Monday, April 20, 2009

Suicide is Not Painless

For the first few days, this SONG kept running through my head. I couldn't seem to get it right, and I couldn't figure out where it came from, and I couldn't figure out what it meant. As I've written before, my perception of all things was fragmented and skewed. It seemed that reality as I had known it was only a small fraction of the universe I had accidentally stumbled into, and those lyrics, bits and pieces of them, were among the confusing bits of jagged glass flying around.

Eventually, obsessive M*A*S*H aficiondao that I had been been at one time, I was able to recall their origin, understand their senselessness in our new context, and put them to rest. But when I think of that first week of September, I remember the words and tune whirring through my head. "Suicide is painless; it brings on many changes . . .".

As most people have no doubt realized by now, if they didn't already know, our most beloved Chicago Son died by suicide, late on the night of last September 2. Although that fact is a constant companion in my life and although I talk about it freely, I have not blogged about it because I couldn't quite figure out how to do that. Or maybe I couldn't quite figure out whether I would be able to stand the reaction. I don't think that any of us in our family have received anything but loving support from family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances ~ and I include in that group people I know "only" from the internet, which in some cases includes people I now consider to be wonderful friends ~ but we all know that the online world is a place in which speedy and thoughtless comment often predominates, and that it's a place in which some people feel free to zap remarks in your direction which they would never (one hopes) say to anyone face-to-face. So I've been reluctant to expose myself and my family to the potential for even more pain, just in case that might even be possible.

But it seems that the time to be more forthcoming is upon me. I gave a little talk about it last week at seminary, which offered me the opportunity to organize my thoughts a bit. Only a few people showed up, but it was a beginning. I don't see my life becoming centered on suicide prevention, but I know a whole lot of stuff now that I didn't know eight months ago, and I am willing to share it if it is of any use to anyone. I'm going to add a few things to the sidebar, some resources and books that have been helpful. And I'm going to speak more freely, unless someone makes that impossible.

Our son was a wonderful young man. Creative, witty, kind, brilliant, generous. And concealing a murderous depression which destroyed him and shoved the rest of us into the alternate universe we now inhabit. How do we map this desolate and skewed territory? I guess we are learning, moment by moment.

41 comments:

Purple said...

It continues to be an honor to read your blogs.

karengberger said...

I am sure that your honesty is going to bless some other breaking heart, and relieve its sense of aloneness. Thank you for your courage. God bless you.

Daisy said...

Your courage and willingness to trust always amazes and encourages me, GG. Hard to imagine anyone offering you and yours anything but love and support but people being flawed and broken and the internet being what it is..well... Anyhow, flawed and broken as I may be, I send love, prayers and good wishes as you set off on this journey.

I've wondered about those lyrics as well.

Mich

Ruby said...

Oh Gannet, thank you for telling us. My father-in-law, committed suicide eighteen months ago, a stunning end to a creative, loving and energetic life. Like you, I know more about suicide than I did, but not enough to understand ...

My heart goes out to you and your family. You are, as you say, in a desolate and skewed territory, but you are not alone.

Quotidian Grace said...

Dear GG,

God must be calling you to share on a wider stage for a purpose. Thanks for your faithfulness in heeding that call.

Sarah S-D said...

i have wondered, friend, how your son died, but i could not discern a way to ask. thank you for trusting us. suicide is SO painful. i have been to the funerals for a few young men who died this way- one the best friend of my high school sweetheart and one whom i babysat when he was a little boy... and they were two of the most painful funerals i ever attended.

thank you for being consistently willing to share your story with us. i know that your honesty is a blessing to others and will continue to be so. karen said it well above.

may you continue to find strength for the journey ahead.

MikeF said...

Oh, Gannet Girl, I'll be praying more than ever now. We once came quite close to being in your situation, many years ago. I can only imagine what it's like actually to be there.

All possible blessings, brave one!

Mike

Jodie said...

GG,

Thank you for sharing this story. I am listening.

Sophia said...

Oh, Gannet.

I had presumed that this was the manner of his death, and that you weren't ready to speak of it. And been both glad you were honoring your inner self in that way and sorry for the stigma, shame and misunderstanding that makes it such a brave undertaking to do so.

Now I am grateful and awed that you are ready so soon, both for your own ongoing healing process and for the way you will bless and protect others through telling your story and sharing your knowledge. It is especially poignant and helpful to me as someone whose diagnosis, and whose son's diagnosis, is frequently associated with suicidal ideation and often successful attempts--though through grace I have never faced that ordeal, nor has my son. Thus far, of course.

Choralgirl said...

Oh, GG, I'm sorry. Depression is AWFUL. A number of my dear ones deal with it, too.

Continuing to pray for peace and healing for you and yours.

Ellyn said...

(((((GG)))))
Continuing in prayer.
Sending thanks for your insight.
Ellyn

Kathryn J said...

Your beloved son was an amazing young man. All of those who knew him, and all who are now denied the possibility, share your loss. Those of us who care about you can walk with you and pray with you but there is so much of the journey that is deeply personal.

Writing is such big part of your life that I can't imagine it not being part of your grieving. I am grateful for your courage in sharing your story here.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Rev SS said...

I've lost a youth from the group I pastored and a high school friend this way, and have walked with others who have lost parent and child ...

I join the chorus of comments here and give thanks to God for your courage and grace

Stushie said...

Years ago, I was saved from a suicide attempt when my friends found me unconscious and rushed me to hospital. They found a note in my pocket. After more than thirty years, I still experience this shadowy specter when I am deeply depressed. I am sorry for your loss and the wounds, but I really thank you for your post.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I had not guessed this, and I honor your courageous honesty in sharing it with us.

I also continue to hold you in my prayers. The pain endured by you and your family, and most especially your beloved son, is such a harsh thing to bear.

Dr. Rural said...

You and your family are in my prayers. I am so very sorry for your terrible loss.

Kathryn said...

I am so very sorry though perhaps not so surprised - thank you for trusting us with this. Love, prayers & support continue

sunflowerkat321 said...

I am overwhelmed thinking of the suffering your son was experiencing to take him to that point. Depression is insidious in how in can remain disguised as it tears at the spirit.

Suicide is anything but painless to all those it touches More than ever, I wish I could wrap my arms around you and let you know how deeply I am feeling your family's loss.

Carol said...

I am, yet again, honored to call you my friend. Thank you in advance for all the teaching you will do through these upcoming posts and all that you've already done in previous ones.

Your gifted writing and incredible insight make this possible, even through your pain. I pray that writing about this now will be one more tool along the bumpy path of grief and healing.

Magdalene6127 said...

Gannet Girl, thank you for your willingness to speak of your pain in this desert place.

Feeling inarticulate-- but I am overwhelmed with an image of something taken, blessed, broken and shared.

Praying for you and yours.

Michelle said...

prayers, for grace, for compassion, for you all...

Songbird said...

Gannet Girl, thank you for your bravery in sharing your feelings of loss and the journey you are taking.

Hope said...

I had not guessed this at all.
I have had a family member commit suicide and a very close friend.
Thank you for being open and sharing. I appreciate your writing very much.

Debbi said...

I, too, had speculated and suspected, but the shock reading those words was visceral. How much greater, a million times, was your shock that night. The grip of that bony dark hand of Depression, has snatched several young people and almost my husband from my life. I too send support, empathy, and a heart full of love for you as you struggle through this deep pain. One of my favorite images from Anne Lamott is Jesus beside her with a glow stick as she negotiates a dark journey. I wish that for you.
*debbi*

Presbyterian Gal said...

I will look forward to your writing about this. After 35 years I still struggle with the suicide of my beloved cousin (who was more like a brother to me), Richard at the age of 21. I still have to sit and sob for a good few minutes when I think about it.

Never could find a flashlight or guide outta that tunnel. Maybe we could hold hands and find the way together.

((((GG))))

Lisa :-] said...

...and it is through the filter of that information that I have seen your pain and your sense of great loss, and wondered, indeed, how you have been able to bear it. At all.

I love you, my friend.

emmapeelDallas said...

I never understood those lines from that song. I spent three years doing a minimum of one shift a week as a phone counselor at the Suicide and Crisis Center in Dallas, and part of what I learned is that suicide is always devastating for everyone involved. I am so sorry for your loss. Karen is right; it takes courage to write about it, and your honesty will surely help others, and I hope it will help you too.

Melissa said...

How anyone could be judgemental or less than sympathetic in light of your son's cause of death is beyond me. My heart breaks for you anew. I know that you will help many by simply speaking the truth. I didn't know him but my heart is filled with compassion for him and all of you, his family.

sko3 said...

I, also, had not guessed this.

Grace and peace to you.

altar ego said...

My prayers for you deepen. Your continued honesty feels a bit like the presence of the risen Christ in the closed room with the disciples. Touch his wounds, put our hands in his side. It is a holy and vulnerable sharing. Thank you for allowing us to keep company at the foot of your cross.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I go to this blog often. When my sorrow overwhelms me your words so often express what I haven't the ability to say.
Even after 19 months there is so much raw pain, so many screams hiding in my heart and, for some reason it's easier to "get the grief" out through the reading of your journey. Those who love me and share the pain of her going are wonderful but I don't need to add to their coping. So, dear Gannet Girl, you are my unofficial grief counselor. I've shared some of your thoughts with them and they have had Aha!moments. Again thank you so much.
April

mompriest said...

GG...my prayers continue...

Cynthia said...

I had feared this, and I know the strength and courage it takes to come forward. I just wish love was enough to make a difference.

Mary Beth said...

Dear you, thank you for sharing this.

Many prayers and much love.

Betsy said...

Thank you for what you have shared here, and continuing prayers for all of you. I have two parish members who have lost loved ones to suicide in the last few weeks, and when you post those sidebar resources that have helped you, I will point them to those as well as your own blog.

Gannet Girl said...

Betsy, if you go to my other blog, there are lots of entries about this, indexed as Grief and Loss, going back to early September. I offer them to your friends only because I was desperate to find anything to read that might approach my experience.

Thank you, all who have commented. Probably the worst thing about suicide, other then the terrible loss of a beloved life, is the incredible isolation survivors suffer. Even surrounded by loved ones, survivors are very, vey alone. It is, actually, comforting when others reach out and acknowledge our continued existence, since we feel ourselves to have been completely rejected as of no value whatever.

Jan said...

Thank you, GG. You are helping more people than you know.

Betsy said...

Thanks for the cross reference; I will check your other blog posts out.

Deb said...

(o)

Peace...
and thanks for working through this journey.
am praying
d

Katherine E. said...

I want to echo Purple and say, like her, it continues to be an honor to read your blog. Thank you.

Heart hug to you, GG.

Jennifer said...

GG, I so admire your courage, and I continue to feel privileged to read the face of your journey you are willing to point toward the public. In truth, I had no idea your son died of suicide--it simply hadn't occurred to me. What I had noticed is that you hadn't shared his cause of death, and that this seemed so unusual, and so my reading has caused me to think about the different attributes of a death and how we respond differently depending on "what it was." Would I have thought something different if you had started with this fact from the start? I have no idea. But my sense of your despair and this hard-fought-for hope that is surfacing on occasion is deeper, and for this, I thank you.