Archive | June 2014

Suicide Postvention

Yesterday was a big milestone – the L.O.S.S. First responder training.
We had just over 40 people attend. What I was most excited about was the diversity of the group… So many organizations were represented. Counselors, a hospital chaplain. A couple of handfuls of suicide hotline volunteers. We had at least 12 survivors of a suicide loss there. 4 law enforcement folks – all homicide departments from both the county and the city. And the coroner & an investigator. Wow wow wow. God is so good.

Being available to people ASAP after a suicide loss is so very important.

During my days, weeks and even months after Drey died, several people reached out to me and many people very sacrificially poured into me. Every single interaction has been important to me. Without knowing it at the time I very much needed those cards, random text messages, FB posts, phone calls, gifts and meals.

The pain I carried for several months was sickening.

The people who could break through – even though it was just for a moment – the thick, heavy despair were the small handful of women who were ahead of me in grieving the sudden loss of their child. Those momentary break throughs gave me hope and over time they joined and became hours – and dare I say days – rather than just moments.

I am quite emotionally tired from the training yesterday. Sadly my mind is not shutting down… no sleep for me. So I lay here in bed considering the flood of feelings I wish I could name. I guess I need more time to digest them.

My thoughts continue to drift to those early days and weeks. To those momentary break throughs. They were so damn brief but so amazingly bright.

Suicide postvention is important. L.O.S.S. Teams are important. I will continue on this path.

Joy and pain can coexist for the survivor of a suicide loss

I hear my breathing. That heavy breath that’s a borderline sigh. It’s the pain speaking. The stomach knots and the flood of painful thoughts aren’t visible. But anyone can tell when the intense rough times are coming by the breathing.

The shaking may come next – need to watch my caffeine.

Continually rubbing my leg with my hand is the scary place to be… The meltdown is close at hand. No that’s not where I am. No that’s not what I want to happen. But I want to be dependent on God as I move forward so if the outward physical response to this trauma I’m still learning to live with is what it takes well… Okay then.

It’s good I can see the outward signs before a meltdown. It’s taken almost two years to proactively notice them.

Do I hibernate? No. Not this time.

I go slow.

I allow myself to say no to plans. Even seemingly simple plans.

I talk to my inner circle. Those select few who sacrificially walk in the pain with me. They know I don’t need rescued. They pray and watch closely.

I pray. And if seconds after beginning to talk to God my mind is drifting somewhere else I bring it back again and then again. I listen. I try to be still so I can hear Him. I love Him in spite of this pain.

I am not weak.

It’s not explainable. Learning to move forward in pain. Choosing to move forward in pain. Addressing it as I go. Crumbling when I need to. Believing a glimpse of joy may be close at hand… But even better standing in His strength regardless of how I feel. I know Him more deeply because of the pain.

This is what it looks like for pain and joy to coexist.

2 Cor 12:9… My grace is sufficient for you Denise. My power is made perfect in weakness.

Goodnight Drey

Goodnight Drey.  Such a simple statement.  Such a powerful statement.  It sent me into tears Tuesday evening.

Robbie and I attended our first Compassionate Friends group.  We liked it.  We plan to return.

At the close of the meeting we all held hands and went around the circle and each one said goodnight to their child.  I tear up just typing the words.  I didn’t see it coming… but when I heard myself say, “Goodnight Drey” I just broke down.  I haven’t said those words in almost 2 years.  They were sharp words that used to be precious words.  Endearing words.  Words I took for granted.  Who knew?   Who could’ve predicted this is what the rest of our lives would look like?   Apparently Drey could have.

I ache today.  For several reasons.  Wednesday’s are by far my least favorite day of the week.  They don’t always bother me but lately they have been.  (Yes – Wednesday is the day of the week my son took his life).   I’ve had a few emotionally charged conversations in the non-profit suicide awareness space lately.  They ended well but it’s hard to not feel unsettled.  I put my cat down on Monday.  I wasn’t that close to the cat so it hasn’t been super traumatic but he was part of our lives for 16 years.  Robbie is taking a long weekend road trip and he and David (my stepson) leave tomorrow.  I’m anxious about that.  I fear something will happen to them.  I’ve learned all too well life can completely change in a blink of an eye.  It’s not realistic for me to not be anxious about the trip… I just have to let it be what it is and manage it rather than trying to stuff it.

I’m not thinking clearly.  Everything’s jumbled in my mind.  I took on too much this week.  It’s been a long time – well a few months anyway – since I’ve had a week where I felt I took too much on.  Still learning what this new life and new limits look like…

Stop talking flippantly about suicide. Please?

So many movies and tv shows reference suicide – either as a storyline or in casual conversation. There are conversations at work, with friends, even in public with strangers inappropriate things are said. Social media, songs, you name it. We’ve even heard comments in church. The comments are everywhere. “I have the worse migraine ever. I want to jump off a bridge.” “If I have to do that one more time I’m going to off myself.” “If I hear her say that again I’ll kill myself.” It’s especially lovely (I say with sarcasm dripping off each word in the sentence) when someone holds a pretend gun to their head and shoots themselves. Jesus, really? That just happened to me last week during a conversation. Do you understand where my mind goes when you do that? I know, I know. They just weren’t thinking. They didn’t mean to be hurtful. I get that, truly. But that doesn’t change the impact it has on me.

In the beginning I didn’t know how I thought about these comments because I was too consumed with trying not to puke. Then I started to get angry – with myself. I thought I had to toughen up. Then I started to get angry – with everyone else. I thought they were being insensitive. I remember the first time I took a stand – it wasn’t pretty but in hindsight it was what I needed. I was at work and a customer had donated a bunch of clothes for the teen mom babies. Before I unloaded all of them in the teen mom room I asked someone where the Director was keeping the clothes these days. Before answering my question the person said “She will probably want to shoot herself in the head.” She knew my circumstances… But that wasn’t on her mind when she said this to me. That day, that comment, I didn’t hesitate: “That’s the cruelest thing you could ever say to me.” She immediately burst into tears and apologized profusely. I felt bad for her. I knew full well she didn’t mean to be hurtful… It was just one of those off the cuff remarks that had crept into her vocabulary over the years. But I felt worse for me. And on that day – about 7 months after Drey had taken his life – I had had enough. So I let her know. I resumed putting the donation of clothes in their proper place and afterwards sought out my friend to see if she was okay. She wasn’t. She was still crying and felt horrible. I hugged her and told her I knew she didn’t mean anything by it. But I didn’t tell her I was sorry for snapping at her – and I wasn’t sorry. I had heard – and continue to hear – those comments regularly. And on that day I let someone else carry a small little bit of the emotional burden for a change.

So how bout now? More time has passed. I can “handle” the comments I suppose. They impact me and I still have to pray myself through. Sometimes I’ll say something to the person and over time I’ve learned to be more polite. But still sometimes I won’t say anything.

With all this said I definitely don’t want anyone to be afraid to talk to me. I don’t want to be avoided for fear something hurtful might slip out in conversation. Anyone who knows me knows I can say some pretty stupid stuff myself! If you realize you’ve made an inappropriate reference to suicide – anytime really – but especially in front of someone directly impacted by it – just acknowledge it… “That was an insensitive remark. I’m sorry.” Then just keep talking. A simple acknowledgement means a lot to a survivor of a suicide loss. And it makes it clear to everyone around that it’s hurtful to talk about something so tragic in a careless way. No other words are needed.

I’m a runner and have a subscription to Runners World. I was reading the latest issue just yesterday… Terrible choice of words Steve Prefontaine…

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It’s all mine. And his.

Do you miss him?
Sure.
Do you think of him?
Yes. Probably once a day.
Once a day? Wow. I wonder what that would be like.

My son remains very much part of me. Every song, smell, movie, car, roller coaster, commercial, meal, joke, click of our thermostat, race, graduation sign, and every reference to suicide and it bubbles to the surface. In other words it’s always at the surface. Mostly the shock of it, the confusion of it. His life is present too – but still not as much as his death, his absence. I’m told in time it’ll be his life and sweet memories that are front and center and not his death. “Its been nearly two years??” “That’s okay. A lot of people I know who suddenly lost a child take five years before they’re able to think more about their child’s life instead of their death.”

Sometimes it’s lonely. Being divorced and not being able to grieve with Drey’s Dad can be hard. But I also know “what might have been” is just an illusion. Drey’s Dad and I are very different and we would probably be in frequent conflict if we were grieving “together.” We do keep in touch (which sounds superficial but what we share is anything but). We had lunch just before Mothers Day. In spite of our differences the pain is the same. We share stories of our grief experiences and of the responsibility we continue to carry. And we share what we’re doing to try to cope. We’ve both learned skills we never imagined we’d have to. Learning to live without our son is indescribable.

Am I ever happy? Joyful? Sure. I am even capable of having fun. But it’s never instead of the pain. It’s always in addition to the pain. I don’t think it’s possible to understand what I mean by this without experiencing it. Again… learning to live without Drey is indescribable.

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“To Drey…”