On Courage, Casseroles and Expressing Sympathy After a Suicide

I felt very loved during the first few weeks after the suicide. Friends and family flew in from near and far; even the best man from my wedding, who lives in Belgium, came to visit. People brought an overwhelming bounty of food and flowers and wine. I would arrive home and find breathtaking floral arrangements and casseroles on the outside table with cards expressing love and sympathy.

expressions_of _sympathy

It was strange the way the house was teaming with activity, alive and vibrant, in spite of the circumstances.

I felt wholly embraced in this space and wanted to bottle up the feeling of connectedness for later reference. At the same time, I felt isolated, an invisible bystander in my own life. My brother asked one day how long I thought all this would last and I guessed about three weeks. It was almost exactly that when people began disappearing back into the life from whence they came.

Life goes on and this journey was mine and mine alone to walk through.

When people started to leave, there was a desperate loneliness, a longing that descended upon me like an unexpected fog bank, and it remained there for quite some time.

Neighbors came wanting to take me to church. I politely declined. Strangers showed up with odd bits of advice and information. Then there was the neighbor who wanted to know if I would sell him my washing machine a couple of weeks into the new life. (I’m still not sure why he thought I wouldn’t need to wash my clothes.)

If that wasn’t strange enough, he came by again and asked if he could purchase the gun. I shot him a quizzical look, confused by the question, until it dawned on me what he was asking. Yes, he was referring to the gun my husband used to take his life.

Sometimes people will astound you.

My favorite people were the swashbuckling pirates who had no regard for the uncomfortable situation that lay between us. They simply strode in, wrapped their arms around me, or my children, and stood in the storm of swirling discomfort, offering a welcome respite.

I am forever thankful for their bravery.

I would never discount the people who silently offered casseroles. Sometimes words elude the best of us and a gastronomic offering from the heart can be the next best thing.

Two years later, I was reunited with an old friend I hadn’t seen for many years. She knew about the suicide, but stayed away. After an auspicious meeting with a mutual acquaintance of ours, I felt compelled to reach out and call her.  She said, “Forgive me, I am weak. I did not have the courage to call you.” I loved the honesty. I love the fact that she didn’t shy away, she just held out her truth for me. It blew my heart open, because during the past two years, I had experienced such sadness over people who vanished, assuming the worst about myself.

Her words made me realize that we are all doing the best we can in each given moment. It isn’t always about me and my story.

I don’t think it is ever too late to reach out to those who have experienced tragedy, although it might feel that way. It isn’t about the words you say or don’t say. To simply place yourself within the range of someone else’s sorrow is a sacred offering in and of itself.

Broken hearts heal best when they are infused with love and compassion.

Have you felt isolated after tragedy? Do you think it is ever too late to reach out?


Who is Dianna Bonny?

Hi, my name is Dianna Bonny. It’s my mission to candidly share my journey with you. For me, it’s all about the healing: to create a radiant healing energy for others who have befallen a similar fate. Together, we can forge beautiful lives of belonging and connection. Thanks for joining me today! I look forward to hearing from you.

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