Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? They have passed like rain on the mountain, like wind in the meadow. The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow. How did it come to this?
King Theoden, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
In a scene in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, faced with a devastating crisis, the king wonders, “How did it come to this?” He didn’t look to blame anyone. In bewilderment, he just posed the question out loud, and determined to help his people, led them into battle.
If you’re not familiar with the story line, by themselves, they would not have succeeded, but help came in time to wrap around the “enemy” and together, the battle was won. It is a story of resilience and hope.
Family members and close friends of loved ones who have had a recent suicidal crisis often find themselves in the same position: how did it come to this? I did. And as so many of us do in fear and when faced with a world-shattering, personal crisis such as a suicide attempt, it’s human and instinctive to want to lash out and blame someone or something. To fight “the enemy.” The fear and confusion is no less when trying to understand and support a loved one who self-injures or struggles with suicidal thinking.
The questions around the “how did it come to this” may eventually be answered. But right now, the focus needs to be on what do we – not “I” – but what do we as family/friends do next? Your loved one will have a plan of action, a safety framework, counseling, maybe in-patient care and more. Those will be the first steps of a long journey.
And as I found out many years ago, my journey was just as long and was tangled up with my focus on my loved one, forgetting I had too had been traumatized. The “enemy” is fear. There were some very basic steps I had to take in order to even begin my own self-care and healing.
- Eliminate the word blame from my vocabulary and thoughts.
- Do not blame anyone, including myself.
- Stop searching and prodding for “reasons why.” They will be revealed over time - maybe.
- Recognize that, as the family/friends of someone in a suicidal crisis that I needed to do something about my own inner fears and anger before I can be of any help to my loved one.
And no one told me that or guided me to resources to help me achieve these emotional and spiritual goals (because there were none). No one told me that this was merely the tip of the iceberg of the work I needed to do with self-care. And that’s why I’m sharing this now. As the number of suicide deaths in this country increase, we have no reason to believe that the real number of suicide attempts has decreased. That means there are arguably millions of people just like me wondering, “How did it come to this?” You are not alone, but it is important to break the silence so we can come to the table and share our lived experiences in ways to stay emotionally and spiritually balanced. Only then can we be of any really support and help to our loved ones in suicidal crisis.
Copyright (c) 2017 Annemarie Matulis, Is This the Night: Finding Inner Peace, a self-care guide for family & friends impacted by the suicidal crisis of a loved one.
Copyright (c) Annemarie Matulis 2017 Creative Commons License CC BY-ND 4.0