I was very moved by Dottie’s story about donating her son’s organs to those in need. It was a wonderful offering that fulfilled the wish of her beloved son. The act of satisfying our deceased love ones’ desires allows us to obtain a sense of completion that we wouldn’t otherwise find.
As a therapist who works with grief issues, I have encountered many folks who didn’t know what special act their loved ones wanted to occur after they died. This issue never came up in conversation and/or their death was so abrupt, no plans could have possibly been made.
How do these bereaved family members ever discover any sense of closure? I encountered this in my personal life several years ago, and would like to share with you what I learned from the experience.
My niece, Nikki, was just 19 years old when she took her life with a gun, in April of 1990. I remember when my wife informed me of this tragic news. I gasped and cried tears of hopelessness.
She was my brother-in-law’s first of two children. I had not spent much time with her while she was a teenager, but I did feel connected to her. She was a vibrant young woman who had a great sense of humor. She was very smart, a gifted writer and a superb athlete who became very troubled at the end of her life. I immediately tried to grasp for answers to why she took her life. All my training and experience as a psychotherapist went out the window as I tried to cope with this unbelievable loss. I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer. To me, she seemed to have so much to live for. I obsessed about the whys for a long time.
I remain close to Nikki’s mother and brother, even after her father passed away in 2001 (he was always more like a brother than a brother-in-law to me).
It was only years later, with a combination of physical exercise, listening to music, and journaling that I began to truly deal with the tragic loss of Nikki. I run about five miles a day, five days a week. One day, while listening to a sad song on my earphones as I was running, I looked up into the blue California sky and saw Nikki’s face. I knew it wasn’t really her, but her spirit. She was smiling, and told me that she was in a wonderful place now. She told me that she is with her father, and my mother, and that they were happy too.
Then she told me that no one was to blame for her suicide; she said, “my brain just hurt so much and there was so much pressure squeezing my heart. I didn’t think anyone could possibly understand me and I felt so lost. I was going to take my life no matter what. Nobody was going to stop me. I hope you can forgive me.”
Of course I told her that I… that all of us forgive her, and that we love her. I watched as Nikki flew away, knowing her spirit will remain with us forever.
Goodbye Nikki, we love you.
Psychotherapist Bob Livingstone has helped many heal their emotional pain during the past twenty years. He has been instrumental in assisting victims of emotional and/or physical violence recover from trauma and no longer be victims. He is a featured contributor to DrLaura.com, Beliefnet.com, Ediets.com, Selfgrowth.com and SheKnows.com. He has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Miami Herald, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, The Christian Science Monitor, MSN, USA Today, and The Hartford Courant. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book The Body-Mind-Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain through Exercise (Pegasus Books, Sept. 2007) This book is now in its second printing. For more emotional healing visit www.boblivingstone.com.