Today, I’m going to do something so completely different from recent blogs, that you may think this came from another writer entirely, but I assure you, it’s all me!
On the advice of a friend, I started reading “The Quitter” by John Acuff and as I read through the part about finding your “hinge”, I realized that, whichever way I cut it, writing is my passion. When he asked if you’d even do it for free, I have and I would.
This led me to reflect on what really caused me to start this blog which began on Facebook in early 2009, later migrating here when I got frustrated with the format and lack of space. And that something is what I keep referring back to as my “18,000 words of garbage”. But the fact is, it isn’t all garbage, and it did have a really good purpose, so what I’m going to do today is share the first chapter of what I’ve tentatively titled “Live After Suicide: Healing and Forgiving”.
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December 28, 1993, less than a month before a cataclysmic earthquake rattled
Northridge and quite a bit of Southern California. Choosing to remain in bed when my father left
for work due to some unspecified malaise, she sought to get rid of the pain
with a bottle of sleeping pills. She
didn’t leave a note or a sign but left behind her 6 year old granddaughters, her
infant grandson, my sister, my father and me. And scores of unanswered questions.
mother. Angry because, as my father
struggled with depression and the well-meaning questions from friends and
family, she’d left him to find her cold body in the bed they’d shared for
nearly forty years. Angry because she
left the granddaughters who loved her, even when she was making their mother
crazy with her opinions on how they should be raised. And angry because she left during a very
difficult time in my life as I slogged through an ugly divorce.
road nearly 10 years later, on September 11, 2003, exactly two years after the
fateful World Trade Center
disaster, and one day before his granddaughters’ 16th birthday. As near as we can tell, he pondered the lung
cancer diagnosis he’d recently received, wrote a note, smoked one last
cigarette and put a gun I wasn’t even aware he owned to his head. He did remember, before he left us, to send
the girls birthday cards and checks, which arrived a couple of days after he
was gone. Through most of the ten years
following my mother’s death, my dad dated a woman who was freakishly like my
mom, in a shorter, more earthy kind of way.
The note he left was directed to her and gave her his apologies. To me he left the job of cleaning up after
him, and clearing out what remained of both his life and my mother’s, while my
sister wondered why I couldn’t get the job done faster. I never saw her cry.
how to bake Snickerdoodles, irritated me with her obsessive –compulsive neatness,
loved my daughters to distraction while making me crazy with her “suggestions”
on raising them. And one day, quite
suddenly, she was gone.
from my father, who sounded like a man in shock, unable to believe where his
life had led. The details, though, came
more slowly. Wading through caramel
slowly, in fact. A question from the coroner had Dad searching
Mom’s office for a how-to book on suicide.
He found it hidden behind some other books on her bookshelf. Clearly, she’d had time to think before she
to cope. And by coping, I mean keeping
things in, not letting those around you see that you weren’t really keeping it
together as much as it appeared. That
the strong, solid exterior you showed the world was merely a front for how
broken, how shattered you were inside, the part which must never be
shared. From them I also learned to
depend only on myself. It wasn’t
appropriate to expect anyone to take care of you or even for you to need
dependent is, I believe, what drove my Dad to take his life. He could not conceive of having me, my sister
and our children watch his deterioration the way he had watched his mother’s,
nor could he conceive of us having to care for him until nature took it’s
course. He was a very proud man, and,
from his perspective, did the only honorable and loving thing he could for us.
challenges in the grieving process which are quite different from those who lose
someone to cancer or a car accident or even murder. We feel shame, and with that shame, comes
guilt. It took me a long time to get
past the shame, and to really understand why it’s even there. I came to the conclusion that because Society
has been as judgmental and uninformed about suicide as they are about
homosexuality, it has become a subject that is only discussed in whispers,
looking around to make sure nobody overhears.
One of the most common of those misconceptions is that family members
should have seen it coming and gotten help before the unmentionable act
case of a youthful suicide as there are many studies and reports about teenage
suicide, behaviour changes and obvious drug abuse. But in truth, the percent of adults who
attempt suicide and succeed far exceeds that of teenagers. In part, this is because, as adults, we learn
to protect ourselves by revealing only a small portion of who we really are. When things are painful or difficult, adults
often withdraw, but in the meantime, they continue to be responsible adults,
going to work, raising kids, even volunteering.
They don’t share their struggles over finances or parents who are aging
and need extra care, or marriages that are slowly imploding. They can go through their life, their normal
routine, being functionally depressed until one day it just overwhelms
them. Because they’re upholding their
responsibilities, we tend to overlook or work around their moodiness, their
overreactions to simple things, and assume they’re just having a bad day. In cases where the crankiness goes on for a
long period of time, people just write it off to the person’s nature and
interact with them as little as possible, which, in reality, probably fuels the
less damaging to the victim’s family as well meaning people ask why they didn’t
notice or find help for the victim. I
remember watching people badger my Dad right after Mom died and wanting to look
at them in disbelief, saying “He’s not a psychiatrist! Living with Mom over the years, I’m sure he
learned to overlook certain behaviour to avoid arguments, if nothing
else!” And in my Mom’s case, I had heard
from some of those same relatives that the mere mention that she had a problem
and should see a doctor would cause her to go ballistic. I know for a fact that my dad never really
learned to cope with her anger, except to withdraw into himself until it
passed. It’s like saying, “I know the
stove is hot and I’ve felt the pain of a burn before, but I’m going to put my
hand on that hot burner anyway.” How
many of us are stupid enough to intentionally repeat an action we know is
painful, or at least highly uncomfortable?
Isn’t that the true definition of
insanity? Knowing what the result of an
action will be, but doing it over and over, hoping for a different outcome.
intervene? Would our efforts be met as
well intentioned, or simply as meddling, and quite possibly, make matters
worse? Mental health issues aren’t
exactly table talk either. It’s only in
recent years that seeing a psychiatrist or a counselor hasn’t caused
speculation about nervous breakdowns or schizophrenia and thoughts of that
crazy cousin nobody every sees, or dear Aunt Agnes who’s “delicate” and who the
children have learned to tiptoe around on the rare occasions she comes to
* * * * * * * * *
Due to the nature of today’s post, and it’s digression from what has become a “normal” post these days, I’m leaving the gratitudes for later, except to say that I appreciate anyone who read through to this point.
Love and light.