That Sunday morning that I found Adam’s body in the car in the garage was the worst day of my life.

The horror that is suicide produces a grief that is like no other. It is not like the lingering death from cancer. In spite of the fact that death from a heart attack is sudden and life-wrenching, it is not like suicide.  Suicide is like an insult. It is sudden, yes, but it is an optional act. In the minds of the survivors, it didn’t need to happen. It was a choice and for that matter, an irrational choice.

But in the mind of the one who commits the act, it is perfectly logical; in fact, it is the only reasonable way out.

There are three stages to surviving a loved one’s suicide. The first is the initial impact. Could we have seen it coming? Did we do enough to prevent it? Was it our fault?

These are questions that are both inevitable and illogical, aren’t they? We are not at fault. We didn’t cause it.

The second stage is the towering waves of grief that wash over us, taking control of our lives, our minds, our very being.

I’m here to tell you about the third stage. This is the stage of overcoming your grief and regrouping. Reinventing yourself. Even though your life will never be the same as it was before, it doesn’t have to be the end of everything. It can be the beginning. Today can be the day that you retake control of your life.

I was living in the hell of remembrance. I couldn’t let go of the day I came downstairs on that Sunday morning to an eerie quiet. There was a door connecting the laundry room with the garage. Through it I could hear a car running. I needed to open the door, but there are some doors in our lives that should not be opened. This was one of them. But I had no choice.

As I opened it, I was met with a toxic cloud of fumes. I opened the overhead door and as the haze cleared I could see Adam in the driver’s seat. When he died, I resented him for what he did to me. Yes, me. I was so immersed in feeling sorry for myself that I had no thoughts about what he had done to himself or the rest of his family and friends. I couldn’t forgive him nor could I forgive myself for not forgiving him. It was I who was the victim in my own mind.

Finally, after a year, I decided that I had suffered enough, that I had to move on. To reinvent myself in something other than my victim mode. Obviously, the grief came from the past and what had happened to Adam. I resolved to try to drop the negative past and to hold on to all the good things that happened in my life. It also became time to forgive Adam for committing suicide; time to forgive me for not forgiving him. After a while, compassion needs to replace anger. I learned to say to myself: enough.

Then I started to worry about the future and all the bad things that might happen to me and my family. I resolved to try to drop the thoughts of the fearful future and think of all the good things that would certainly come my way in the coming years. It came as an epiphany one day that what I was doing was removing myself from the negative past and the fearful future; where did this leave me? In the present. What I came to call the NOW.

Living in the NOW is to recognize this minute for what it is and what it means to you.  To recognize the wonder of the moment. Appreciating what is right here, whether sensory or mental. To gather up all the positives in your life and draw them into you.

To be present in every living moment is to be here, now.  To be fully engaged in and focused on whatever you’re doing or experiencing.

As time went by, I developed ideas into 10 Steps. Here’s a few, a way to start not only surviving grief but overcoming it:

Step 1: Accept your grief. Don’t try to walk away from it. You couldn’t if you tried. Instead, walk into your grief. Let it happen.

Step 2: Time to move on. Sooner or later you will decide that you have suffered enough and it’s time to move on. To regain control over your life. The time has come for you to start taking care of you. When will this happen? Only you can tell. It might be six months, or a year or more. But you will know when it’s right for you.

Step 3: Start to cope with being alone. You won’t have your loved one in your life any more; the suddenness, the emptiness, catches you by surprise. Eventually you’ll come to recognize what you need and reach out to others.

We have space limitations here but my book, Now: Overcoming Crushing Grief by Living in the Present, describes in considerably more detail all 10 Steps that we developed.

These Steps will become your personal map to guide you, one that you will tailor to your own needs and that will enable you to overcome the grief that has become so much a part of you.

You are a much more resilient person than you think you are. You need to build on all the small successes you have already accomplished. Think of a rubber band. In its normal resting state it is of little value. Only when it is stretched does it fulfill its potential. Only then is it holding everything together. You are your own rubber band. You are that resilient person.

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Jack Cain

Jack Cain

Jack Cain lost his wife, son, and daughter in a 20-month period. In his book, Now: Overcoming Crushing Grief by Living in the Present, co-authored with his new wife Dr. Anne Hatcher Berenberg, Jack, 77, describes his painful past and offers a 10-step program for regaining control of a person’s life after experiencing loss. Jack is a writer, trained chef, and photographer. His latest book is currently available on Amazon.com; ISBN 978-0-578-01155-4. You can reach Jack at johnjcain270@yahoo.com Jack Cain has written 4 books, including Now: Overcoming Crushing Grief by Living in the Present (co-authored by Anne Hatcher Berenberg) and is a contributor to Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing After Loss by Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley. The survivor of 3 deaths in his family within a 20 month period--his son, his wife, and one of his daughters--he has also written articles on grief that have appeared in several publications, as well as giving talks on overcoming grief. Jack has been a businessman, a pastry chef, and a recruiter. Currently, he focuses his attention on writing, volunteer work, and his grandchildren. At the moment, he is finishing Max and MB, a book for middle grade children and working on a new book of fiction for young adults. Dr. Anne Hatcher Berenberg, Ph.D. co-authored the commentary sections at the ends of chapters and the Ten Steps, taking primary responsibility for the Reinforcements which conclude each step. Anne has a B.A. in Social Relations from Harvard University, an M.A. in Psychology from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the City University of New York. Her background and experience as a clinical psychologist, currently in private practice, formerly as Director of Psychology at the Josselyn Center for Mental Health in Northfield, Illinois, as well as her personal experience of having been widowed, has given the book an important added dimension.

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