Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM, LMHC. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

Suicide: What to do with suicidal thoughts April 13, 2010

Don’t give up before the miracle happens.
Fannie Flagg.

The main thing to understand about suicide is: DON’T DO IT!

Life may seem darker than an oil slick and bleaker than a bad diagnosis, and still be precious. When you are mired in misery, it’s best to remember that your most important job is taking another breath, and getting through each minute. Some days are like that; then, one thing changes and everything shifts. It could be a phone call from a friend who really understands you, a conversation with a child whose love you can feel from miles away, a tax refund, or, you just wake up and, for no discernible reason, feel buoyant.

There are two problems with suicide: if you fail you may live with unpleasant consequences for the rest of your life; and, if you succeed, you have relinquished your future on earth.

Usually, by the time you reach middle age and realize there are fewer days ahead of you than behind you, you have come to appreciate how life is more than accruing possessions, fun experiences, or success. It is about everything, even the experiences that bring us to our knees, or to contemplating our own demise.

It is far more difficult for younger folks. You simply haven’t lived long enough to have much perspective. Each loss, each mistake, seems monumental. They always appear that way in the moment: overwhelmingly awful and often unfathomable. Later on, you realize you were able to mobilize your resources, ask for help, and get through it.

Sometimes, even with the best track record, it feels as if life is not worth living. Luckily for you, a feeling isn’t a fact. It’s a passing emotion that can change on a dime. Just as your body constantly adjusts to bring it back to homeostasis, your mind has moment-to-moment fluctuations that need readjustment. Before that natural realignment happens it is easy to misjudge and assume your despair will never end. Again, that’s an assumption, not the truth. It is very real while you experience it, but it’s time bound, ephemeral.

An interesting experiment is to take your emotional temperature:

Get a piece of paper and number it from 1-15.
Watch a clock. Each time a minute passes assess your mood on a scale from 1-10, where 1 is abject misery and 10 is extreme joy.
Do this for 15 minutes.

Even in as short a span as 15 minutes you will notice some fluctuations. Maybe it is only a one point difference, but your state of mind did shift. Imagine how much more your emotions can change in a day, week, or month.

When you are suffering, even an hour can seem like an eternity, but it isn’t. As Gilbert and Sullivan used to say: “Things are seldom what they seem.” You have faced unhappiness before and can handle this. Of course, you don’t like it, but you don’t have to. Sometimes, the holy grail is just living through a bad time. No law of the universe says you have to deal with everything gracefully. So you stumble, you fall, you cry, rant or rave. Your ego will rebel, but that is no reason to quit this mortal coil. Survival is the point. No one is grading you on how you get to the finish line; and, there’s no extra credit for not complaining.

Here’s a little story to help you remember the freedom and joy that can sometimes come from allowing yourself a bit of self-pity. Some years ago, there was an expedition to Alaska. A small group of hikers were dropped off by helicopter to a remote location for a few days in the wild. When the pilot came back to get them, the weather had turned and there was no way for him to safely land. Winter came ferociously and immediately. In the Spring, the pilot came back expecting to find the party’s remains. Instead, he found them all alive. Incredulous, he asked, “How did you manage to survive such brutal conditions?” They said, “Early on we agreed we could all complain as much as we wanted.”

Suicide not only closes all your doors, there’s the potential it may lock them forever. A wise woman I know once said, “The smartest people keep all their options open.” By loving yourself enough to see another day, you give yourself the gift of more possibilities.

When the darkness settles inside you, remind yourself:

This won’t last.
I will feel better.
It’s OK to be afraid and vulnerable.
It’s temporary.

Falsely believing your misery will never end makes the thought of suicide so attractive. Be exquisitely patient, gentle, and loving with the frightened part of you that doesn’t see a better future. Remember other times in your life when things looked horrible and then improved.

Asking for help is very hard for many people. If you are one of them, ask yourself, would you lose respect for someone who had the guts to reach out when suffering? In America, we have a legacy of rugged independence. It may have served us well during the Westward Expansion, but it is hindering our emotional growth and connection in the 21st century. Many years ago, it might have been prudent to keep a stiff upper lip, as everyone on that wagon train was shouldering a very heavy load. Now, with plenty of help available, it doesn’t make sense to tough it out on your own.

What stops you from seeking help? Often, it’s your ego. The ego doesn’t like feeling weak, needy, or dependent. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone suffers, everyone has losses, and everyone feels existential angst, even if they don’t call it that. (The sometimes terrifying sense of isolation and meaninglessness that can spawn a plethora of negative, self-defeating thoughts.)

It is all illusion. You are an energy being. Everything is energy. You are connected to everything. A sense of separateness is only that, a feeling. It will pass. You will feel connected again. The Buddha didn’t study sub-atomic particles or string theory but he knew we are all one. You may not feel it, but how aware are you of the earth’s rotating on its axis right this minute? You don’t need to feel something for it to be true. For now, just take it on faith that your life has meaning, the world needs you (or you wouldn’t have been born), and there are better days ahead. (Viktor Frankl’s book: Man’s Search for Meaning is an inspiring read.)

If you are still thinking of ending your life, remember: You are a sacred being full of grace. If you find that concept inconceivable, stick around and keep looking. At some point, if you pay attention, you will wake up to your inner light and beauty.

The National Suicide Prevention hotline is: 1- 800-273-TALK (8255) and it is open 24/7.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Grieving and Pre-grieving April 2, 2010


As you navigate loss through the long-term illness of a loved one, or years of growing detachment and sorrow before a divorce, you may think you have done most of your letting go. No doubt, you surrendered into the abyss of grief many times. But grief is a sneaky little demon, and will come back to bite you when you least expect it. Even though you successfully relinquish the relationship more with each passing day, grief is waiting in the wings. While you may have devoted a fair amount of energy to moving forward, it is rare to have done all your grief work before someone is truly gone, or the ink is dry on your divorce papers.


The essence of healing is that everyone’s path is different. Comparing how long it takes you to let go with how long it took someone else, is not only a thankless task, it adds to your suffering. You may never fully let go. If you were in a relationship for decades, that person is part of you. You may not like it, but decades spent with a partner attaches you. So, even if you have grieved long and heartily, when the finality hits you may find yourself steeped in sadness.


Lamenting can take many forms: avoiding company, crying, addictive distractions (like overeating, smoking, gambling, promiscuity, compulsive shopping, drinking, drug use, workaholism, over-medicating with prescriptions, over-exercising, etc.), surrounding yourself with people 24/7, vowing to never love again, etc. Some of these strategies are benign and some can be quite toxic. If you are veering off a healthy path, gently and lovingly bring yourself back to positive self-talk (see Affirmations), a regular schedule of meals and sleep (see Nutrition and Insomnia), and a good balance between work, play, company and solitude. If that is impossible right now, give yourself a cosmic permission slip to say, “OK, I want more food, work, exercise, etc. right now to buffer the tsunami of emotions I am feeling. At some point, I will get past this and feel vital and optimistic. I can let myself take all the time I need to grieve in whatever way feels right to me.” Obviously, if you are shooting heroin, popping OxyContin, or gambling away all your money, get some help. You don’t have to shoulder this alone. Twelve Step groups not only offer tried and true methods for overcoming addiction, they provide you with a community of like minded people all seeking peace, healing, and new ways to embrace life. Working one-on-one with a therapist provides a different kind of insight, direction, and support. Experiment and see what works best for you.


Whether you mentally said good-bye years ago; or, in the case of divorce, led parallel lives for as long as you can remember, your feelings will be different from the finality you experience when the casket is lowered or the divorce decree is granted. Expect raw emotions. Don’t be surprised if you burst into tears during a sentimental movie, when hugging your children, or hearing a certain song. Stifling your feelings is never a good option. Your job is to allow everything that comes up, whatever its intensity or duration. It won’t last.


If you still adhere to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief, please know her theory has been updated. Therapists, chaplains, and medical personnel realize grief is unique. There is no map for mourning. Yes, friends and family want you to feel better and let go of your anger, sadness, or negativity. You will, when you are ready. In the meantime, you may want to feign feeling better than you do (see Fake It ‘Til You Make It). It’s only an exercise. You are simply trying on a new thought or feeling to see how well it fits; and, it can provide a little relief while getting people off your case. Especially, the ones who say, “Aren’t you over that already?” (See Responses to: Get over it already.)


The main thing is recognizing the pervasiveness of grief. No matter what loses and sorrows you faced before a death or divorce decree, there are likely to be bouts of deep sadness, existential emptiness, and reverberations of shock that come unbidden. As Rumi said in his poem The Guest House:


Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture.
Still treat each guest honorably.
They may be clearing you out
For some new delight.


I believe they are clearing you out for some new delight. Moreover, if you try to rush the process, and I have watched many people jump into new relationships before they have sufficiently grieved, you will carry that unfinished business with you until some new crisis re-activates it. You don’t need to dwell on your sadness, just allow it some space in your heart-mind. You may not always notice the difference, because it’s subtle, but your grief will recede and you feel increasingly comfortable with your new life.



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


%d bloggers like this: