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Moving Through Flashbacks as a Suicide Loss Survivor

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Currently, with my wholeness journey, the inner work seems to be focused on what I call the “spot.” Fifteen months ago, it was a huge infinite abyss with no edges or borders. Today, it has reduced down to the “spot.” If I think about it, then the mind tells me there are still any number of “opportunities” in there, but it is now more defined and focused, more healed from the strategies of mending. If I place my hand over it, then my heart is allowing some thawing to its protective numbness of feeling.

• What is PTSD?

In bringing awareness to the thawing of my heart, it is the repetitive flashbacks from the actual events on the day of his death that have created a sojourning nature within me. The memories of that day lead to recollections of the hardship during the extreme behavior of his mental illness. These recollections flood into the difficulties of the relationship itself, of the years gone by and those difficulties then move into the loving essence that kept the relationship intact and tied together. These sudden bursts of flashbacks are multitudes occurring within milliseconds. Putting a word on their numbing effect is something I have not been able to do, but now I can step across all of its vastness and place it in the “spot.” This makes it more manageable.

I contemplate my own stigma regarding flashbacks or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with this suicide loss. I judge that for me it should be a simple transition of letting go, erasing and changing the experience. In reality, it is not as easy as flipping a switch on or off. It is enticed in my subconscious, and at some level of pain, it keeps focus on the remembrance of everything the trauma was.

The key word is “was.” The trauma is not in the present linear moment, but it is a present flashback of a memory that was and is no more. I will have joyful memories from the past. I will have painful memories from the past. Both can be bittersweet and both can trigger a visceral response. From an observer’s view, I can perceive both as recalled thought constructs, giving me opportunity to love the loss and sorrow in my understanding of the present moment of now.

When these flashbacks occur, I am encouraged to ask “Why this? Why now? Why in this way?” to aid my steps in the peaceful calming of the visionary attachments of emotions I hold onto. These questions assist to the awakening of a softness in my heart and an awareness of my soul that these choices I make in life, regardless of the manner they are made and regardless of the egoic nature they succumb, are the peeling away of the associated spiritual chaos of my confusion from an existence which lends itself to my attachments in life events.

My traumas are just that, mine. Mine to hold, to caress and soothe. Mine to challenge every understanding of my internal world of vision, dreams and memories. Repeating in my thoughts, repeating in my physiology, histology and biology. Depleting the biochemical balances of my functioning human condition. Repeating until they can get stuck in a pattern, come to a place of despair or, as I take that deep cleansing breath of release, freed to permeate into the wind that then washes and cleanses the stains of them.

This doesn’t remove the memory or change the memory. Yet, it cleans out the dirt and grime so the wounded memory can heal from the inside out. There are no stitches binding it closed. No Band-Aids covering it up, just the touch of gently cleansing each layer of need until the acceptance and balance of the soul mending is tolerable and no longer the emotional trigger it once was.

I can have a repetitive sound of a single “pop” from that morning. It repeats in my head over and over and blinds me. It is an internal audible sound that blinds my internal vision. It is my active area of awareness now the “spot,” I am working on for my wholeness. As I sit with it and try to breathe the blinding echo of it, I make it OK to move around it, maybe touch it and decide to interact with it.

Even though it can bring me back to that extreme shattering and numbing pain one feels with traumatic loss, I sit and do my best to hold the sound, to not necessarily try to change, replace or remove the sound but to just be the sound. As I am slowly able to allow myself to do this and as the sound is slowly allowing me to move through its layers on a physical, audible, emotional and spiritual level, I have arrived at the pivotal awareness of that sound. It is the moment of my partner’s last breath of life. From afar, with that “pop,” I heard his last breath. I will forever bear witness to that sound, and I will do my best to gently carry it forward in the sojourning memories of my waking heart.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: January 24, 2017
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