Peace, Love, and Santa

I'm excited to think about this weekend as our city kicks off the holiday season with the annual Santa Parade. I've always loved the holidays as I look forward to a time when family and friends come together. The traditions that seem to stay with us year after year; cookie making, gingerbread house decorating, present wrapping and foods that we only make during this time of year, and now, the Santa Parade.

The Santa Parade represents a major change in our life. We never participated in the parade prior to us losing Rob. It takes a lot of courage and strength to move forward to laugh and have fun and to celebrate special occasions without our loved one.

It seems to get easier over time but the hole that's left in your heart lasts forever. There's this numbness that never really goes away and feelings of guilt still linger. Yet, what choices do we have? We actually have many. We could fall into depression, not get out of bed, self medicate with drugs or alcohol, blame others or sabotage get-togethers as it's much easier to get out of something than to go to something.  I understand. I'm sure I'm guilty of everyone one of those at some point in my own life. Whatever I could do to ease the pain, I did. Yet, all of those things don't deal with the emotion, they will mask your pain temporarily, can exaggerate your feelings and take your mood down lower than it was.

So, how do we get through? I'm not going to say it's easy, because it's not. Truly moving forward and living life the way it's supposed to be lived begins with acceptance. If we don't accept our situations, our loss and our own choices we will be stuck. Stuck in a place of an unhealthy lifestyle, stuck in grief and stuck in a never ending pain. By accepting, we are allowing our life to play out the way it's supposed to. By accepting, we recognize that there is an end to everything, even when we don't understand why it had to end the way it did. By accepting, we are able to live again, without guilt.

Forgiveness. Forgiveness allows us to let go. Let go of what is holding us back, by blaming others or denying reality only sets us back. Forgiveness is crucial and not just for the benefit of who you are forgiving, but for yourself. By forgiving ourselves, we allow ourselves to move forward in a healthy way. Try it, it may set you free.

Love. There is a power in love and I believe LOVE NEVER DIES. I feel stronger love for my loved ones who have passed. I miss them so much and often think about what they would look like or how different our lives would be. Yet, it's my love for them that forces me to love others more, to live with no regret and recognize they would want it that way. Love heals.

As we kick off the season by walking in the Santa Parade for the second year now, we are setting the example that life can move forward and does, despite our loss. It's how we decide to move forward that defines us. Do you want to be stuck, or do you want to find acceptance, show forgiveness and give love? This Saturday, November 18, 2017 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day and also happens to be the Art Van Santa Parade in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Join us in our new tradition of participating in the Santa Parade by riding in our trolley, or walking alongside. Together, we'll show others that life goes on, you'll feel supported and reminded that you're not alone, and as a united community of survivors, we can make a difference. Find your new tradition, and you too may receive the best gift you could ever give yourself, the gift of peace, what a beautiful gift it is. Allowing yourself the time to discover peace may help you heal in ways you never thought possible.

Learn more about International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

Sign up online to join i understand in the Art Van Santa Parade in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan on Saturday, November 18, 2017

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