A post from Anne Thorn of Cornwall, England -- "Will I Ever Get Over the Guilt?" -- reminded me of the singular path that each of us follows, and I am thankful to her for describing a part of her journey. In brief, three things helped her reconcile her feelings of guilt after her son, Toby, died by suicide: (1) something the author of this little booklet wrote on the topic (see pp. 16-20), (2) this handout from LaRita Archibald, and (3) this advice from her physician:
When I went to my GP and I told him that I would have found it easier to cope with losing Toby if he had died of an illness ... he said to me "Your son did die of an illness, it was called depression."Now, I might have thought (and you might think, as well), "if those three things helped her deal with her feelings of guilt, maybe they'll help me," which is an altogether reasonable -- and very hopeful -- assumption. In fact, for me, the awareness that my father died from the disease of depression was extraordinarily helpful in coping with my feelings of guilt.
However, when I go to the contents of the booklet and the handout, I find some ideas that do not line up -- for me -- with what is helpful regarding guilt. The booklet gives a prescription (tells me what to do, exactly) that I dont agree with, and the handout makes a bold statement about personal responsibility that I half agree with but half don't.
Even so, those items were obviously helpful to Anne (for she is recommending them to others). Would I recommend them to others? Absolutely, yes I would.
Why? Because if one survivor found them helpful, another might also find them helpful. The booklet was was written for the American Association of Suicidology by Jeffrey Jackson, who is a survivor of suicide loss, and the handout's author, LaRita Archibald, is a survivor and a leading expert in the field. Most of all, I would recommend them because, to come full circle, "Everybody's journey is different."Nobody's way of grieving is right or wrong. Survivors who share what has been helpful to them, like Anne and Jeffrey and LaRita, are offering an invitation, as 12-Step groups say, to "take what you want and leave the rest." We are strengthened by our diversity -- by our sharing and our conversations about our differences -- as well as by our awareness of all that we have in common.