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A suicide loss survivor's wise & healing words

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Kristen Spexarth It's rare to find a person who can accurately and meaningfully describe the unique agony of someone who has lost a loved one to suicide. In fact, it takes someone who has known that pain first-hand. Kristen Spexarth knows it from the loss of her son, Colby, and she has bravely and lovingly found the words to describe her journey—beautiful, wise words that are a balm to me and to many other suicide loss survivors.

In her new book, "Passing Reflections Volume 3: Surviving Suicide Loss Through Mindfulness," Kristen offers her experiences following Colby's death in chronological order, a powerful compilation of poetry and prose that describes an overwhelming grief and the way she found through it.

Here are excerpts:

The wounding I experienced was beyond description. The uninitiated could not fathom my distress. “Don’t go there, put it away, it’s over now,” are statements that illustrate how disconnected some have become from the process of life/death, as if one could remove oneself from the pain of loss. At first I felt anger when greeted with this kind of blindness. In time, I learned to hold with compassion all the various responses that came in the wake of Colby’s death. I learned that people were deeply frightened by what had happened and fear made them do strange things, some altogether disappearing and some only able to offer harsh judgments. In the past I had done both without ever being conscious that my behavior was the result of fear.


The spiral that is healing often brought me back to difficult feelings but each time with a bit larger perspective, making loss a little bit easier to bear. Trusting my own unique approach to a process that many have undergone was essential. Each of us has something to offer and each person’s offering is one piece of the puzzle, important for bringing the whole picture of humankind into focus. Like the pebble leaving its mark, however small a contribution we bring, it creates a ripple effect that may help others in ways we will never know and could not have guessed…

Times when I’ve felt stuck, there has seemed to be an inner working out taking place deep inside, below consciousness. This working through cannot be pin-pointed exactly so I have had to surrender and trust the process, allowing healing to take shape inside of me. As always, the paradox of life is present here, too, in that it has taken both a relaxed allowing as well as my concerted effort to foster healing.


To find release from the pain of loss I had to go the distance and do the hard work of discovery. I believe there is no more important work, nothing of greater consequence for our lives. My former life and what once seemed “real” to me ended with my son’s traumatic death—a tragedy of immense proportions that set in motion a gift of awareness helping me not only survive but grow. Mindfulness, a simple though not easy practice, has helped me find a path of recovery after trauma, find new meaning in life and ultimately, redirect my life’s efforts toward service.


What Is the Distance?

What is the distance
from our heads to our hearts

and how do we find the way?

smug in its supremacy
steadily builds a patina

intricate, beautiful,
layering on like sculpted

shells of brilliant defense
is finally shattered
with heart breaking open,

open for all to see,
and there
lies the path
to freedom.

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Melissa Allison's picture
Melissa Allison
Forefront Advisory Board Member
Melissa wrote for The Seattle Times for nine years and now works in marketing. She has written about suicide prevention and being a suicide loss survivor, and helped craft national guidelines for suicide coverage in the media.