not want to hide it.

The final part that was shocking is the difference in ratio of suicides between men and women, and also the age of those that take their life.  Middle aged men commit suicide 4 times more than women. That figure is shocking and scary. Last night at a table of 10 people ALL of them were there because a male in their life committed suicide. They were a husband, a brother, fathers, friends and in a few absolutely tearful instances, sons. I had once thought it was a "kids" thing, a disgruntled teen or upset college student. 

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of deaths in the US as of 2010. In 2010 someone took his or her life every 13.7 minutes. In the world all-together someone dies every 40 seconds. More people die from suicide than any war or murder. Between 10% to 14% of the general population have suicidal thinking at some point. Suicide is the 2nd biggest cause of death amongst age’s 15-19 year olds. One hundred THOUSAND adolescents die by their own hand each year. The highest rate is the age 45-64. Demographically by race Caucasians have the highest and second being American Indians. MidWest (Iowa) has one of the highest rates. Over 50% use a firearm. 

"Suicidal behavior is a complex phenomenon that usually occurs along a continuum, progressing from suicidal thoughts, to planning, to attempting suicide, and finally dying by suicide." Source: International Associate for Suicide Prevention

We as people were not meant to travel the world alone. Yes we come in and we leave alone, but we are social creatures. Learn from what I learned last night. Review the websites and follow up blogs. Share this on FB, Pinterest, Twitter or any other social media to help everyone avoid this situation at all costs. What I learned in my first group meeting was that I was wrong. I thought I knew it all and that I didn't need a group. I was wrong. I hope we can help others be right. 


Statistics brought to you by http://www.samaritans.org/

How to help a survivor - http://www.survivorsofsuicide.com/help_heal.shtml

Article by NY Times regarding the spike in suicides - http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/health/suicide-rate-rises-sharply-in-us.html?_r=0