Above Ground Podcast #182: Grace
“If I don’t grieve in a healthy, active way, it will be a second death for me,” says author Judi Merriam. Judi’s middle son, Jensen, took his life Dec. 23, 2011. When Judi couldn’t find a book to help her along her grief journey she started the painful process of writing one. As the mother of not only Jensen, but two other children, Judi had no choice but to start the healing process. Judi’s writing helped her do the work to emerge from the darkness with the help of grace.
This week, Episode 182 of Above Ground Podcast deals with suicide and grief. Judi Merriam channeled the pain of losing her middle son, Jensen, into a memoir entitled Empty Shoes by the Door. Judi’s desire is to shine a light of hope into the lives of those who grieve, especially parents who have lost children to suicide. The journey of grief is such an individualized and singular road to walk. Speaking our truth allows us to move forward. “When we pretend it’s something it’s not, we can’t heal,” says Judi. Running away from the darkness constantly doesn’t allow us to see the light.
Shock carries us in the aftermath of a suicide loss. “Shock allows us to function, at first, when we don’t know how to function,” and Judi says it took about the first five months for it to wear off. This gave way to being angry. Anger didn’t last long once Judi admitted how angry she was and allowed it to run its course. People often do not recognize the carnage of a suicide death. Telling someone that their loved one is in a better place or that there is a plan for it can do more harm than good and often leads to a harder healing process. Judi will be missing her son until she dies and the holidays remind her of the loss, with the empty place at the table.
We often cannot make sense of something senseless. No longer asking why and constantly searching for answers, has given way to finding peace without all the answers. Jensen was a creative force and his dream was to be a professional animator. Jensen showed no signs that his life would end by this choice. We need to understand that dialoguing about suicide does not put an idea in someone’s head. Quite the opposite, actually. So don’t be afraid to ask if you suspect anything.
Judi credits her memoir coach, Marion Roach, for guiding her along the creative path and helping her craft a tribute as well as a guide to dealing with the grief of losing someone to suicide. Judi speaks her truth and is willing to sit in the ashes of what’s left behind with you should you want to reach out to her via her website. Check out this Schenectady Gazette article written about Judi and Empty Shoes by the Door.
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Until next time get well, be safe, stay ABOVE.