This is Written for the Living
I am writing this for the living, for those of us who have had to cope with the suicide of a loved one or close friend. In my case it was the suicide of my dearest and best friend, Larry Harpel, who took his own life on the night of October 15, 2005. The death of anyone we love is hard to accept, but when it’s suicide we are left facing a cold, blank wall, without solace or comprehension. I stood at that wall, torn between wanting to punch it in rage and longing to simply dissolve into oblivion. For a time I simply sat in quiet meditation. Then my search for understanding, healing, and forgiveness motivated me to begin writing to Larry.
All suicides are unfinished conversations. There is so much that we-the-living still need to say and want to hear from those who take their own lives leaving us with no opportunity to communicate. Aided by my practice of mindfulness and meditation I soon discovered that writing could be used as a means of continuing the conversation between the departed and the survivor. I don’t mean this in any supernatural sense. I mean simply putting pen to paper to write a letter or open up a new dialogue. After Larry’s suicide I deliberately set out to finish my conversation with him through an on-going journal that became the basis of the book, Unfinished Conversation: Healing from Suicide and Loss—A Guided Journey. I offer my chronicle to inspire and support each survivor’s personal journey through grief and healing.
I encourage each survivor to create their own Grief and Healing Journal as a place to write their thoughts and feelings. For it is in these private pages that a person begins to reestablish the revived conversation with the departed. It is in these personal moments that the conversation can unfold, and with it the eventual healing that the writer of the journal will experience as I did. I strongly believe that this process of self-healing comes from writing it down—or the struggle to write it down. We can all do it. You don’t have to be a “writer” to do it. Trust it as a method, as a tool through grief to wholeness.
Each chapter in this book reveals a step I took in my healing process and is followed by a set of related exercises created along with my collaborator and co-writer Marilynne Chöphel MFT, inviting readers to express their own feelings and experiences to gain clarity about the meaning of what happened. Creating their own Grief & Healing Journal will allow readers to say all that they may have wanted to say when their loved one was alive, and to express their reactions to what he or she has done. Readers will have the opportunity to write down their emotions—all the regret, anger and disappointment, and perhaps all of the forgiveness, understanding, and love – that support the healing process.