Finding Peace After A Tragedy


I am feeling heartbroken and an overwhelming sense of disbelief after the horrific violence and senseless murders in Orlando.

It is difficult for me to comprehend.

The outrage on social media doesn’t make me feel any better, and my opinions on gun control and love and support for the gays isn’t going to take away my pain.

While some will try to make sense of these unspeakable acts by blaming others and spewing more hate into the world, I challenge all of us to make a different choice: Forgiveness. Not because it is easy or the person’s behavior is acceptable (far from it!), but because forgiveness has this magical way of transforming pain and suffering into peace.

We get to be in control of our thoughts and feelings, which is empowering, rather than feeling victimized by the actions of another.

I had a moment where I thought, “Our world is so unsafe right now. I am scared.”

I quickly shifted my perspective to a much more loving one, “I trust I am safe and always protected. There are so many loving people in the world.”

See how much better that feels? We can choose to unsubscribe from fearful thoughts, and replace them with loving ones. Our thoughts will then be reflected back to us, and we will collect more and more evidence as to why the world is a safe place to live and how we are surrounded by kind, loving people.

In her phenomenal best-selling book, A Return To Love, Marianne Williamson said, “Forgiveness of mankind, of everyone in every circumstance, is our ticket to Heaven, our only way home.”

In other words, peace begins with you and me. If we want to live in a peaceful, loving, kind, compassionate world, we must first embody those characteristics ourselves and share them with everyone we meet.

We can’t control others, but by being kind, first and foremost to ourselves, we spread kindness into the world instead of more anger, hatred and fear. I see so many people on Facebook outraged by the violence, and they have every right to be, but then they treat themselves and others poorly. When I ask if they are donating money or volunteering their time, they say, “No.”

It is extremely easy to point fingers and blame laws and politicians, and you will be justified in your anger and opinions in many instances, but you will not be happy or at peace.

If we think it’s going to take a long time to heal, it will. If we think people are evil, it will be reflected back to us.

One decision can make you free right now. Forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” ~Mark Twain


What I Know For Sure About Grief

KateE1 Lily Cummings Photography

The best way to describe my experience with grief is like having my head in the clouds, only my entire being is not just in the clouds, but of the clouds, floating around half-numb, half-deeply stricken with a pain that is uncontrollable and at times unbearable.

If that sounds horrible, that’s because it is, and it is nearly impossible to predict when a wave of depression will come along and take me out with its force, knocking me under for days or weeks at a time, giving me no other choice but to rest, slow down and surrender.

I used to try and fight it, telling myself my deceased loved ones would want me to be happy. Stay positive, remember the good times, don’t cry, it will be ok.

I have love and compassion for people who have not experienced a great love and loss, and have no idea what to say or how to react to losing someone so dear to suicide. But just like you would not tell me to try and control Mother Nature and the ocean, please do not suggest I can control my grief.

Believe me if I could, I most certainly would. It does not feel good. Like a surfer being taken out by a huge, powerful wave, you simply and literally have to ride it out.

I never thought I would be an “expert” in healing from and dealing with grief, but after two of the loves of my life both killed themselves in one year, I’ve come to understand grief more than I’d care to.

If you are or have been experiencing grief, here’s what I’d like you to know:

You are not going crazy, you are recovering: 

The intense, uncontrollable feelings of pain, confusion, shock, fatigue and exhaustion were foreign to me. I remember leaving work one evening, walking into a coffee shop, ordering my drink and sitting down at a table to relax. Seemingly out of nowhere, I started sobbing. There was no stopping my tears. I missed him. I didn’t understand why. I couldn’t bear to think of the amount of pain he must have been in to jump off a bridge out of nowhere, unknowingly transferring his pain on to those of us who loved him so much. I cried knowing I would never see him again, touch him, look into his eyes and smile, hear his voice, hold his hand.

It was all too much. And there I was, sitting by myself in a coffee shop in the middle of Manhattan, surrounded by people, feeling isolated and alone—that same feeling my two friends must have felt when they took their own lives at such a young age.

When I reached out to friends and family, I got the, “I’m sorry, you’ll be ok,” response. I felt more alone. They couldn’t feel my pain. I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody, but was it normal to be feeling this sad?

Whatever feelings are coming up for you are “normal,” and are there to help you heal. As the saying goes, “You have to feel it to heal it.” Try to embrace your emotions, rather than fight or control them. Find a friend or support group who understands what you are going through, and try to remember your loved one is now at peace.

Stop judging: 

Some days I think to myself, “Shouldn’t I be feeling better by now?” Even though it’s only been five months. I get irritated that all my body wants to do is rest. Really, another nap? I have things I want and need to do! How much time is it going to take to get over this?

The answer is, all long as it takes.

It isn’t about getting over something, it is about creating a new normal: 

Surviving the death of a loved one, especially a sudden, traumatic suicide isn’t something to “get over.” We have to accept that we will never be the same person, and that’s ok. Opening up and sharing your story will help both you and others heal. You can choose to turn your pain into your purpose, and offer some sort of peace and comfort to others.

Easy does it: 

Be extremely gentle with yourself. If this means not getting out of your pajamas and staying home all day doing nothing then so be it. No judgment. Radical self care goes a long way when it comes to healing and dealing with grief. Bubble baths, healthy, nutritious meals, walks in nature, journaling, spa treatments and naps are always on my agenda.

If we want to be supported, we must learn to support ourselves first. Check in with your body, head, heart and soul, and ask, “What do you need to feel better/great/happy/cared for?

Grief is different for everyone: 

Comparison is never a good idea, but especially when healing from grief. One person may deal with their pain by staying extremely busy and active while another may need to stay in bed for a week. There is no right or wrong, good or bad when it come to healing, unless you are causing harm to yourself or others.

You are not alone:

There are dozens of professional organizations available to those of us who need grief counseling. All it takes is asking for help. People want to assist us in our recovery.

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