Monday, January 21, 2013

Coping with Suicide: Some Initial Thoughts

This post and any following it are not going to be easy for me to write. I'm putting this out here because it's what I'd like to read at the moment and cannot find anywhere in the Very Helpful Information that people keep giving me. This is because most of the Very Helpful Information that has been shared with me over the past 46 days has consisted mostly in "It's entirely normal for you to be X or Y or Z or even A, B or C. In fact, everyone deals with grief in different ways, so however you're feeling is quite normal."

I am not going to dispute the Very Helpful Information; instead, I'm hoping to move beyond it because, here's the Thing: as much as feeling X, Y, Z, A, B or C might be normal for someone feeling grief and as much as grief lasts for an indeterminate amount of time, I want to know how to get back to something that might more easily be called normal for the rest of the (non-grieving) population. The Thing is that if I had not lost my dad to suicide recently, my fits of not eating, my extreme social withdrawal, my inconsistent sleep patterns and my irritability (not to mention the strange constriction of my throat that I've been feeling every time I think about dad's suicide lately) would not be normal and I want to go back to a normal reaction as soon as possible. I am hoping to have an irregular series of posts on how I'm going at the moment so that I can both document how I'm coping with suicide and so that, perhaps, others might come to see that - although our stories and journeys are different - it is possible to cope with the suicide of someone close to you. I am convinced that it is possible to cope; it simply must be possible to get through this horror that I feel and to be able to regain normality.

And then I wonder if I'm just slothful, ungrateful or stupidly unable to cope.

Jen Fulwiler, a blogger for the Nation Catholic Register, over at her personal blog, recently posted about the trials of motherhood - more to the point (for me, at least) - the relief she felt at the diagnoses she received of a condition that's nearly fatal. Isn't it strange how someone's blog on nothing-to-do-with-suicide had been amazingly helpful to me this week? Here is a passage from her post that particularly stood out for me when I first read them a few days ago:
But there was something else, too, that was responsible for my surprisingly peaceful state of mind:
December was a hard month. I couldn’t seem to stay on top of anything, and my inability to deal with life seemed to get worse by the week. 
Now, Jen's diagnoses came after December and mine (as it were) came at the beginning. However, I would describe my December in much the same way that she did. Moreover, in the 30something hours following finding out about dad's death, I had a terrible sense of relief.
Apparently, according to the Very Helpful Information I've been reading, this is another one of those Normal Reactions To Grief. However, it was terrifying for me. Why should I feel relief at the fact that my dad had hung himself?

I think that a good portion of my relief was due to my expectation that this is how dad would die and, moreover, a relief that I did nothing to directly trigger it and was there when mum and Aaron found out.

Actually, I answered the door at about 9.30pm, after mum and Aaron had gone to bed, to two police men asking for mum. I had just house-sat for mum for a week and had her car during that time; my first thought upon opening the door was, "but I didn't do anything illegal with mum's car!"
I did my best to not listen to the initial conversation that the police had with mum in the front room but decided to go in when I over-heared them asking about dad by his full name.
I then had to wake up Aaron.
Seriously, that kid (not really a kid anymore, but, hey!) is a gun and such an amazingly mature young man.
I then stayed up until just-about-day-break calling people, watching Monty Python and having crying fits.

Before going on, I will quote Fr Ron Rolheiser:
Is this making light of suicide? No. Anyone who has ever dealt with either the victim of a suicide before his or her death or with those grieving that death afterwards knows that it is impossible to make light of it. There is no pain like the one suicide inflicts. Nobody who is healthy wants to die and nobody who is healthy seeks to burden his or her loved ones with this kind of pain. And that's the point: This is only done when someone isn't healthy. (X)
And now, I shall go on with what I was saying

My relief was born from more than just this, though. Or, rather, it is not that simple. It never is, I'm told.

Three years beforehand, between the Christmas of 2009 and the New Year ('09/'10) dad had threatened and attempted to commit suicide three times. I was so angry with him at the third time that I ignored his suicide-note-text (it was the third in 5 days) and continued dancing at the Ballroom, making the decision not to talk to him. It took me eleven months of carefully ignoring his calls, text messages and attempts to see me face-to-face before I was ready to make contact with him.

In November of 2010 I had decided that the best way was to call him and read a prepared monologue that ended with an option of him sending me a letter in reply and I did so.

The reply made it quite plain to me that dad blamed me for his suicide attempts almost a year earlier.
What was I to do with that information other than withdraw from the one I had so grievously injured and pray that both he and I got better?

It was almost a full year before I was able to attempt to make contact with him again. I read another monologue, this one ending with an invitation to meet me for coffee on entirely my terms. We met and when we did so, he denied that he'd ever accused me of causing his suicidal ... however you finish this sentence. It was almost too much for me to bear, however I knew how much my non-communication with dad was hurting my brother, so I forged on, trying to mend what was beyond broken. Shattered comes to mind. So does the phrase "ground into dust."

I need to make it abundantly clear that God, as through my entire life, was with me and has been with me. I know that God uses all things for the good of those who love Him, just as Saint Paul says. It is so important for you, my reader, to know that God is always - always - with us: He dwells within us by our Baptism, where we are marked with His Sign. God never forsakes those whom He loves. God loves each and everyone of us.

Moreover, He is full of compassion; He is abounding in mercy; He is full of tenderness and love.

There is nothing, ever, that can keep Him from us.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2282-2283) says that
Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.
We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.
And yet I finish with more from Fr Rolheiser; I do so as a means for me to lead into my next post on this topic, whenever it is that I write that.
Knowing all of this however, doesn't necessarily take away our pain (and anger) at losing someone to suicide. Faith and understanding aren't meant to take our pain away but to give us hope, vision, and support as we walk within it. 


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