Surviving… Thriving

23 years ago I was almost 8 months into the journey of loosing my mom to suicide. If I am honest, I don’t really remember much from that year. I remember going to class and hanging out with friends. I remember my dad trying his hardest to continue traditions. You can say I was surviving…

Fast forward to this week. I have been volunteering with AFSP for over five years. This year I was honored that part of my journey was included in their annual report. Based on the questions I answered, I was highlighted today as a volunteer on social media.

The quote is based on my deep desire for those who suffer to not suffer in silence. I held guilt and shame deep in my heart for ten years and I work so others don’t have to have that burden. As I was reading comments on Instagram, one stuck out: “Love the notion that the two can exist at the same time. Survive and thrive!”

You see when I wrote the words that were quoted, my desire was for people to understand that at some point you no longer just survive a suicide loss, you thrive. For me it was a dichotomy: survive or thrive… and boy was this thinking faulty.

Our society is fully of dichotomies and it seems in the last few years it has only gotten worse. You are either good or bad. I either love or hate you. I agree 100% with you or disagree 100%. We have not left anything between the two… in reality we have not allowed for the complexity of life… the complexity of being human.

If I am honest, there are times I am thriving and then there are days I am back to surviving in regards to my mom’s death. The last six months have included more days of surviving my mom’s suicide than it has in a decade. I have crumbled in ways that I thought were a distant memory. Yet even on the days that crushed my heart, I find there were moments that I was thriving… and that is where the complexity of surviving and thriving live.

When I was a practicing counselor it was around the time the movie “The Dark Knight” came out. I hated the movie (too much violence and it was so dark), but it didn’t stop me from using it in sessions with clients. Many of my clients struggled with viewing their entire being as “bad” because of one action (if I am honest, I have struggled with the same thinking). I used the movie to challenge their thinking. I would ask if Batman is good or bad. They all would quickly respond and say good (how could they not, he is a superhero). I would point out that in the newest installment of his story while he is “good” some of his actions were more than suspect.

We are complex, we are human and dichotomies hurt all of us. Each day I live there are parts of my day that are amazing, they are parts that are difficult, but most of the day is in the middle without an extreme. The feelings and emotions ebb and flow as easily as the waves on the beach. And until we embrace the reality we continue to suffer.

I am grateful to say even in the last six months I have thrived more than survive my mom’s death, but I also am working to have grace for myself on the days that are more about surviving. I am learning to embrace where I am in the moment instead of demanding myself to be in a place that is not my reality. The more I learn to embrace the humanity of myself, the more I extend this humanity to others. We all survive some days and we all thrive others… but no one lives in one extreme. We are complex, we are human… and so are those around us.

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