Posts Tagged ‘ suicide prevention ’

Anniversary of a Suicide

Then and Now

It’s hard to believe that as of tomorrow it will have been exactly one year since my step-father shot himself in the right temple with a .22 Ruger pistol. Ironically, this year the anniversary occurs just one day after Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day.

I visited his grave for the first time since we buried him today.  I don’t remember anything about that last trip except for the suffocating heat, the dead weight of his coffin was as I hefted my corner of it, and staring through watering eyes at the fingerprints my brother, mother and I placed on the shiny chrome end of his vault.

Just thinking about driving down that dirt road nearly overwhelmed me with emotion and I felt a panic attack beginning as I backed out of my mother’s driveway.  The Benner Road was heavily washed out and I had to make my way down it ever so slowly.  After parking at the bottom of the original part of the cemetery, I walked up to his head stone, my heels punching down through the soft, wet soil and squatted down.

One thing that I’ve felt I needed to avoid this past year was crying.  Stupid, I know, but a need nonetheless.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m terrified that if I start I’ll never stop.  There seems to be an endless well of suffering that is lurking just under the surface of my psyche and tapping it seems akin to the discovery of the atomic bomb.  The sensation of being out of control is terrifying and that is the one thing that I’ve desperately felt the need to be in this past year.  My personal discovery today was that the crying will indeed end and letting it out won’t result in the destruction of life as I know it.

I still entertain that silly hypothesis now and then; the one where it’s entirely impossible that this could have happened.  That in order for me to be living this personal nightmare, the only explanation would be that somehow through the unfathomable mechanics at the quantum level, I had slipped from one reality into another.  Somewhere else he’s still alive and I’m not visiting his grave, but instead having a shot of his famous Ranger Ridge Ripple.  Why doesn’t that make me feel better?

I think November was the turning point for me. It was the first time since June 22 that I’d been able to fall asleep without having to cope with dark visions preventing desperately needed rest. My sense of emotion began to come back as well. The numbness of summer and early fall was welcome at the time, but after nearly six months of emotional anesthesia, I was beginning to feel like I was on the cusp of something that I either needed to put behind me or be forever trapped within. I decided that I wasn’t sharing his grave with him anymore.

Along with an end to the insomnia, my panic attacks subsided in both frequency and magnitude. Previously, I had been very vulnerable to them during three main times. When I thought about what had happened, when I was at my mother’s house and when I drove by the road that leads to the cemetery. It’s funny how I spent countless hours playing and exploring in the Week’s Cemetery as a child, but can hardly bring myself to even approach it now.

The hardest part of this entire ordeal has been the complete lack of compassion that people have displayed toward me. I realize that when you know someone whose father commits suicide it must be difficult to come up with anything of value to say to them but sometimes you just have to try. During the past year, I have developed a distinct loathing for anyone bringing up the subject because one of two things always happens. Either they walk up to me, their eyes brimming with tears or concern or both and say, “Your poor mother”. Or, they walk up to me, their eyes brimming with tears or concern or both and say, “Poor Justin”. This is always followed by “How is your mother/brother doing?” My initial reaction is to put on my most incredulous expression and say, “Oh! They’re fabulous! Forgotten all about it in fact.” It’s never been, “How are YOU doing?” and this is why I hate.

Suicide teaches you to hate.  Hate the person, hate the act, hate the people who refuse to acknowledge it.

During the weeks that my brother and I were staying at mom’s house and my step-dad was still alive, we’d arrive home from the hospital to dozens of phone messages. Family friends that I’d grown up with and spent countless weekends with somehow forgot that I was in all senses of the word his daughter too. After all, I had lived with him from the time I was 3 or 4 until my mid to early 20’s. I had actually just moved out of his and my mother’s house the previous spring as I’d lived there during my divorce. Yet message after message would say, “This message is for Mindy and John Jr….”, “Mindy and John Jr., I’m so sorry. If there’s anything I can do…” Mary, a friend of the family’s since the mid 80’s called one night and left a message. I had grown up with her, spending almost every weekend at her house for most of my pre-teen and early teenage years. Her message was no different, Mindy and John Jr. Evidently they were the only two affected by my step dad’s suicide. Recognizing the fact that according to the rest of the world I have no right to grieve or feel affected by his death has been an enormous part, and perhaps detriment to my healing process.

A year out and now most of my time is consumed with thoughts of what I would have done differently. I would have gone left instead of right for starters. I would have gone to the hospital that day that I chose to mope around at the house. But most importantly I wouldn’t have allowed anyone else to affect my opinion of whether his breathing tube should have been removed.

I was afraid that everyone who was in the room that morning, would be pissed at me for being the only one protesting his ‘termination’. I desperately wish now that I’d pushed the issue of allowing him another 24-48 hours. There was no cruelty involved. He was in no pain.  He should have been given the chance to let his own spirit go. At least that way he would have died with dignity and not have left yet another scar in the minds of those that loved him.

Time flows in one direction and we humans are forever trapped in its current.  There is no escape and though we can look back from whence we came, can never get back to that spot except for in our minds.  Imagination isn’t bound to the laws of physics and in it we can soothe the wounds of our spirits.

Today, and in his memory, I’m going back and doing things differently.

When we asked the doctor what his reasons were for suggesting the breathing tube be removed, he stated that “he was blind”.

Me:  “So, what you’re saying is that if your father lost his sight that you’d recommend euthanization?”

That felt better.

When our mother looked at us and said that we needed to make a decision in the next hour.

“I don’t give a shit how much everyone wants him dead.  I want him to have the chance to either pull through or die naturally.  I refuse to murder him and I refuse to take this one last thing away from him.  What is one more day going to matter?”

When asked if we would authorize an autopsy.

“Yes, we need to know what happened.  I don’t think I can live the rest of my life without having some sort of explanation of what happened tonight.  And possibly, what happened on June 22.”

When answering the phone for my mother and brother’s well-wishers.

“I’m hanging up now. Call back when you have a fucking clue and realize how insanely insensitive you’ve just been.”

When sitting at the foot of Spruce Meadow Road deciding whether to turn left or right.

“Let’s head over to Mum’s.  We can order pizza or something later but I haven’t seen them since I got home and really need to give them both a big hug.”

And finally, the night I left for California.

“Bye dad, I love you.”

My step dad’s suicide has made me realize how tenacious life is.  Sometimes I believe that it’s to my benefit, and others, like when I obsess about the inescapable, it’s not helpful in the least.  His act has made me question every human interaction that I ever have.  To me, everything seems like a big lie and possibly always will.

It’s also taught me that we are always alone and anything that seems to contradict that is merely an illusion.  We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone.  Love and friendship are chemical reactions within our brain, more often than not they’re delusions.  Our existence is meaningless and the dents we leave on others are temporary at best.

This is just dark talk caused by the darkest and dreariest of days.  Trust me, tomorrow I’ll be bright and sunny and bitching about some insignificant aspect of my daily life in Maine.  Until then, I’m going to watch the Science Channel and suffer through this sobbing induced headache.