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Derek was my sweetheart when I was 16 years-old. I wrote Derek’s Story, which was about his suicide, but now I realize that I left so much out. When you are a survivor of suicide – either your own or somebody else’s – the feelings left over are extremely confusing. Nothing is what it seems and it can feel like you are lost in your own world. This blog is my attempt to describe the emotions that come and go after a suicide, and try to make sense of them.
In middle school, the students were told that a boy in high school committed suicide and his girlfriend was beside herself with grief. I remember thinking that if something like that ever happened to me, it would be the most embarrassing and horrible thing that could happen in school (This was 1988, so we would see the actual most horrible things to happen in a high school later). About five years after that, it did happen to me. This is what I did:
- I told Derek to “go ahead” and commit suicide. I don’t like to be threatened and I didn’t think he would do it, but he did.
- I felt nothing about this.
- Three full days later, I went to the police and they found him dead.
- I felt nothing.
- I cried just a smidge, but I still felt nothing.
- Clearly, I was in shock.
When I stopped feeling nothing, I started feeling empty. This was slightly different than feeling nothing. I had a few feelings pop up around this time: guilt, dread, anger, devastation. These were almost welcome after feeling nothing for a few days, but I say almost, because these emotions basically suck. I think the guilt kept me feeling empty longer, because I blamed myself for his suicide, and possibly rightfully. My emptiness confined me to my bed for about a week, and then my dad made me go back to school.
At school, I didn’t know how to act. I would get giggly for no reason and say inappropriate things to people. Teachers and students would tip-toe around me so as not to have to converse. Outside of school, my behavior became erratic. I pierced my nose and started wearing rags, instead of my nice clothes. I morphed from walking around like a zombie to an outgoing young girl and back again. No one knew whether I was coming or going.
Nightimes had me crying under the covers. Having full feelings now, I was overwhelmed. Even though I had just graduated from a treatment center, I went out and got drunk almost every evening. I don’t even think my dad noticed because of his concern about my grief. I got lost in a huge drinking crowd where I would hang out and get completely wasted. This was the beginning of my habit of drinking to assuage pain.
My grief was long and unbearable. One day, my well-meaning best friend told me that since it had been two months since his death that I should be “over it”. I disagreed. I believed that the pain in my heart had years to work itself out. I was right.
In the past 25 years since Derek killed himself, I have asked the same questions almost every day: “Why?”, “Why me?”, “Where did you go?”, “Will I ever see you again?” “Did you know how much I loved you?” It’s been all these years and I’m bawling like a baby right this moment.
Any death in a family will have a butterfly effect on those around the deceased. Derek’s funeral was standing room only. Batches of people gave their own eulogy and I got up there and said a whole bunch of shit that made no sense. Later, I skateboarded down a hill I didn’t know how to navigate and half killed my own self. No one really knows how to operate when something so horrible happens. My opinion is that we just let our emotions ride until they pass and try to think of the good times with that person. Even if it makes you cry.
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