Thursday, July 12, 2012

The suicide ebb tide

You know when you're walking on the beach and the tide is going out, and each time a wave pulls out the next one comes back just a little bit further out than the one that preceded it?

I think grief is like this. In the beginning, it threatens to consume you whole. You are flayed by it and flailing, you are drowning in it. Your eyes and throat are raw from wailing; your skin is so thin and tender it barely contains your corporal being. You think you might just curl up and die from the pain.

But you don't. And eventually, you begin to heal. The hurt doesn't exactly disappear, but you gain distance. And the memories that wash over you from time to time aren't always painful.

I'm not going to compare one grief to another, but I will say that suicide leaves human wreckage in its wake like a hurricane, a tsunami.  Its reach is far and wide and devastating.

And I've come to believe that grief retreats like the tide. It's always there for you to immerse yourself in, but with enough time and help, you don't have to. You can gain some distance, enjoy the relief of the ebb, and stroll on the memory beach with a mix of happiness and sadness.

The susurration of the ocean pulling away is rhythmic and soothing, and you walk along, feeling the water lapping your feet, the sand shifting and sliding gently away beneath your soles.

And then a bigger wave will come along that pushes farther up than you expect.

These sudden waves, they scare me. I don't know why, when I'm at most ankle deep and my feet are already wet. They're low; it's not like they can pull me out with them.

But still, I startle. I get that scared fluttery stomach feeling. Every time.

And here is what I learned the other day: that my father made his suicide hotel reservations in advance.

In advance.

I had always assumed that he hit a particularly desperate moment and decided he just couldn't take it anymore. He always had medications on hand. And rope is a common household item. Those didn't take any planning.

Desperation, I can understand.  But this planning in advance, it seems like so much more of a betrayal.

Is that ridiculous? How can it matter at this point? My dad is dead, and he managed to commit suicide, and in the end it doesn't actually matter if he decided five minutes before or planned it way ahead of time.

But facts like this, they catch me like the surprise wave.

These waves of abandonment, of betrayal, they crash into me - though not so hard as they used to - and they shift the ground beneath me. I'm now strong enough to not lose my footing, to not just sit down and sob.

But goddammit. Fucking suicide.

26 comments:

  1. {{hugs}}

    Also, more hugs.

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    1. Thanks, Jess. Hugs to you (in person, soon!).

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  2. This makes my heart break for you again.
    -Rachel in Chicago

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  3. I do not know what to say other than I'm sorry. And that this is beautifully written.

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    1. Thank you, Sadie. I appreciate it.

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  4. ugh, i'm so sorry. i'm just so sorry. i can't even imagine

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    1. Thank you. It sucks, it just does.

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  5. I'm sorry...it is unimaginable. Time heals - a little at a time. Maybe those waves will continue to get smaller. I hope so. love to you and your mama.

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    1. It's true - time is a great healer, and they do get smaller and smaller. Hugs to you.

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  6. It's not ridiculous. I wish for you continued strength and the warmth of good memories. Your heart is bigger than anyone I know.

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    1. Oh, Heather, I would say the same about your heart. Thank you, my friend.

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  7. Lisa thank you so much for sharing this. As someone who has contemplated and been on the ledge for more than half my life, hearing how suicide loss affects those left behind makes me step back and vastly reconsider what the eff I am doing.
    I am so sorry that he had made plans. I am so sorry that the waves keep coming in. Just keep remembering how strong and how loved you are. Everything else will take care of itself.
    {{hugs}}

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    1. I understand contemplating it, and I understand getting to a point where it actually seems rational. I do. And intellectually, I understand that at that point, it seems like your loved ones would not only be fine, but maybe even better off. But it's never the case. Everyone who loves you is left shattered, wondering what they could have done, how it could've been different, if they didn't show you they loved you enough to keep you here...Hugs and strength to you, and remember that you are strong and you are loved, and people are willing and happy to help if you reach out.

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  8. I can't even imagine... that really fucking sucks, but really good to hear you're feeling strong enough to deal with it.

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    1. I know you're grappling with your own grief, and loss of a loved one sucks, really fucking sucks. I appreciate it, and hugs to you and yours.

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  9. Lisa :( I am so sorry. Mental illness just sucks...for the family, for the person who is ill....I pray that our children's generation does not whisper about depression and anxiety...but that they kick its ass.

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    1. Lori, that is such a good thing to focus on. I hope the same - that the shame and stigma are banished, and we talk about it openly and offer help and solutions, and, as you said, "kick its ass"! Big hugs to you.

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  10. I used to think you couldn't love your children and commit suicide. Until last year when I wanted to die. I'd plan what and when and where. And my children came to mind. But I hated me and my life as much as I loved them which was a LOT. But the pain I was in was so overwhelmingly bad and hard. And the effort to look and act like I wasn't in pain wore me out. And that weariness sometimes wins out. I read something once that said "People who commit suicide don't want to die, they just want the pain to stop" Unfortunately it doesn't stop, it just moves on to your loved ones. I commend you for working through that pain that your dad left behind. Love and Hugs.

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    1. Love and hugs to you, Lynn. I'm SO glad you got help and so glad you got through it. You are right, and the pain and the weariness sometimes win out...I know in my mind he didn't want to leave us, didn't want to hurt us, didn't want to die. I just have trouble feeling that in my heart sometimes.

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    2. Looking back on Lori's comment I love what she says. I think for me it was easier to get help as a woman than it is for a man. Maybe that is a direction we should all focus on. Helping men to feel that they can ask and get help without losing their manliness.Hell they can't even ask for directions...we have a long way to go.

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  11. My sentiments exactly, you always describe this whole post-suicide grief experience so perfectly. I can totally identify with the pre-planned business--I found a stash of my grandpa's leftover "supplies"; planned or not planned it sucks and isn't fair.

    Big hugs and lots of warm thoughts to you, lady.

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  12. Big hugs flying to you Lisa. I'm so forever sorry he couldn't stay.

    You are strong. But if you did feel like just sitting down and sobbing, that would be okay too.

    Usually these days, when I am feeling sad and it shows, and my children ask what's wrong, I say "I'm just tired," either because I don't want to tell them why I'm crying, or, more often, because I do not know why I'm crying. But I feel like I should be more honest with them. I think I might be inadvertently teaching them that when they are feeling sad, they are just tired, instead of helping them to understand why they are sad or upset. All part of trying to figure out how to not dismiss my emotions and theirs too. I had no idea this part of parenting would be so complicated, and so challenging.

    How did I get off on that tangent?

    More hugs.

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  13. Oh Lisa. I have nothing but hugs to send your way.

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  14. Oh dear Lisa, I'm so sorry. You write so beautifully about the slow release of the pain caused by your father's suicide... I can understand how you feel kicked in the gut by the revelation about the reservation. You wonder how it can matter, but even in the reflected pain I felt reading your post, I can only say that it matters, it really does. And once again, I'm so sorry. Hugs to you.

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  15. When I am feeling so low, so low I don't think I can carry on, I am inspired by the words of those who have been left behind, who have tried and failed, who have tried and failed repeatedly, and always, I am thankful for those words.
    Thank you.
    And I am so sorry.

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