The Beauty in It All

As I took a stroll on this beautiful Autumn morning, a peculiar thought occurred to me– the beauty of Autumn is in death.  What we see as beautiful colours is actually the death of the leaves.  Beauty in death.  Who would have thought that possible?

This got me thinking of my sister’s death, which is a thought that’s never far away.  My therapist tried to help me see a sense of hope in her death.  She chose her time to go out, and she went out on a high note.  Those were my therapist’s words.  They only served to make *me* suicidal, though.  If suicide is about going out on a high note, why don’t we all do it?  Why don’t we all just choose our time?  Those were my thoughts from the therapist’s perspective.

The answer I discovered took me by surprise.  Suicide isn’t the  answer, even though it seems so right sometimes, because we can’t actually guess when our high note occurs.  My sister died four days after her twelfth birthday, four days after a celebration that was all about her.  I can’t help but wonder what she had ahead of her, though.  I’d like to think there would have been many more high notes.  Enough to keep her here, at least.

There is a certain beauty in death.  The kind of death that is a long, slow and peaceful decline toward our next journey.  I saw this last year when my best friend’s grandmother died.  The family gathered together to take the last steps of this life with the matriarch who linked them all.  It was so sad to watch her pass, but it was beautiful to see her family come together to support each other and share this pain.

There is no beauty in suicide.  There is violence and endless questions and years of longing.  I say this both as a survivor and someone who has attempted herself.  I can’t promise I’ll never be suicidal again, but I can promise that I’ll always look to my family-of-choice and all the high notes they bring to pull myself back out again.  The beauty of life is that, no matter how dark it gets sometimes, you never know when a high note is just around the corner.

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The Tip of the Scale

Apparently, this significant anniversary of my sister’s death is going to be more problematic than typical years.  It’s been two weeks, and things aren’t improving.  The nightmares are still happening, the flashbacks are still interrupting my day, and the desperation is still a constant thought.  I will bring this to my therapist tomorrow, but tonight it’s overwhelming me.  I’m not sure what to do with the intensity of the emotions, and I’m not sure how to deal with the fact that they are lasting this long.  The black and white answer is that I simply endure.  One foot in front of the other, as I told a very depressed friend recently.  Easier said than done.

With this tip of the scale, my sister’s death seems more significant than her life.  She lived twelve years; she has been dead for thirteen.  It’s like my worst fear realised– her death has been a fact longer than her life.  She feels so far away.  It’s like her existence is fading.  Like her energy has dissipated beyond existence.  I don’t know what happens after we die, but I’ve always hoped that at least *some* version of ourselves lives on.  But for how long?  When is that essence gone?  Does it even exist in the first place?  While the scale was tipped in the ‘positive’ side, I seemed to retain some hope in my sister’s life.  Now, it feels like she is lost forever in every form possible.  It’s like she went from an entity to an apparition, all with one slide of a balance.

I just want to hold on to some part of her, but that feels impossible now.  Perhaps it’s false hope finally breaking.  Whatever it is, though, I just hope it leaves some small piece of her behind.  Right now, it feels like I’m losing her all over again, and I don’t think I can take that loss.  Twelve years was so very short, and thirteen so very long.

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.

First Thoughts

My housemates are out of town, leaving me alone in the house for the first time in ages.  My first thoughts?  That it would be so easy to simply step out of this existence and in to the next incarnate.  I imagine what it would be like to do as my sister did and die with blood pooling about me, warm at first and cooling as it dried.  I think about how easy it would be to swallow a few too many pills and slip in to a never-ending sleep.  These things are, truth be told, like siren songs.  Dark, seductive voices that draw me toward an unknown destination that seems preferable, sometimes, to this one.

I know what it’s like to lose someone to suicide, and the thought of how my death would affect those I love is truly the only thing that keeps me here.  Over the years, my best friend has become a means of survival for me.  I look at him and think of what he would lose in terms of our friendship.  I’m not the most confident person, and my self-esteem is almost non-existent.  However, my FOC tell me they enjoy having me in their lives, and I owe them any amount of joy I can give.  My first thought when I’m alone, though, is how I can end my existence or cause myself pain as penance for something I can’t even describe.

Colourful

I’m working through a rather difficult exercise in therapy right now, but I can actually see the progress.  A bit ago, my therapist asked me to draw the scene I saw on the day I found my sister’s body.  It was harrowing.  There, in black and white lines, was the memory that has been haunting me for all these years.  My whole body was shaking, and I felt nauseous.  I did a mandala to channel the feelings, which helped a bit.

We continued with this exercise on Monday.  The goal, then, was to change the picture in to something positive.  It was a very mixed process.  In part, the exercise was nice.  It was a way of making a horrible scene more approachable.  On another part, though, it felt like glossing over what is, taken in its purest sense, a very important part of my sister’s life.  I changed the furniture to reflect our lounge, a happier place in our flat.  The shape of the blood morphed into the outline of my sister’s favourite toy, and the weapons became elements of art.

The hardest part was colouring her.  At first, the experience was oddly comforting.  I was bringing life to the image of her corpse.  Pink lips, peach skin, blonde hair, blue eyes.  All the things that made her my beautiful sister.  I felt like I was giving her back the life she took, healing her as best I could.  Then, the image hit me.  I was focusing directly on the image that lives in my nightmares and flashbacks.  At that point, my whole body went cold, and I asked the therapist if perhaps we could stop for a bit.  Every sense of emotion was gone.

I’ll start again with the drawing at some other time.  For now, though, I’m going to let it be.

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’

Dazed

Yesterday I spoke with my therapist about my sister’s suicide for the first time.  I left the session absolutely exhausted.  Today, I’m in a daze.  I feel like I’m existing outside of time.  I feel very afraid.  My life is stuck in the day my sister died, and I recently figured out that I won’t likely be able to move forward without digging through this mess completely.  The therapist just told me that we’d take it session by session and see how it all unfolds.  This is the point when therapy gets very difficult, but essential and vitally important as well.

Wish me luck.