On the evening of April 9, 2015, the world I known would change forever. I had come from work expecting to spend some time with my mother when I uncovered the fact that my mother had decided to take her life and leave the world she had known.
From there, the chaos and confusion began. It was a like a tsunami had hit our world and our lives were shattered forever. From that point on, it was a strange surreal experience which is very difficult to explain to anyone who has not experienced it directly. We would proceed to do the funeral arrangements and prepare our parents’ home for sale.
While this was going on, I knew I needed to do something to heal my shattered emotions, and at first, I contacted the grief counselling program given by Alberta Health Services and then I was referred to the Canadian Mental Health Association. I began with individual counselling and then proceed to do group counselling that would carry on into 2016. In total, I think I did 26 hours of counselling. Little by little, my situation improved as I began to regain my life. I would begin going back to work at the University of Calgary Law Library where I lived and worked for more than a decade, and then proceed to work through the healing process. In the group session we would talk about the reasons for our loved ones decision, and go through the ways in which the suicide affected and the various strategies to cope. A highlight was the Survivors of Suicide Day held every year on the first Saturday of November. From there, I would find many people at different ages who has lost a family member or loved describe their individual experiences which would mirror the experiences in the group session.
After my group counselling program ended, I continue to stay in touch with other members in a social group to give support until it was disbanded some months later. I would then change my jobs to get some new experiences and I would carry on with the French Immersion courses, start working with my local union(which continues as I write this letter), and continue to strengthen my relationships with my family and my friends. The old cliché about tragedies bringing families is true in my case.
In addition to this, I have traveled to Italy and Greece and plan to carry on travelling in the future. I still experience sadness from time to time at certain times and I sometimes find myself wondering what the meaning of this is, but on the whole, things are much better-as everyone in my family and friends has told me.
I can truly say that I am a real survivor. I could not have done this without my family, friends, co-workers, my union local, and specifically CMHA. I write this partly as therapy, but as I, hope an inspiration to others who are currently going through this. I also want this message to go to the men. I was the sole male in my group counselling and that really is not an encouraging development. If this blog posting can changes minds in any small way, it will be worth the time.
I realize that my tragedy was filled with my advantages which simply don’t exist for many people in our society, but it does show that counselling and therapy can work but only if you are open to it. No one deserves to suffer in silence.