The power of ‘being witnessed’ & self recognition in experiencing suicide

Posted on March 31, 2012 by


The power of a personal story came alive.  It started with a presentation unusual for me with such a strong desire to share something private that it overrode caution.   Kept casual and simple it was an introduction to early family history.   A statement that I was born into a “relationship” that was over and unloving prior to my birth  that took 35 years of my life time to end.  That this created the environment for only experiencing  pain, struggle and suffering.  Once ended both parents passed over within a years time.  One ending their own life and the other through illness

The focus of this sharing went on to reflecting this experience in future primary relationships,  yet what happened next brought this alive in a new way.  It expanded the  limits of my own personal view  that I now recognize was a limited perspective.  A perspective based upon the burden of personal shock and pain.

Later in the day I was in listening to someone tell a story of how a room-mate had found their mate deceased by suicide and that it took a few days before realizing there was a problem. That they had unknowingly lived in the same space during those few days.  As I was listening the speaker asked a question I believe they did not expect an answer to.   Usually silent, I casually mentioned my father took his own life.  To connect and possibly in surprise at hearing this, the speaker went on to suggest it would be shock not to know the person was about to take their own life.   I took my sharing further and said that I knew my father was going to and couldn’t get anyone to listen or to help….. The conversation found a closing and I recognized I wasn’t emotionally triggered and at ease.  There was no discomfort.

I was surprised however when a personal inner question rose up stimulated by this conversation.  My cousin for some unknown reason stopped by my father’s place and found him.  I had never considered how this was for him. My cousin has since passed away himself from illness and this is a question never to be asked in person.  I feel sadness and regret at not being able to have this connection with him to hear how this was for him and to express my appreciation for the difficult task he had.  In reflecting, my imagination went to him and the men in our family and how their physical size and culture, Swedish, added  to their expectations of being silent and not sharing feelings and needs.  Definitely the big strong type physically and emotionally that worked hard and sometimes played hard.

The gem was recognition and witnessing.  In the morning sharing with a group that I wanted to reassure and connect on a deeper level than usual led to being witnessed by myself in a “new” way.  The intention for my sharing  this family story was to connect us through the pain of relationships that seems to shifted my perspective of coming from this background that in the past had discomfort.  The audience listening and connecting in the way they did creating a deeper connection that encouraged an expanded realization beyond the pain body of anger, shame and blame.  Hearing how it was for the finder of someone who has taken their life expanded my curiosity and longing to connect about my experience and not feel guilty therefore silent.

Emphatic listening, witnessing and recognition are valuable relationship skills to heal a culture bringing reconciliation one person at a time!

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