Finding Healing through Connection

Like sunshine for the soul

Published online: Jul 10, 2020 Articles Charity Haderlie
Viewed 766 time(s)

Over nine years ago I lost my baby brother, Jeremy, to suicide. I used to say it was “either a freak accident or possible suicide.”  That phrasing felt a tad better because it implied that maybe he didn’t really want to go. There’s evidence that he changed his mind, but it was too late--a choice he made ended his life.

Jeremy’s death at the tender age of 15 is just one of the reasons I’m such an advocate for building connection and empowering one’s mindset. Connection is like sunshine for the soul and is a basic human need.  

Mindset also plays a critical role in coping with life’s challenges. It can either become a poison that inhibits personal growth and development, (as it did for me years ago) or an essential nutrient that expands and empowers our very existence.

There were many signs that have become clear to us since, that Jeremy struggled with both connection and mindset, but he masked them well. He was witty and adventurous, tough and determined and his laugh was contagious! 

My dad would never admit it, but we all knew Jeremy was his favorite little buddy. No, he was our favorite little buddy. Yet, amid our family’s love, and dysfunctions (is any family completely free of dysfunctions?), we were blinded by our financial and emotional struggles. We couldn't see the depth of his pain until we opened up about our own.

On Christmas Eve in 2010, just one week after his funeral, my parents and nine siblings, along with my husband and our four children, were crammed together in my sister’s living room. We sat in painful silence, unsure that we would ever feel anything but heavy hearts and regret. Without Jeremy, our annual gift exchange and holiday traditions felt hollow. 

In an unspoken attempt to prevent a chain reaction of tears, we avoided eye contact.  My sister, Rebecca, broke the silence as she timidly whispered, “What. . .”  Her voice trailed off, but she had our attention.  She took a deep breath and with a quiet, quivering voice asked, “What has everyone learned from this?”

Thick silence dangled in the air.  Then, one by one, we began to share our insight and memories. Tears, now flowing freely, were peppered with laughter as we reminisced about Jeremy's antics and our favorite moments from his life. 

Looking for the lessons amid the loss gave our family a chance to listen and learn from each other. This may seem a natural and obvious way to build relationships, but it wasn’t a common practice in my family growing up. We’ve had to learn to work on building connections with focused intention.

Brene Brown defines connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued without judgment, and when they draw sustenance and strength from each other.  

Could strong relational bonds grow simply from valuing each other’s perspective without judgment? The answer is clearly affirmative, but why do we get in our own way?  Why do we fight to be right at the cost of personal relationships?

Opening our hearts in such a vulnerable way was the beginning of healing for my family as a whole. I don’t share this to stir up sympathy for me or negative sentiments toward anyone in my family -- we all did the best we could with the knowledge and skills we had.  I share this to stir up compassion and awareness for others. When the mindset is healthy, and when we have strong relational bonds, we live healthier and happier lives. 

The more I open up and talk about my brother’s suicide, or about my own journey of breaking free from a toxic mindset years ago and learning to champion my own thoughts, the more I realize I’m not alone. 

Unfortunately,  however, we often feel alone in our struggles so we hide them by putting our ‘game faces’ on. We act like everything is OK, even when it isn’t. By masking our struggles, as my family did for so many years, we become very much alone together. 

As I prepare this article for publication, businesses are closed, live events have been cancelled, and we’ve been encouraged to stay 6 feet apart in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  

It’s been a strange mix of panic and calm, of lay-offs and organized mask-sewing, and of diminished grocery supplies and online quarantine karaoke. Yet even while under quarantine, we find ways to collaborate and work together. We are social creatures and still need each other. These times of uncertainty are helping us find more creative ways to connect and collaborate worldwide. We don’t know what the “new normal” will be after COVID-19, but I do know that healthy relationships will always be a basic human need.

My family and I have learned to find healing through connection with self, with each other, and with God. One of the ways we have done this is through asking empowering questions that help us look for lessons. 

You might find this small sampling of questions helpful as you work through life’s challenges as well. Consider asking yourself or encouraging others to ask:

What am I learning from this?

What memories do I have that make me smile?

What am I resisting or ignoring that needs attention?

What is one thing I can do to connect with myself, my loved ones, my higher power? 

How can I love myself [or insert another’s name] through this?

Whether face-to-face or via video chat, it doesn’t take much effort to look someone in the eye and ask how they are really doing or what they are learning, and wait for a real answer. We’re all fighting our own battles, after all. 

What would happen in our families and communities if more would choose to connect rather than convince?

Connection may not be able to solve every physical ailment, but it can heal many matters of the heart, mind and soul.  It has brought healing to me personally, and to my family.  And it helps to remember that healing is more of a journey, not a destination.

I still miss Jeremy every day, but I thank my Father in Heaven that I have been able to feel peace in my heart and healing within my soul as I have learned to fill that craving for connection and also look for lessons amid any loss. 

 

Connect with Charity at Linktr.ee/CharityHaderlie or email CharityHaderlie@gmail.com.

Read more of Idaho Falls Magazine's July issue here. 

 

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