You Are Not Alone: by Alicia Vela

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Alicia shares her story and how she has found healing along the way after her uncle’s suicide.

I was in 7th grade when it happened. I had come home from a school dance and the moment I walked in the door I knew there was something wrong. The air felt dense in every room. My dad called me into the living room and sat me down. I can still remember the look on his face, one of extreme sorrow and pain. I didn’t even fully understand. I don’t think I had ever even heard the word “suicide” before, the concept felt strange in my head.

The following days passed quickly, we flew back for the funeral. Cousins, aunts, uncles and my rock of a grandmother surrounded me. Everyone’s face seemed happy to see each other and filled with sorrow at the same time. My twelve year old mind couldn’t even really compute what all was happening.

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Alicia on the day of her uncle’s funeral.

All of our lives kept going, but now with this massive hole in it. I tried to keep a brave face if only because my dad couldn’t. I saw it in his face, the pain of loss always hiding just behind his eyes. I heard his cries and tried to stifle my own. I was angry, not at my uncle but at this situation. I suddenly was privy to this sense of hopelessness and despair that had never known but that I grew to hate. I knew his pain was real, I knew that he must not have seen a way out and I was angry that this pain existed. And that it had now been transferred to the rest of us. Now we would have to learn to cope with this loss. We would have to find answers to questions that we didn’t know existed.

Life as I had known it, a quiet life in a small town in New Jersey, was now filled with questions and mysteries. I experienced grief in a real way, not in a observatory way through tv and movies but in a tangible way in my own life. I had feelings that I couldn’t explain.  So my mom took me to the only place she could think of to help me cope – the church.

We started going every Sunday. I received my first communion as a middle schooler, alongside the group of second graders who had been raised in the church. I started attending youth group and kept seeking answers to these massive questions I had about life, death and everything in between.

I kept going; working through this new piece of baggage I was carrying.  And as I’ve grown up, I’ve lost some baggage, added some new ones, but this one remains. Not in a way to imply I haven’t dealt with it, but as a reminder that hopelessness and despair are all around me. This is the broken world we live in.  But God is also all around and has the power to give hope to the hopeless.

They say that time heals all wounds, but I would say that time dulls all wounds or maybe numbs.  The only true healing comes from God, the kind of healing that lets us get up the next day and keep going.

Washington Irving once said, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.” In my adult life it has given me great comfort that it is okay to grieve, to cry over the loss of a loved one. A tragic loss that feels like it comes out of no where and knocks the wind out of you.  Tears help you to name that grief, contrition, and love that you are feeling.  And when shared in communion with God and with others, can bring the wholeness that you are longing for in your heart.

So dear friends, if this pain is real in your life, if you’ve felt that gut-wrenching breathtaking sorrow of losing a loved one to suicide – you are not alone.  Reach out and talk about it.  Be honest about where your heart is with those around you.  You don’t have to walk this path alone.

To read more from Alicia, check out her blog HERE.