My mission in life is to eliminate the stigma related to suicide loss. I lost my brother to suicide in 2002. For a long time, I hid from the reality that I was impacted by sibling suicide loss. The unfortunate reality, up until 2014, is my friends didn’t even know about my deepest loss. They didn’t ask and I didn’t share it.
Why did I not share? I was afraid of being judged. It is hard to understand and my experience has been that people generally don’t want to enter into this pain. There are obvious exceptions to this and for this, I’m forever grateful.
All I wanted was someone to listen to understand rather than try to respond to make everything better. Nothing is going to make it better. We can’t bring Brian back…
We can listen to understand. What does this mean? At least, in part, this means listening without trying to fix anything. If I share this with you I’m not looking for you to fix my situation. I just want to know that I matter and that my emotions matter.
I am a therapist, author, and speaker by profession. This is exactly what I provide in my office, through my book and through any opportunity I have to share my story.
If as a therapist I start to listen to respond then I am no longer providing a helpful opportunity for my clients to learn, grow and process.
Let’s be the best listeners. This isn’t something that we spend a lot of time talking about, but society needs those who are willing to listen to understand- not to fix the situation. There is a time and place to work through and problem solve.
I think by genuinely listening to understand we can help support others in their grief. I believe that the most helpful thing a few of my friends did at the beginning was listening to understand. They didn’t try to provide answers. I didn’t want answers.
I think writing our thoughts and feelings down in a journal is a tremendous way to express our deepest emotions and to be “listened to.” The great thing is that the journal always listens and it only provides “answers” over time.
Nathan S. Wagner MA LPC is a therapist in Harrisburg, PA. He is the author of Sibling Suicide: Journey from Despair to Hope. Pick up a copy at Amazon today.