The Reason (Suicide, Part 3)

“I keep one foot out the door, and that’s suicide by increments.”
Rob (played by John Cusack) in “High Fidelity”

And that, right there, is the problem. I’ve a lead foot out the door and I think it’s soldered there. There’s an uncertain fear I live with and don’t care to define. Ed’s done it for me: “You are afraid to live because you think you’ll lose Philip.” But what does it mean to live, I want to ask him; show me how. He’d only shake his head because really, what else could he do? He can’t show me how to live because life isn’t given you by someone else, and if you think it is, it isn’t yours and you’ll wind up resentful, angry and either half-alive or half-dead, depending on the way you look at such things.

I keep thinking that living means having oh-so-many friends and taking fabulous vacations and talking on my cell when when I’m not texting on my cell and Facebooking, Twittering, Instagramming and “connecting” whatever latest way the internet’s figured out how to keep us glued to each other 24/7 because God forbid we should spend too much time considering. Life. Death. Meaning. WTF. It’s exhausting. But that’s not what Ed means by living. He means taking my foot out that door, which has to do with being, not doing. That still gives me only a vague idea of what it means to be in life. And what I see when I come close to sensing what living means is that I’m afraid if I’m not shaming myself, then someone else will do it for me. Somehow, that foot out the door feels like protection.

Hecht writes, “When a person dies, he does wrenching damage to the community.”  And, as Hamlet says of suicide, “ay, there’s the rub.” He’s talking of his uncertainty that death is any kind of end; I’m talking of what happens to those left in the wreckage of a loved one’s suicide, as well as the collective impact. Living carries responsibility with it, which includes taking seriously my effect on other people. I have to tell myself this because I don’t know it. I know I love Philip and I know I love Natalie; what I don’t know is how much I matter to both of them. Nor do I seem to “get” what I mean to other people.

And I think people who kill themselves don’t get what they mean to others. I’ve heard suicide called “selfish.” That’s a cruel, shallow, ignorant and cliched way to describe someone who’s in such devastating pain that it overwhelms consideration of anyone else. For  many, it’s almost like there is no one else because it feels like no one can help and no one really cares, not really. Because it doesn’t penetrate. Because  when you look around it seems like everyone else’s figured out this thing called life while I’m some solitary freak who can’t even find any other solitary freaks to commiserate with. I mean, what is it that keeps people wanting to live? It’s got to be love, doesn’t it? For people, for art, for work that is satisfying; for nature and its mysteries. That feeling of aliveness where you’re engaged in what you’re doing or who you’re with and there you are, being.  But what if you can’t feel anything but the lack of it all, the “Why?” that has no answer?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my experience can’t be unique. I’ve wanted to die because I couldn’t feel love from anyone out there. I mean, I could feel love toward certain people – most deeply and particularly my children – but it didn’t feel reciprocal. When they were little, in my worst moments I would tell myself that I would kill myself when Natalie turned 16, because by then she wouldn’t need me any more.  She’d be well on her way (where the hell did I think she was going?), I’d be one more thing out of her way. Dead mom? Blip in the road, a stumble with quick recovery, then back to it like I wasn’t really there in the first place.

I believed this.

“We are all members of society,” Hecht writes, “and these connections are to be honored.” She says suicide creates more suicide. So I think about this. I think about the way Philip died – it was an accident. And I think of what I went through when I first learned of it, what I’m going through now. I was tortured; it didn’t matter that there wasn’t anything I could’ve done. I’m his mother – I was supposed to protect him. I was sick at the thought that there was a moment when he knew he was going to die, and he was alone and terrified but he had to let go. No way, I’m told; because of the heroin he went out in a blaze of bliss. I’m not so sure, but there isn’t anything I can do about it.

But as devastating as Philip’s death is, what if he’d chosen to killed himself? The things I hold on to are that he was a happy kid, that we were close, that there wasn’t anything unsaid between us. That I’ve nothing to feel guilty about unless I choose to make it so. But look at what his dying has done to me, to his father, to his sister – to all who knew him. The shocking, mindless blow of it. Do I think my own death would be any less shattering? What worse thing for Natalie than to live with a mother who’s not only dead, but dead by her own hand? So she not only gets to suffer my death, she gets to spend her life wondering why she wasn’t enough for me to live for.

And if I would do such a thing, in what meaningful way would I have loved her?

A few months ago, in my bathroom, I got a pain in my chest. It wasn’t about my heart – more like indigestion. But it caused me to bend over, and I closed my eyes, and made believe it was my heart. I might be dying, I thought. My heart might be shutting down and I might just keel over and Natalie’s upstairs, my God Natalie’s upstairs, I can’t leave her now, she’ll freak. She needs me to stay with her – I don’t want to leave her. So there was a crack in the atmosphere and I got it…but where’d it go? Do people live in full knowledge that they matter, they very much matter, to those who love them?

And so I have reason to Stay. But I’m missing the part about wanting to. I’m more attached to Philip’s death than Natalie’s life.

Next: What Philip says about that.

© 2014 Denise Smyth

Advertisements

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Unconfirmed Bachelorette
    Jan 26, 2014 @ 18:23:00

    It may sound stupid, but curiosity keeps me going. Wondering what’s going to happen next. It might be worse. It might be better. Either way–I want to know what happens next. To my thinking, misery is better than no thing. I have no idea what makes me think that way. I do find it curious. There it is again. That curiosity.

    Reply

    • Denise
      Jan 26, 2014 @ 22:39:20

      I don’t think it sounds stupid. Somewhere along the way life became a burden, not a curiosity. And not that “bad” things were happening, just hurt and anger running my life. I used to say that there wasn’t anything “wrong” in my life, but I didn’t want to be in it. Then Philip died and something was mortifyingly wrong – but he asked me not to make his death into something it isn’t.

      I wonder if I can actually begin to feel differently. To be curious about what’s next, instead of waiting for it to pass. It just seems impossible to separate my life from Philip’s death…

      Reply

  2. nita
    Jan 26, 2014 @ 20:15:39

    You aren’t a freak and i wish there was a way to help you realize that you ARE loved, and people care about you and want you to stay in this life. That YOU matter. You do..All of their lives would not be the same without you in it, just as your life hasn’t been the same since you lost your dear son. Don’t ever forget that you matter. I truly believe that if i lost my son, i would be feeling the exact same feelings as you..as any mom would feel..there can’t be a worse pain, there just can’t be..that is your flesh and blood, your child ,and there is nothing stronger than that bond, so of course you are going to feel like you died too and that every day you just can’t go on…but the sun rises, and another day arrives and you just have to. Especially for your daughter, your husband, and everyone else who knows you and loves you. As i sit here and try to articulate some small piece of advice that i may have that could give you some comfort, my mind goes blank. I don’t think there’s anything anyone can say to get you through this. Only you will be able to heal yourself little by little. Even though i don’t know you personally i wish i could take this pain away from you. I wish there was some magical way to make your soul start to smile again, to make it semi whole again, even if only for a minute a day. Each day, maybe one more minute, and one more minute until you feel like you are part of this world again. I have my son’s photo on my night stand, and every day when i reach over to shut off the alarm, i see a picture of him, his smiling face, and myself when he was a young boy. It makes me start my day with a smile. It’s amazing how our minds go to the sad things, instead of the happier memories. All i can say is try, try, try to wake up each morning, think of him and smile. Don’t go to that sad place, go to a happy place, a special memory of him and Smile while remembering him. He will be smiling back at you from above. I believe that.

    Reply

  3. nitasnonsense
    Jan 26, 2014 @ 20:17:49

    You aren’t a freak and i wish there was a way to help you realize that you ARE loved, and people care about you and want you to stay in this life. That YOU matter. You do..All of their lives would not be the same without you in it, just as your life hasn’t been the same since you lost your dear son. Don’t ever forget that you matter. I truly believe that if i lost my son, i would be feeling the exact same feelings as you..as any mom would feel..there can’t be a worse pain, there just can’t be..that is your flesh and blood, your child ,and there is nothing stronger than that bond, so of course you are going to feel like you died too and that every day you just can’t go on…but the sun rises, and another day arrives and you just have to. Especially for your daughter, your husband, and everyone else who knows you and loves you. As i sit here and try to articulate some small piece of advice that i may have that could give you some comfort, my mind goes blank. I don’t think there’s anything anyone can say to get you through this. Only you will be able to heal yourself little by little. Even though i don’t know you personally i wish i could take this pain away from you. I wish there was some magical way to make your soul start to smile again, to make it semi whole again, even if only for a minute a day. Each day, maybe one more minute, and one more minute until you feel like you are part of this world again. I have my son’s photo on my night stand, and every day when i reach over to shut off the alarm, i see a picture of him, his smiling face, and myself when he was a young boy. It makes me start my day with a smile. It’s amazing how our minds go to the sad things, instead of the happier memories. All i can say is try, try, try to wake up each morning, think of him and smile. Don’t go to that sad place, go to a happy place, a special memory of him and Smile while remembering him. He will be smiling back at you from above. I believe that. Be brave my virtual friend, be brave. I know you can do this

    Reply

  4. Denise
    Jan 26, 2014 @ 22:32:28

    Thank you for your kindness, and concern; I find it astonishing to read something so heartfelt from someone I’ve never met. But I think that’s part of why I blog; I need to tell my story, and I need to be listened to. Then there you are, like a small miracle. All you’ve said is better than any advice you could’ve given.

    Thank you, my friend. It’s people like you that make this bearable.

    Reply

  5. Joyce McCartney
    Jan 26, 2014 @ 23:07:58

    Oh sweet Denyse I so appreciate you for your willingness to be so fucking honest. I am so glad you have Natalie and so sad you are torn between her and Phillip and so glad you are here on this side for all of us to read. ❤

    Reply

    • Denise
      Jan 27, 2014 @ 11:15:46

      Oh, what a thing to say! Thank you, Joyce, for touching me so. You are one whose words keep me going, so let me thank you, too, for all you write.

      Reply

  6. jmgoyder
    Jan 27, 2014 @ 08:31:06

    One of the messages that comes through this post loud and clear is that suicide is NOT selfish. As always, I sent you love and this is a brilliant post which should help many I hope. Sorry if my words are clumsy.

    Reply

  7. Karen
    Jan 27, 2014 @ 09:53:24

    Hi Denise,
    My name is Karen. I lost my beautiful son 20 months ago to an accidental overdose. He was 22 years old. I also have a daughter, who will be 23 next month. I feel very much like you do. I don’t think about suicide, but I really don’t feel like living with this everyday pain, but I don’t want to die either. I am very attached to my son’s death, but I know my daughter needs me. I need to start taking care of myself better, but I don’t know what the point is anymore. But we both know, the point is our beautiful daughters. Also, I know our sons would not want to feel more guilt about us not carrying on because of them. So, we must trudge along the best we can. Cry and scream when we feel we are about to burst, say our prayers, read our books on death, enjoy nature, and love our children. There is a support group I use on the internet called GRASP. (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing) I find it is helpful at times. Maybe you have already found it. Denise Cullen and her husband run it. But anyway, my fellow devastated mom, I understand and hear you, oh so well. Hang in there!!!!!!

    Reply

    • Denise
      Jan 27, 2014 @ 11:32:18

      Karen, I am so, so sorry; I don’t think there’s a greater hell than losing your child. I wrote before that having children is a risk – who ever looks at it that way? I certainly didn’t. But as you say, our daughters need us. God knows I don’t want to add to Natalie’s pain. I haven’t heard of GRASP – I’ll check it out.

      And know my heart is with you; another child gone, the world broken just a little more. Over and over – what can we do? Just try and help each other through. xoxoxoxoxo

      Reply

  8. lenwilliamscarver
    Jan 27, 2014 @ 10:01:30

    Denise what you are experiencing is completely ‘normal’ if anything in life can be normal at this stage of your grief. I felt, said, hurt and agonized with the why’s, my life, and the worthlessness of my life all that first year after my daughter was murdered. To hate yourself to the point of contemplating suicide because you could not stop his death, to think at least you could be with him in death is also the way I thought…until… a minister said to me “you will go to hell for taking your own life and you know your daughter is in heaven so you still won’t be with her” not sure I believe that but I didn’t want to take the chance. I like you, have a daughter left here on earth , actually I have two but my youngest has been missing for three years so I feel like I have lost two daughters. Sorry to be telling my story here but just want you to know that what you are feeling is what others have felt when losing a child. You will be okay, there is a well spring of strength in us as women and as mothers that seems to help us pull ourselves up out of the gutter that life has kicked us in, don’t let others negate what you are going through, they do not know the depth of your feelings and never will, my hubs handles his grief so much differently than I do…continue to write and tell your story it is therapeutic and remember we are all here for you any time you need. My email etc is on my blog should you need someone to listen even if it is just to cry I will be here for you. The first year is total shock and tryiing to figure out why, the second believe it or not is acceptance and coping with everyday life, the third I can’t tell you for that is where I am entering the thrid year and right now I am choosing to be joyful, although it is extremely hard most days. Love and hugs my dear ~L

    Reply

  9. Denise
    Jan 27, 2014 @ 10:36:09

    Please don’t apologize for telling your story here. It’s not just the writing, it’s the listening to others. I don’t believe in heaven or hell, but I do believe we continue on after death. I once read, “There’s a risk in thinking death is peace.” I think of that often. We don’t know what death is, nor do we know if death brings us to the “place” our children our. We think too literally; we’re in so much pain we want something concrete to believe in. But now’s the time for faith. I often talk about hearing Philip, and from the beginning he’s said, “Mom, have a little faith.” And it’s now when we need it; when we’re in such pain.

    It’s just so much and I miss him.

    Reply

  10. kmlagatree
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 08:44:09

    Devastatingly, piercingly acute writing, Denise. I want to be here for you as much as you’ll let me. Love, love, love, Kirsten

    Reply

    • Denise
      Jan 28, 2014 @ 17:26:39

      You’re very much there for me, and I doubt you know how much that means to me. And as always, your compliments on my writing touch me deeply. I’m always surprised by them – which, of course, is all about me ;o)

      Love you, I do. xoxoxoxoxoxo

      Reply

  11. lensgirl53
    Feb 01, 2014 @ 01:21:06

    I heard myself in many of your words. I also was stung by a reply written by another saying that a “minister said a suicide goes to hell”..what a crock of shit spewed out by those (religious and ill-informed) who would think they know the mind of God. “Choice” is not a word that coincides with death by suicide. You only see it that way now because you are lucid and sane. Grief has made us…and I am included…into wanting to be with our sons…but sanity and choice makes us know that we must stay for our other loved ones….that is the “choice” in that we choose to live. If anyone dies by suicide they are taken by something greater that has overwhelmed them..( chemical imbalance, brain disease..etc..) I will always defend the sad and depressed minds of those who die this way because I know in my heart of hearts and also from the words in my own son’s journal that they never really want to die but the desire/disease is stronger. I know you to be compassionate towards this kind of death, especially for we mothers who are dying each day because of it…and yet we breathe. I am a Christian and boldly share my faith because it is through my faith that I have been able to endure this tragedy and I wish it for others to believe and have peace and eternal life…nothing less. I wish you this very kind of peace because it exists. I send you much love and compassion…xo

    Reply

    • Denise
      Feb 02, 2014 @ 01:10:47

      Dale, thank you so. You’re always listening. No, suicide’s not a “choice.” What chronic pain people can be in, the kind of pain you can’t understand if you’ve not been there. That’s what people need to know about suicide; how helpless that person was in the face of what they felt. But we, Dale, you and I – we’re here, and we have people who need us.

      Like me. Needing you. xoxoxoxoxoxo

      Reply

  12. daveallen
    Feb 01, 2014 @ 18:29:14

    This hit home; I saw a counselor the other day, and in the course of my rambling I told him that I found myself purposefully wallowing, that grieving was my way of holding onto my son and I was forcing it because I’m not ready to let go. He convinced me that it was a normal reaction, that I didn’t need to feel I wasn’t doing this grieving thing right…

    Reply

    • Denise
      Feb 02, 2014 @ 01:14:52

      No, there’s no right or wrong way, just our own way. Letting go of grief is jumping into the void. Do we dare? The heart doesn’t yet understand that letting go of grief isn’t letting go of our child. I think words are important, and I think “letting go” doesn’t work for me; it sounds so final, it feels like something outside me that I’m supposed to bring in. I try to breathe and say, “No resistance.” When I can breathe into my grief and relax myself around it, my heart stays open. It’s not that the grief goes away, it just loosens its grip a bit.

      Or is it me, loosening my grip…a bit?

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: