I have recently been reminded of a client that came to see me in 2008, shortly after the loss of her mother by suicide. She gave me permission to share her PERSPECTIVE ON LOSS. It seems especially appropriate given the recent California fires.
Satie Airamé wrote this almost two years after her losses:
Together with many other families in Santa Barbara, my husband and I lost our home and almost all our belongings in the Tea Fire on November 13, 2008. As the fire roared up Sycamore Canyon, we had a few minutes to evacuate some of our artwork and photographs, important documents and a handful of clothing. We left our home of ten years just minutes before the raging firestorms reached our property. We were lucky to drive to safety, unharmed.
In spite of our overwhelming loss brought about by the Tea Fire, we have been able to maintain some perspective on the true meaning of loss. Just a few months before the fire took our home, my mother took her own life after a long and difficult struggle with depression. When I learned of her death, I felt my heart breaking. For days, I was numb with shock; nauseated with pain; dizzy with anxiety. My body felt heavy like lead; I was overcome with fatigue. I slept like a stone, dreamless. I was afraid of waking each morning, dreading the realization that I would never again be able to talk to my mother or hug her.
Satie goes on to describe the value of getting into a Survivors of Suicide group.
We, a community of survivors, all struggle with overwhelming emotions and questions after the suicide of a loved one. Little by little, we share thoughts and feelings, and seek to co-exist—and eventually LIVE—with our losses.
In the stressful days after the Tea Fire, I sometimes wondered how my mother would have comforted and counseled me. I knew what she would say—because she said it many times before. When she felt weighed down by material stuff, my mom said, “Everybody needs a good fire once in awhile.” In other words, material belongings can become a burden and their unexpected loss can free the owner to pursue true inspiration of the present moment, uncomplicated by historical experiences and acquisitions. Our material losses caused by the Tea Fire remind us that happiness arises, not from a house and our belongings, but from the fire of life and spirit of kindness within us, and the gift of love we share with our family and friends.
Please note that Satie gave herself permission to truly and deeply grieve both losses. Perspective comes only with time, not in the midst of the pain. She told me that even writing this piece was painful, re-living the experience, but it was also cathartic.