Why anger? Is suicide seen as the ultimate form of betrayal? Is it that on the surface it appears that those who committed the act had a choice? I read a blog a few weeks ago in which the blogger’s condemnation of Robins William’s suicide was pretty apparent. My sense is that he is not alone in this rush to judgement around those who commit suicide. He talked about suicide as being an unequivocally selfish act. This choice has the consequential distinction of igniting a wake of grief that in its torturous nature is one of the hardest losses to process. It can haunt loved ones for years with unanswered questions, guilt, and unyielding heartache.
Anger is totally understandable when someone you love chooses suicide but let’s try to open our hearts for these sensitive ones. Do you really think that anyone in their right mind would choose to commit suicide? The point is that they are not in their right mind when they do this. I think these tortured souls need our compassion, love and understanding rather than our judgement and condemnation.
My sister called me other day, her voice had a somber quality, I wondered what could have happened for her to sound so grim. She told me that a very close friend of hers had just committed suicide. There was no warning, no note, no apparent reason for him to do this. She was clearly in shock and angry with him for taking his life. Through many conversations with her over the past few weeks in particular I felt I had a pretty clear picture of what a unique and exceptionally endearing man he was. I cried when she told me; I found it heartbreaking and so hard to believe he could have done that, so out of the blue. From all appearances he seemed to have it all. He has left his extraordinary wife and life partner whose life was so intricately interwoven with his. My heart bleeds for her and what she must be going through. I know full well that place of utter and complete disbelief, shock and heartbreak. That sick sinking feeling that floods your system when you go to bed at night and wake up in the morning. That surreal feeling that follows you throughout your day.
People have asked me over the years if I was angry with Claude for killing himself. For the most part I have not been angry since I knew his emotional state intimately at the time of his death. Believe me; at that point he was not Claude anymore. I have had some anger but it took a long time to admit that. I had a front row seat to his decline and understood that from his perspective this was the only way he would get any relief from the physical and emotional pain that he was in. However, rather than anger being the prevailing theme for me since Claude’s death, it has been the trauma of finding him, intense pain and heartbreak over losing my beloved husband and my son’s father. I totally get why he did. If you are interested in hearing about the details that lead to his death you can find them in my post “Claude’s Path To Suicide” August 2016.
But yes; dispite my understanding of why he did it anger has been floating around through my grieving process; it seems unavoidable. Here are some of the things that have ignited anger within me:
The moment I found Claude hanging from the rafters in our attic a stream of entangled emotions flooded through me, anger being right up there with the rest. I remember thinking: You can’t take this back Claude, this is final, I will never see you alive again, how could you have done this?
I felt angry that he did not tell me he was considering taking his life. We always discussed the big life changing decisions in our lives. It felt especially piercing since I was just on the phone with him within an hour of him doing this. His last words to me were “I’ll see you when you get home”. I felt angry and hurt that his last words were not “I love you” he clearly knew that our conversation would be our last. Ouch!!!
I found a small clear plastic bag from the local home improvement store days later on top of a bin in the attic. The police had missed it I guess when they gathered everything up during their investigation. When I found it I knew immediately that it was the bag that held the rope that Claude used to hang himself. My heart sunk, I felt a rush of heat fill my body and I felt sick to my stomach. I thought “what the f**k, he actually went to the store to buy the rope!?” I guess I just figured he took a piece of rope from our garage. To me that would have felt less calculated, which somehow would have felt better to me. I envisioned him walking through the doors of the store that we had walked through together countless times over the years during all our home renovation projects. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for him to walk in there, going over to the bulk spools of rope, asking the associate to cut the piece that would ultimately drain the life from his body. If only the person knew what Claude had planned for that innocuous piece of rope. Was he calm and certain with his resolve, was he nervous and questioning if he should really do this? That, of course, will remain a mystery that is impossible to solve.
You may wonder: how did I know with certainty that this was that bag that held the rope that he used? I wanted to be sure, so I gathered all my courage to go the store hoping to confirm the sickening truth. I felt apprehensive as I walked into the store and over to the isle with the spools of rope. I remember nervously turning the corner to the isle, seeing them all in a row hanging well above my head. I have no memory of what the actual rope looked like that he used so I just stood there looking up at them, wondering which one he chose, trying to wrap my mind around this reality I was living in. I saw the same plastic bags, like the one I had found in our attic. The final confirmation was when I saw the credit card statement. Sure enough, there was a charge for that store on the day he killed himself.
Here is the big one though. I was angry that he killed himself in our home, right off the room that was my art studio no less. My sacred space. How could he do that to me, adding insult to injury? After doing multiple ceremonies and energy clearings myself and having others help with that, we were able to help shift and transform the energy in the attic, in my studio, and in my home. Thankfully, it did get much easier over the two years we remained living there.
I know in many ways it might have been best for us to move sooner rather than later. But I was in no condition to plan an overwhelming and exhausting move. In addition to that, I was stubborn. This was a house that we made our home with multiple remodeling projects during the 13 years we lived there together. We had many wonderful memories with our family and our son grew up there. So I tried my best to learn to get through it, to transcend the trauma and that horrific memory. But, it was not easy. I never felt completely comfortable; there was always an undercurrent of fear and uneasiness. It was a huge relief to finally move away and create a new home for my son and myself here in Boulder.
I was angry that I had to deal with selling the business that he owned. Thankfully, I was blessed to have lots of outstanding help with this daunting task. I never could have gotten through it all without all of the expert guidance and support I received. It was tremendously stressful and and emotionally distressing to have to deal with that during the first 6 months of losing him. Claude put his heart and soul into that business. Honestly, I think the stress and responsibilities of running it contributed to his decline. But that story is for another time.
I am angry that he left me as an only parent; I certainly felt fully capable to carry that responsibility but I could never fill Claude’s shoes as Noah’s dad. They had a unique bond as father and son. My anger has gotten triggered during those times when I have really needed him to co-parent Noah through his teen years. I have managed to find others to support his needs in order to fill in the gaps but still, it’s not his dad.
I am angry that I am left alone without my husband. I don’t like the word widow, and I don’t like being without my partner. Period!
The take-away for me is that those that choose to commit suicide, in my opinion, often don’t intend to hurt us; I think they would prefer to stay with us but feel so desperate and tired; they just can’t live with the pain and the shame anymore. Suicide feels like the only way out for them. In their distorted minds I think they feel they are actually helping us by leaving. But they fail to see the aftermath, the complete and utter devastation in the wake of their death! If only they could see that. Would that help sway them towards the side of life? I know for Claude he was too far gone and nothing could have pulled him out of it but maybe others could be saved.
As suicide survivors we also need to have love and compassion for ourselves. This is a monumental loss and a journey that is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage and persistence to work through the maze of emotions that evolve within us as we move along this path. It starts with the commitment to ourselves. A commitment to life. We will never be the same yet we can evolve into someone who we never would have imagined we could be. We still have a purpose. We are still here. Let’s stand together and honor our loved ones’ memories by being the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be. This of course is important for all of us who are grieving, not just suicide survivors. I fully believe that our loved ones who have passed want us to be free of pain and live a life filled with love and laughter. Let’s crack open the joy within and allow it to percolate through our lives a little bit more each day. After all, life continues on; why not allow ourselves to appreciate the gifts that remain?
Blessings and love,
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