About fifteen years ago, I remember sitting in the local support group for the suicide bereaved, this several years after my book for sibling suicide had been published, and we were talking about ways to honor a loved one who had died. A man who had lost his mother to suicide said– as he shook his head– "I have no idea what to do."
I responded, "That's okay. You don't have to know right away."
Many more losses later I am well versed in this. For me, figuring out how I will honor them is how I move forward, but I also realize that we don't have an answer to how to do that right away.
However, what I choose to do today is much different than when I lost my younger sister nearly twenty-four years ago. While it wasn't instant, I knew I had some need to help other sibling survivors of suicide, mostly because the world was different (the internet was very limited and there was no social media); we couldn't connect to each other like we do today with a simple Google search. That turned into a book which launched a speaking career and traveling around the world, educating and helping people both with suicide grief and suicide prevention.
For my dad's death eleven years ago, I was still deep into suicide work and inching my way toward a doctorate. I didn't have the time– or energy– to figure out what else I might do. But after my mom's death in 2014, my perspective had already begun to shift and I saw where it tied me back (as I have written recently) to the person I wanted to be growing up.
But also in this time, I have watched people launch foundations in loved ones' names, hoping to raise funds to help people or causes, or where they do walks and run, with the goal of doing the same.
Recently I saw something someone was doing in a loved one's name and a thought struck me– I don't have the need to be so public about saying, "I'm doing this because of my mom." And then at a party last weekend a friend and I were discussing this, how my journey in that way has become more private: I don't need to share it all with the world.
And yet what I still share is what I create– my writing, my sewing, my painting. I know that pursuing a creative life is honoring the three family members I traveled with in the station wagon (long after my older brother and sister stopped taking family trips with us). I also know that getting my education (particularly before I married– per her instructions) was a way to honor my maternal grandmother who couldn't go to college because she had to help her brothers financially get college degrees. It was never something I talked about, more something I did.
Today the journey is about doing without having to say why I'm doing it every minute of the day. Sure, there are aspects I share, especially when I particularly know how they inspired something, but mostly it's about taking time each day to pursue what makes me happy is what honors them and makes my life an authentic one.