I have been asking myself that very question today, which happens to be the 13th anniversary of my brother’s death.
Steve’s Death Day is no longer the sad, dreary, headache-inducing day that it once was. It feels as though we have both moved on from the trauma of his suicide. But I still wanted to honor our connection.
I intended to go to the beach to do that but ran out of time, and so I sat at my dining room table, lit a candle, and dialogued with him in my journal instead:
D: Hey Steve, thinking of you today.
S: Thanks Donnie. Nice to connect.
D: I feel like I need to do a re-set on my vow to live well for both of us.
D: I need to take more risks.
S: Oh yeh? You’re in a relationship with a man for the first time in nine years. That’s a pretty big risk. So is putting together this website for the book and offering talks and workshops on suicide, for God’s sake. What more do you want from yourself?
D: I want to sing more. Make more music. I feel bad that I haven’t and I feel isolated from other musicians.
S: Be open to inspiration. In the meantime, sing three songs today. Play the piano for 10 minutes. Don’t worry about doing it every day. Do it when you can. It’ll make you happy.
D: I will! Is there anything else that comes to mind around keeping my vow to you?
S: Keep it simple, Sis. If there’s one thing I want to impress upon you, that’s it. Keep it simple.
D: Got it. Thanks Steve.
S: Love giving free advice.
That was how I honoured my beloved brother today. That simple lighting of a candle, putting pen to paper, and letting the words flow connected me to him, to myself, and to the world.
And the message surprised me. I was expecting a big pep talk about how I need to push myself more – but got just the opposite. It was what I needed to hear.
If dialoguing with your loved one appeals to you but you’ve never tried it before, here’s how you do it.
- Take some time when you won’t be disturbed. A few minutes will do. Turn off the radio, put your phone in airplane mode, light a candle if you can. Then, take a few deep breaths and let all your cares disappear on each outbreath.
- Imagine that your loved one is right next to you.
- Write both sides of the conversation. Even though it feels like “cheating” to write someone else’s responses, just trust yourself.
- Identify yourself in the third person – i.e., by your name or initial, rather than in the first person – i.e., “i.e., “I” or “me.” This will help you be more objective, less identified with your everyday self, and it will make more room for “The Transcendent,” the unseen third party in these conversations.
- Write until you feel complete. At the end of the dialogue, thank your loved one for participating, and keep the door open for future exchanges.