When I am talking to a group of people having anything to do with my passion – Survivor Healing after (Suicide) Loss – I will eventually ask the question: “Who is the most important person in the world?” I just wish you could see the looks of my audience as they stare back at me, for what seems like a full minute. Perhaps they don’t really know where I am going with this question, OR, they are not sure what answer I am looking for. Honestly, it isn’t a trick inquiry. I really want to know who that person is, from their perspective. Maybe, since I am making a big deal of it here you are already guessing the answer. YOU are. YOU are the most important person in the world. But then that would mean that My answer is ME – I am the most important person in the world. I am indeed.
In the realm of rankles and irritations, following this question, this is where you will give me every reason why a hundred (or hundreds) of others outrank you when you measure your importance. I will however, stick to what I believe are the facts. If “we” are not the most important person in our world, if we are not placing ourselves first in every category of life, we are probably treading down a long and arduous path that skirts the achievement or healing of anything having to do with us. Let me tell you a true story to prove my point.
Many years ago, my husband was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) and was slowly losing the battle of muscular control over everything in his body; bladder, speech, movement of limbs, vision, swallowing and more. We took each day at its face value, but continually lost ground with the simple tasks of daily living or managing the impact of this disease. Because I was the primary caregiver, I willingly took on gigantic tasks that pushed my body to the limit. All this took place while carrying on a full-time profession and maintaining a home. This was no-one’s fault – none of us wanted or expected this – it just was. I watched My Healthy Self systematically deteriorate as the months and years went by. By virtue of the need for safety, care and nurturing of my loved one, I became last. I was not the most important person in the world – my husband was. And like him, I had a mountainous loss of my independence, health, mental stability and joy. I began to lose something even more vital to survival – my independence and my self-worth. When any friends or family called or spoke with me, the first question out of their mouth was, “How is he?” Never, “how are you?” I don’t blame them, it’s just that I became a means to an end.
On one of the evenings that the visiting nurses were preparing my husband for bed, the RN in charge took me aside to a quiet part of my house, saying, “I want to tell you a true story of one of my other patients. An elderly couple was living with disease such as the one you are familiar with. The wife, who was 70 years of age, did everything for her husband who was unable to care for himself. She moved him from bed to chair, fed him, washed and bathed him in the tub, prepared him for bed and made sure he received all of his medications. One night, they were suddenly faced with a crisis. Her husband had taken a terrible turn for the worse with high fever and decreased ability to respond. An ambulance was called and he was rushed to their local hospital emergency department. His wife followed the ambulance in her car and met them there, along with the physicians and nurses that would care for him. After a short while, it was determined that her husband would be admitted and he was taken to a room on the medical floor. As she joined him in his room, and found him to be resting comfortably, she stood next to him and took his hand in hers. At that very moment, she collapsed and died at his bedside.”
I looked at this nurse, completely perplexed, and asked her honestly – why would you tell me such a horrible story? I can see no happy ending here, anywhere. The nurse replied, “if you don’t make yourself the most important person in the world, this might be you dropping at his bedside as well. I see your needs going unmet and the estimate of your self-worth being pushed aside”.
This became my moment of truth. I wasn’t eating properly, lost sleep every night, I had physically exhausted my muscles and bones by lifting and moving objects far too heavy for me and worried about everything. My personal loss factor was at an all-time high, the future seemed bleak and yet I pushed on moment to moment without stopping to see the damage I was doing to me. I was fast becoming useless to both my husband’s care and myself as a human body with needs of its own. The losses were onerous to both of us.
Loss. There was plenty of it to go around.
He had lost his muscles, ability to walk, ability to apply his professional training, independence, self-esteem, opportunity to help his family in simple daily ways, well-being, sense of happiness and even bathroom privileges. Yet every day he woke up with a smile. I had lost my opportunity to be taken care of, evade moving 2 tons of snow by hand, have a conversation without discussing MS or physical symptoms, park my car in a convenient location, have dinner waiting for me when I came home from work, get a hug in a standing position, do an errand without a day’s planning, have someone bring me a simple glass of water, and ultimately a great chunk of my identity.
So right up until that moment that the visiting nurse took the rug out from under me, I did what many, (or most) of us who experience severe loss would do; I inadvertently embraced yet one more loss – my right to choice. Somewhere along the way I forgot that I was the most important person in the world. I pretty much give away my options, rather than clinging to them and giving them the precious, righteous acknowledgment that they are. However, through confrontation and examination of my current state of mind, I finally realized that choices never can be taken away; I could restore my ability to select the abundant pathway, re-discover that good health, happiness and freedom is right in front of me through choices that are right there with me all the time. This didn’t mean that I loved someone else less. It means that I loved myself enough to take care of my mind, body and spirit as it was meant to be cared for.
Restoring our use of options. How do we do that?
We awake each day and ask our glorious self the following question: “What do I need today?” Be honest about the answer. Then – set about meeting that need, whatever it may be. Ask for help, utilize whatever resources you have acquired, find new ones that get you where you need to go or be. Claim it, demand it for yourself by any means possible. You are the most important person in the world and this is your birthright. I am not suggesting your forgo your responsibilities to others, I am stating outright that you will be healthier, more at peace, and feeding the mind-body-spirit of your personal temple if you go the distance for and with YOU in the front of everything. What is good for you today? What will perfectly meet your goals today? What do you want today? Then, and only then, can you truly meet the needs of someone, anyone else!
Excerpt from Let GO and Let LOVE: Survivors of Suicide Loss Healing Handbook, CreateSpace Publishing, $12.87, paperback and ebook available September 2015.
CONTACT: Gabrielle Doucet