The recent spate of apparent suicides connected to school shootings should be a wake up call.
Not that everyone who survives trauma may follow suit.
But every soul who survives trauma struggles-no matter what it looks like from the outside.
I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975…That was a long time ago but it’s wrong what they say about the past….Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.
~ Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Witnessing or experiencing horror scars a heart. And society rarely does a good job making room for the kind of work it takes for that heart to even begin to heal.
Feel-good news stories about activism, heroism and turning tragedy into triumph send a signal that if you can’t “get over it“, “overcome” or “become stronger” in the wake of the most awful day of your life, you aren’t trying hard enough.
But the truth is that most people DO try.
They try and try and try but trying isn’t enough. Tragedy and trauma change a person and no matter how much they may want to go back to the “old” them, they just can’t.
And that is OK.
We must allow survivors to take as long as they take and to adjust their lives however they can. We need to stop insisting that there’s a time limit on grief or that there is an absolute upward trajectory in recovery.
I don’t know what drove these individuals to die by suicide.
But I do know that as a society we are not tolerant of people who don’t “deal” with their “issues” and live a life accepted as “normal”.
And that is not only unhelpful, it’s despicable.
No one has the right to shut down another person’s voice or circumscribe another heart’s journey.
We need to do better.
We have to create safe spaces for people to admit they are fundamentally and permanently changed by a traumatic experience.
We have got to make room for messy and unfinished stories.