Sunday, April 26, 2009

Five Things: Violence

There is no getting around it: suicide is an act of violence.

A mystifying act.

It doesn't matter whether the means involves a gun, a tall building, a car crash, a bottle of pills. A suicide is an act of violence against the human body, against the human person, against the universe. An act of opposition to the goodness of all creation.

How does one absorb the reality, an act of violence in and against a life characterized by peacefulness and gentleness, and its relentless invasion into the lives of all who knew him?

As a little boy, my son collapsed, sobbing, into my arms when his beloved box turtle died. His earliest letters reflected his delight in creation ~ the letter to us describing the skunk family crossing the green on which his entire summer camp community was gathered for 4th of July fireworks, the card to his grandfather reflecting his and my pursuit via canoe of a loon haplessly looking for peace on an Adirondack lake.

As far as I know, the most aggressive thing he ever did in his life was to kick a soccer ball more than halfway down the field into a winning goal his senior year of high school.

It hasn't been more than a year since I commented in an email to a friend on what a joy it was to observe his gentle and graceful consideration for his girlfriend, his generous appreciation of her gifts.

A few nights ago, I went to a Survivors of Suicide meeting, which I do on occasion, and the conversation turned to this issue of violence. All of the people there were gentle, loving, and had clearly contributed compassion and kindness to the lives of those now gone. We were grieving deaths ranging from two days to three years old, and every one of us was struck by the sudden incursion of violence into our lives at the hand of a beloved sister, son, or boyfriend.

You think that you would not survive if someone you loved killed someone else ~ shot or pushed someone else off a building, ran over them, whatever. You know that the ripple effect of such an act would alter your entire existence. There are simply no words for describing the effect when somene's victim is him or herself.

The book No Time to Say Good-bye, linked in my sidebar, includes the following quote from one Edward Dunne:

"The death of a significant other by suicide is a stressor of unparalled magnitude in most people's lives, and even the most psychologically mature individual may encounter difficulty in responding to it."

Ay-yep to that rather stunning understatement.. And the violence is part of the reason.


Songbird said...

My birth mother married a few years after surrendering me for adoption, a boy she met after that experience was behind her. They had a son together. When their son was still less than a year old, her young husband committed suicide. Since meeting her, I've struggled with knowing this about her life, trying to understand how it impacted her. I must admit I never thought about it as a violent act, but I see that now that you put it this way.

Gannet Girl said...

SB, I am so sorry, for so many lives entangled around such a sadness.

mompriest said...

My aunt died of a gun shot... ruled suicide....she was my mother's younger sister, a beautiful woman with a great sense of humor. It was devastating...and left us mother never accepted the coronors report...and was sure it was domestic violence...either way, it was violence...and sad.....and then there was the suicide pact between three high school boys, one of whom died in the garage of the rectory I used to live in...although I never knew him I thought of him every day and knew first hand the devastating effect of his loss on my former parish and his parents, the father was the priest....

I'm sorry GG that this is also the reality of your life...and SB too.

Daisy said...

I've never associated "violence" to suicide like that before. I have an image of a bomb and far-reaching casualties.


Rev SS said...

my high school girl friend, and a college member of the young adult group I pastored who committed suicide were also both very gentle people .. and yes, their acts of violence hurt and continues to hurt, so many people. Makes me very sad that anyone has to deal with this kind of pain.

Presbyterian Gal said...

I've never once regarded the aspect of violence in my cousin's suicide. Even knowing that he did it in front of his pregnant wife.

Considering the hell of his childhood (alcoholic mother and multiple abusive step-fathers...constantly shuffled between that and our grandmother), he must have been riddled with so much unexpressed anger. Even though he was always, for me, kind, brilliant and loving.

Thank you for this. Even with so much time passing there are things I have not processed.

Songbird said...

Thanks, GG. She gave me up in part because she felt she could not raise a child alone, and then she ended up doing exactly that.