Happy(?) Holidays

I include the question mark because so many people struggle this time of year.  For me, issues with deep grief and ritualistic trauma frequently permeate the lighter side of the season.  This year I have made a concerted effort to participate, rather than hide myself away somewhere.  I have gone Christmas shopping and made plans for both Christmas and Chanukah celebrations.  This has helped, to some extent, but I find my agita spiralling as the holidays near.

My sister’s death from suicide on 7 December 2000 is the most painful thing I’ve ever been through, and its sting is still just as sharp as it was that day.  I have had quite a few other losses, and they all still sting. My sister’s death, however, still drops me to my knees sometimes.  She was my second self.  We were rarely separated, and I still hold myself partially at fault for not seeing the signs in her.  That day was just as painful as ever this year, and it started my mind down the spiral of grief and fear.  I’m trying to bring it back up.

If you are struggling this month, please hold on.  Somewhere out there, someone needs you more than you know.

In the UK & Ireland: Contact the Samaritans  116 123

In the US:  1-800-784-2433;  TTY:  1-800-799-4889

 

 

 

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Here

I came home unexpectedly today.  A few nights ago, I woke up unexpectedly in hospital after having taken what I thought was a fatal overdose.  The combination of a lengthy depressive episode and a bad living situation that I can’t escape got to be too much for me, and I attempted to end my life.  Yet now I’m here, typing a blog post I never thought I’d write on a day I never thought I’d see.

Even though the attempt didn’t work, I hurt a great deal of people.  Most of all, I hurt my FOC.  These are the people who taught me family and who expect me to be there for them.  I let them down, and I’ll have to live with that.  How do you apologise enough?  How do you win back the trust of those who never deserved to be put in this situation?  How do you learn to live with the guilt?  I’m wrestling with these questions now.  Nothing I can do will make up for what I put people through, but I’ll do my best.

There’s also therapy– loads of it.  I’m having daily sessions, at least by phone, and working hard at setting things right.  It will take a while; I’m not completely happy to be here yet.  I can, however, say that I’m not a danger to myself.  My therapist told me to hold on to the feeling of pain brought on by putting my FOC through this, and that is a great motivator for staying alive.  In the past, it’s always been enough to see me through.  This time, however, my current situation won out.  My FOC do *not* deserve this.

I’m not sure how to move forward from here.  Slowly, of course, but the path is unclear.  I’ve given my word to two of the most important people in my FOC for the first time, and I keep my word.  Suicide is no longer an option.  In a strange sense, that leaves me feeling helpless.  What can I do if things get to be too much again? That question might well go unanswered for a bit.  Much therapy yet to come.

So I’m here.  And I’m working on it.  For now, that’s all I can do.

Listening

The seventh of this month marked the 13th anniversary of my sister’s death.  She has now been gone one year longer than she lived.  The thought is devastating.  There are no words to describe how much I miss her.  She dances through my mind all the time, and she is a constant presence in my life.  Unfortunately, she also left a constant and suffocating absence.

I had the chance to visit my far-flung FOC earlier this month, which provided me with the strength to get through that day and will surely help through the upcoming holidays, as well.  The night before the anniversary of my sister’s death, I talked a great deal about her with my brother-of-choice, and that turned out to be one of the most important conversations I’ve ever had.  That’s the focus of this post– help for those grieving losses that have never had a chance to heal.

The week of my sister’s death anniversary, I play through the events over and over in my mind.  I look for any sign from that week, trying to figure out what I missed.  My mind holds the false hope that maybe this is the year I’ll be able to stop her going through with her plan, even though I know that will never be a possibility.  I have nightmares, flashbacks of the day I found her body, and a general haziness to my thoughts.  It is a horrible week.

In our conversation, my brother-of-choice simply listened.  He provided excellent advice without trying to ‘fix’ the problem, and he listened.  He listened to me talk about her death, as well as her life, which was essential to me at that time.  I needed to get the negatives and positives of her existence out of my mind so that the space I keep for her was calm again.  I also needed to share her with someone who feels a closeness to her, even though they never met in this life.

If you know someone in a similar circumstance– someone grieving the loss of a young person or of a suicide– you might well feel helpless if they turn to you to talk.  You might feel a need to shield from the harshness of the death, as well as distance from the fact that the person lived.  When you are feeling most helpless, though, the way to help this person will likely be simple.  Just listen.  Let the person tell you about their loved one’s life and death.  Let them get lost in the wonder of their loved one’s existence, and be there to help them stay grounded when memories of the death start to cloud out the present.

By the same token, you must take care of yourself.  If you do not feel comfortable listening to such details, speak up.  You will hurt yourself, as well as your relationship with the person, if you push yourself beyond your own limits.  If you can, though, just listen.  Don’t feel the need to solve the problem of grief.  No one needs that responsibility.  Grieving people *need* to talk about their losses, particularly when the losses leave behind so many questions like suicides do.  By simply listening, you can do wonders for helping your friend or loved one heal.

I will be forever grateful to my brother-of-choice for helping me mark both my sister’s life and her death.

Haunted

Of all the losses I’ve faced, my sister’s suicide is the most complicated.  It’s been my near-constant thought since the grief issues were sparked.  I’m haunted by the thought of how she died and what she experienced.  The singer Dido puts it best in her song ‘The Day Before the Day‘:

It wakes me every single night.  Thinking through the day.

Did you stop at any time?  Have doubts at any stage?

Or were you calm or were you numb?

Or happy just to get it done?

I’ve lived my life without regret

Until today.

I found my sister’s body on a rainy December afternoon all the way back in 2000.  The image is burnt in my mind, and I see it every bit as clear now as I did that day.  Sometimes I even see it in my waking hours.  The fact that she died alone bothers me tremendously.  I wonder if I could have done anything at all had I got there even a few minutes earlier.  Her body was still the smallest bit warm when I found her.

My therapist says if it hadn’t been that day it would have happened soon thereafter.  She says my sister had determined to end her life, and even if she had survived that day, she would have just followed through with her plan another time.  Still, I wish for even a few more minutes with her even though I know I’d just want more.  I want to talk to her now and ask if there was anything at all I or anyone could have done to help.

In my mind, I see a young girl slipping away with no one around to help.  I’d have done anything I could to save her, but at very least, I would like to have been there to help her through the transition.  Thinking that she went through that alone keeps me up at night.  She died alone.  I wonder if she was afraid or if she would have changed her mind if someone had come home in time.  I wonder if she felt pain or if she simply grew cold and sleepy.  I wonder if she felt the cuts or was shocked by the amount of blood.  I wonder if she wished for someone to be there with her, and I would give anything to have been able to comfort her, if nothing else.

Grief is a beast that eats away at a survivor’s very existence.  My life seems to have stopped that day, as well, and no amount of therapy has even touched the wound.  The circumstances surrounding her death are so horrific, and it set off a chain of events that completely shattered any stability my mother and I had established.  Twelve and a half years later, the loss still feels new, and the shock is every bit as strong.  I fight against accepting it, as if refusing to accept it means it never happened.  I go over the details of the days leading up to that one, looking for any sign at all that might have been missed.  My sister was the very centre of my universe; everything revolved around her.  Since her death, the universe has revolved around her absence.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Speeches won’t be made today.  Clocks will carry on.

Flowers won’t be left in parks.  Work will still be done.

People won’t be dressed in black.  Babies will be born.

No flags will fly, the sun will rise.

But we will know that you are gone.

You who loved to love, and believed we can never give enough.

**

It wakes me every single night.  Thinking through the day.

Did you stop at any time?  Have doubts at any stage?

Or were you calm or were you numb?

Or happy just to get it done?

I’ve lived my life without regret.

Until today.

And you who loved to love, and believed we can never give enough.

**

I didn’t get to say goodbye.  The day before the day.

I was trying to get to work on time.  That’s why I turned away.

And missed the most important thing you ever tried to say.

I’ve lived my life without regret.

Until today.

**

And you who loved to love, and believed we can never give enough.

And you who hoped that underneath, we all felt the same.

That was until

The day before the day.

                                             ~Dido, ‘The Day Before the Day’

End of the Beginning

The Rembrandts have a song by that title, and it resonates in terms of my mother’s death.  It’s a cruel fact that she died when the world was in full bloom and at a time when she had all the resources she would have needed to heal.  The end of her beginning.  My therapist and I have talked extensively about that, which seems odd considering the issues were my mother’s.  Her actions had a deep effect on my life, though.

My mother died in mid-Spring, and these early spring days always bring her death to mind.  I think of her more and more frequently these days.  Next month, the ninth anniversary of her death will pass.  It’s so hard to think that that many years have gone by.  I miss her, simply put.  Sometimes I miss her in the way a child needs her mum; other times I miss her in terms of needing a friend who had shared my entire life.  That sense of belonging can’t be replaced.  It’s not a sense of loneliness.  Just a knowledge that the fibres of a family– no matter how loose they were– are torn beyond repair.

The therapist compared my mother to a tornado, coming in with swift violence and disappearing just as quickly.  I’d say that’s fairly accurate.  She did, indeed, make life difficult sometimes.  Still, she had her own demons in her past and present life.  I’d like to think she did what she could to keep from losing the fight.  The somewhat bitter part of me points out that she ended the fight of her own accord, though.

The letter she left was absolutely heart wrenching.  It was in five different hand-writings, and some were contradicting others.  Some did not want to die.  The letter was directed to me.  My mother said she knew I’d leave her in the end, and she wasn’t willing to risk that loss.  I had made plans for us to move forward *together.*  I hadn’t made a single plan without considering how to include her.  Apparently, though, it wasn’t quite enough.  The child alter who was out most frequently wrote on the note that she was sorry and would miss me.  Even now, all these years later, that image hurts deeply.

I wanted to protect my mother, to show her that life could be better than what she’d known all those years.  I wanted her to feel truly loved.  Her suicide was about her.  It wasn’t me, and the decision wasn’t mine to make.  I can’t help but feel responsible to some extent, though.  Almost nine years have passed, but I still wonder sometimes if there was anything I could have done differently, any help I could have offered, that would have been enough for her.  For all her faults and violence, she was a beautiful, fun-loving woman, as well.  We had amazing times together, and I cherish those memories.  I loved her deeply and grieve as much for what she lost as for the loss I sustained.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Everyday together runs

It’s all we need to hang our hearts

Upon the silver moon

There’s a meaning to it all

It doesn’t matter anymore

‘Cause it’s the end of the beginning

                                                                                                                          ~The Rembrandts, “End of the Beginning”

Behind the Scenes

I’ve been working at gathering resources on suicide/suicide awareness.  Only one person responded to share a story, and she has graciously given permission to publish a link to her dissertation on this subject.  Be on the lookout for that.

In the meantime, I’m rechecking and designing some of the database, as well as some of my own stuff.  Just wanted to put up a quick post for those of you who are waiting for this section of the blog to be developed.  You’re not forgotten, and neither is the project!

Suicide Awareness & Education

Over the next month (November 2012), I am going to be putting together resources for a post and/or page about suicide awareness and education.  This is in memory of my sister.  As someone who has survived the loss of two people from suicide and who has attempted it herself, I feel very passionately about making information available to people.  My therapist and I are working very hard on grief issues, particularly surrounding my sister’s death.  For the first time since her death almost twelve years ago, I feel strong enough to do something like this in her honour.

My plan is to arrange information in a series of posts under the categories ‘suicide’ and ‘suicide awareness’ depending on the amount of information gathered.  If you have anything you’d like to share– stories, resources, et c– please contact me by email at ec1_englishrain@yahoo.com  You can also click on ‘Email me’ on the homepage of this site.  I understand that anonymity is imperative.  When you email, please let me know how you would like the information credited.  You don’t have to be a survivor of suicide, someone who has attempted suicide, or anything like that.  The only requirement is that you have something to add to the conversation.  Please note, though, that extremely graphic information could be turned down or at least marked as triggering.  Again, it depends on how much information is received.

Thanks so much for all your help.  Let’s do this for those we love and all those touched by suicide.