‘’Just like to add talking about the idea of synchronicity and coincidence which is a frequent theme in our support group meetings,
I also happened to find in a shop in Co. Donegal a perfume called ‘Elixir’’, mentioned in step 10 of the FOSL Credo and I found it on day 10.’’
FOSL TEN DAY CHALLENGE IN MEMORY OF MY LATE SISTER WENDY BARRY
By Maureen Slough Barry
I recently completed the FOSL 10-day Challenge, and I was honoured to be the first to participate.
I jumped at the idea when I first heard about it last May and got full support along the way from FOSL in many ways, in particular with the use of the 10 steps of the FOSL Credo, which is the foundation stone of Friends of Suicide Loss support group.
The idea of the 10-day challenge is to actively engage in actions, rituals or any activity which may help to endure the pain of losing a beloved one to suicide. This can be done at any time and an exceptional crucial time would be the 10 days prior to the birthday celebration of the beloved departed. A birthday is a true celebration of joy. FOSL members have found that the anniversary of a suicide victim tends to overshadow the birthday which is quite understandable in a tragic loss of this nature and many have found difficulty in experiencing any joy in celebrating a death day which more often than not gives rise to sadness and pain of loss. Of course, facing these days head on can in itself help strengthen endurance levels, especially in the early period and the focus can then shift from the most joyous day of anyone’s life which is the birthday. FOSL recognized this as well as the lack of joy and at times the over indulgence in sad times during the grief journey and hence the idea of the 10-day challenge with the birthday in mind came into being.
My FOSL 10-day challenge commenced on 17th May and ended on the 27th May, 2021, the birthday of my most cherished and fondest person ever in my life my sister Wendy. This particular year had relevance for me as it was also Wendy’s 50th birthday.
I had family, friends, FOSL members and colleagues connecting and supporting me with positive feedback and encouragement.
At the end of the 10-day challenge, I felt exhausted, yet also felt I had achieved something essential for the first time since Wendy passed, as well as a strength and growth in my grief journey I experienced a sort of transformation or at least a sense of this awareness as well as accomplishing something very special – fundraising for FOSL which was an amazing privilege and I am delighted to say came to €2,500.
The main thing I loved about the challenge was how it runs up to your loved one’s birthday. It was different than a “death anniversary” – instead I was celebrating Wendy’s heavenly 50th birthday and also her life.
Celebrating a loved one’s life is very important in keeping their memory alive.
My partner Michael and I lit the candles on the 50th birthday cappuccino cake in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to in Ireland – Glencolmcille in County Donegal.
I shed a lot of tears for Wendy that day, I cannot lie.
Wendy’s childhood experiences of mental, sexual and physical abuse had moulded and shaped her as a person and I have no doubt contributed to her early death/suicide.
There was beauty in Wendy that I connected to on the 10-day challenge at a very deep level – how much she made me feel loved and special. I became more aware that my love and connection with Wendy will never die and for now the bedrock of my journey going forward and life experience.
FOSL Credo – Together we create strength.
I felt strength in my faith the day I visited the Church of Assumption and also strength with the ongoing support received from FOSL members since the loss of my beloved sister Wendy.
FOSL Credo – A safe haven to support one another.
At the start of every FOSL support group meeting the “candle of confidentiality” is lit. Confidentiality is very important amongst members and anything said during a meeting does not go outside and remains confidential.
FOSL Credo – Shared stories of loss and pain unite us.
Taking part in Friends of Suicide Loss meetings online and telling my story as well as hearing other members’ stories of loss, trauma and pain can be challenging at times. It keeps me grounded as there is always someone worse off than me. This challenge is a positive thing because not only am I’m being empathic I also get to release my own catharsis.
I am also aware of other FOSL members’ empathy when I share my own story.
FOSL Credo – Hand and care, respect, dignity, trust, compassion and empathy for one’s self and other’s
It is very important to respect others for who they are even when they are different to us.
FOSL Credo – Acceptance of the individual’s opinions and beliefs
Wendy and Mary Weekes (RIP), two beautiful people with different beliefs and they got on very well. Here they are smiling and sitting together in County Wicklow.
FOSL Credo – Peace is our train
FOSL Credo – Forgiveness is a stepping stone in the right direction
Forgiveness is a big step to take in the early stages during suicide loss – forgiving the person who took their own life and maybe yourself and others for not doing more.
FOSL Credo – Connecting to the ones departed and to others
It’s important to connect with the departed by whatever means makes you comfortable such as lighting a candle, saying a prayer, saying their name or talking to them.
Connecting with others and building friendships is also important.
FOSL Credo – Aware of new beginnings
After you lose someone to suicide it can be difficult to move on, to smile and trust again.
FOSL Credo – While engaging our vulnerabilities acknowledging the transformation in our lives with the elixir of love and hope
Wendy’s 50th heavenly birthday was celebrated in Dublin by my daughter Megan at the same time I was celebrating the birthday in Donegal with my partner Michael.
My dear friend and FOSL member Annette Covey also dedicated a special run in honour of Wendy on the same day – sending very much appreciated support from the UK.
We all felt so honoured to celebrate Wendy’s life with the hope that she is at peace now.
Thanks to my FOSL Friend, peer support member Annette from Surrey, England for doing the hard exercise and running that one morning in memory of Wendy. As you can gather from my 10-day challenge, exercise especially running is not my forte. I also learnt from the 10-day challenge that it was not all about physical exercise.
The simple actions of cooking and doing little things had that relevance of awakening the inner senses. I felt a connection with myself. I felt my heart and mind were now one. It seemed my emotions had gotten their say and the dust in the mind had settled. I ruminated less about that faithful day.
I felt more compassion and trust in myself and my dignity that was shaken since that tragic day had now been restored. Taking care of oneself and others and the importance of doing actions whether it’s visiting a grave, a church, going on a walk, going on a run or taking a holiday, were now understood to be crucial in the suicide loss survivors’ journey as seen from the words in the FOSL Credo ‘’Hand and care.’ ’Of course, the encouragement of my family, friends and FOSL members who understood my journey brought home to me the importance of empathy of not only to others but to oneself.
Step 5 of the credo brought back happy memories of two special people in my life Wendy and Mary (RIP), two beautiful people with diverse beliefs. I understood that opinions and beliefs don’t matter as is a hallmark in all FOSL support group meetings.
As the days went on the steps in the credo paved the way and helped to lighten the burden in my journey, which never seems to end.
The pivotal central step in the credo for me was’ ’peace is our train’’. I felt at peace on day 6, complete peace, which experienced even if only for a moment can be amazing. When someone dies, we don’t say ‘’rest in joy’’ or happiness or good health, instead we say R.I.P.
It seems we understand the importance of peace and, with so much going on as a result of someone taking one’s own life and the hell we then find ourselves in, finding peace in the midst of all that can be so healing and cathartic. I did find peace that day and the feeling made me feel I want to stay on this train forever.
Day 7 was a turning point for me. I always believed in forgiveness. I always forgave Wendy for her action; the difficulty was in forgiving myself and others. On day 7, I realised overall forgiveness is indeed a stepping stone in the right direction and crucial in the healing process.
I also visited Glencolmcille in Co. Donegal and by accident and pure chance took the wrong path one day and ended up at The Napoleon Lookout Tower and this was very relevant. We discussed at FOSL meetings about looking at the battlefield in our lives in the aftermath of suicide, and instead of viewing from a horizontal level, take a vertical view like Napoleon on a hill looking at a battle. Napoleon standing on the hill could see the battlefield from a vertical stand point and so likewise we learn in our support groups stepping back from the battle and looking at the whole picture can be so helpful.
I felt an immediate connection with my peer support group members and strength also in seeing the workings of synchronicity and coincidence and fate on coming across this Napoleon Bonaparte’s tower on day 7, in Co. Donegal.
I have to mention that lighting a candle for Wendy and all those who we have lost to suicide made me feel a connection, not just with those who lost their lives but also the people left behind like myself. This connection made me feel I was not alone.
The step 9 of the credo about awareness of new beginnings made me understand that new beginnings are as important as old habits and ways and is all about change which is always happening around us.
The transformation I felt from the whole 10 days seemed to come from inside of me which was like a new awakening and it was nice to be aware of this transition happening now in my life.
On day 10, I did not feel I was transformed, instead I felt I was in the process of transformation which I understood from our support groups is a continuous cycle going forward. Nothing is linear anymore, everything moves in a circular motion now which suits me fine as then I feel Wendy is still part of my life especially on occasions like the one on the 10th day—Wendy’ 50 celebration which I celebrated alongside my dear partner and support pillar Michael with an elixir of many things including love and hope.
Just like to add talking about the idea of synchronicity and coincidence which is a frequent theme in our support group meetings, I also happened to find in a shop in Co. Donegal a perfume called ‘Elixir’’, mentioned in step 10 of the FOSL Credo and I found it on day 10.
I would like to conclude by saying I would highly recommend, without any hesitation, the FOSL 10-day challenge coming up to anyone’s birthday of a beloved departed.