A few months after my daughter Cassie died, I stumbled upon a chat room for suicide survivors. All the participants had recently lost a loved one to suicide. In all my years of being a registered nurse and helping patients’ families cope with grief, I had never seen such raw and tortured emotions as those expressed by members of this group. They were clearly trying to help each other, while drowning themselves in self-accusation, deep sorrow and profound regret. I was desperately seeking some hope. I wished that I could find a roadmap somewhere about how to survive all this before I too drowned in remorse and tears.
No long-term survivors were in that chat room, no one to say, Yes, you will in time learn to forgive yourself, carry on and find small moments of peace and joy again. You will cherish the wonderful memories of having their presence in your life and these memories can never be taken away from you. You will find wisdom in knowing that life on this side is a precious, but transient gift that can be gone in an instant. You will never take the love of those that are still with you for granted. And if you can let go of the need to have your loved one with you in the physical, you can learn how to connect with their eternal soul.
A few friends suggested that I should put the past behind me, close the door, lock it and never look back. I should bury my memories in some dark recess of my heart where they would remain entombed forever, untouched by the light of day. Suicide carries such deep shame for survivors. Did we contribute, in some way, to our loved one’s suicide? What signs did we miss? Is there anything we could have done to stop them? Sometimes, it seemed that it would be better to cut all ties to the past and just try to carry on. But there was one friend who told me to write your story so that you can see, looking back through the years, how you survived.
Her advice resonated with me. What if I could write down my process, spread it all out before me as I healed and put the pieces of my life back together again? My diary became my salvation. I could be myself and not pretend that I was fine so my friends and coworkers would feel more comfortable around me. I could write my heart out. I also found that once I was able to process some of my emotions, I was able to step back from my story, to become the witness to my experiences; they no longer consumed me with guilt. As my negative emotions lost their grip on me, something miraculous happened. Cassie was able to contact me again.
When the dream visits with Cassie began, I wrote them down in as much detail as I could remember and marveled that I had somehow managed to establish a connection with her even though she existed in another dimension. I would wake up and wonder why I’d been so sad when obviously she was right here with me in my dreams. I found if I went into my flower garden, lay down, and let myself be at peace, I could ask her questions in my mind and she would answer them. As we continued our conversations, words became images and vivid scenes unfolded behind my closed eyelids. I saw the iridescent colors in that part of heaven that she called Summer Wind, smelled the heady scent of roses, heard her voice and felt the touch of her hand. What I saw in my mind came to life. It was this eternal connection with Cassie, that knows no place or time, that healed me.
And this led me to wonder, where does the writer’s muse come from? What is our imagination? How do we create our characters? Are we really tapping into something much bigger than ourselves, some type of universal consciousness? We, as women, weave so many stories handed down through generations. They are our life’s blood. When we are writing a biography about a deceased individual and we have our character’s photos, essays, letters, diaries spread out before us, is what comes to us only our imagination? Or are we communicating with their eternal soul and are we merely telling their story? I still marvel at Callie’s writings in The Dreaming Road and how they came to be. But it was through this process of reflection and reconnection that I survived and now I have that roadmap spread out before me to share with you.
Elizabeth Moore is an associate professor of nursing and internationally recognized author in her field. The early death of her own daughter inspired a personal journey to find a continued connection between them and led to the writing of her first novel. She lives near Nashville, Tenn., with her three dogs, Beau, Buttons and Bramble.
Visit her at www.thedreamingroad.com.
About THE DREAMING ROAD
On a spring morning in early May, Diane wakes up to find her beautiful 16-year old daughter, Callie, lying dead on the floor of her bedroom. The police find a suicide
note in Callie’s jewelry chest and Diane’s whole world, as she had previously known it, falls apart.
In the afterlife, Callie meets her great grandma, Ellie, who tells her that she’s in a part of heaven called Summer Wind and can never return home again. She wrestles
with her abrupt and impulsive decision to take her own life and witnesses the impact that this event has on all who love her.
Diane begins a desperate search for answers by tearing apart Callie’s bedroom looking for anything that might tell her what drove her daughter to suicide. She visits Joy, a spiritual healer, who tells her that she must learn to seek the gift in her experiences rather than remaining addicted to her guilt and pain. Diane
struggles with letting-go of the daughter she once knew and all her hopes and dreams for the future. Desperate to reassure her mother that she’s okay, Callie attempts to communicate with her from beyond the veil. They both begin a heart-wrenching journey to find one another once again.
Category: On Writing