Archive for the ‘grief’ Category
Inner Vision is a computer game created by a college student who has given some thought to suicide. The goal of the game is to convince three people not to kill themselves. As a player, you interact with them, choosing the advice you believe will help them most.
It’s a simple game but it offers a surprisingly intense experience. It might be useful as a way to combat suicidal thinking. It could also be a tool for stirring compassion and teaching us the importance of listening.
For me, it was a chance to get it right, to save three imaginary people from taking their own lives and breaking innumerable imaginary hearts. It was comforting.
My dad had seven children with three wives. I am still getting to know the younger ones, who live in another county. One was an athlete in college, and she was the apple of daddy’s eye. He had always wanted a tennis player and with her, he got one.
Years after graduating from college, she wondered what to do with her life. She lived with her dad until his health took a drastic turn. She loved him so much that she hastened to move out, leaving the duties of caring for him to my brother, who took a three month sabbatical from his job in a city up north.
Sometimes when I was visiting my dad, she would arrive for a visit. She would prance around for him like a palace courtesan before a king. As she explained to the other exhausted siblings, “I give him joy!”
When our dad got weaker and needed help paying his bills. she conducted whispered meetings with him at his bedside, accusing various family members of stealing from his wallet and even stealing his medication. Poor girl. That’s what love is, isn’t it? She was just trying to protect him!
Now that my dad is gone, I still don’t know what makes this girl tick. I like how she manages to avoid getting a job, because that has been my lifelong dream as well. (See Office Space.)
I love her blog, which is a tribute to hippies, many of them nude in a forest or commune or something. You can scroll and scroll, losing yourself in peace signs, long stringy hair and little proverbs about karma and creativity.
Creativity: I wish I had more, don’t you? Then no one would know that I’ve removed the camera-shy siblings from the photo above. Maybe my dad wouldn’t mind the extra hands and feet in this photo. I know he would criticize my hair. If only he’d lived long enough to see my silky keratin treatment.
Anyway, now she has assumed control of our dad’s trust. It’s nice to know it’s in such competent hands. Stay tuned for Part II.
Like everyone else, I am heartbroken by the loss of Aaron Swartz, 26, who hung himself last week. He was by all accounts an amazing person. He used his brilliance in technology to advance the cause of a free internet. He was a passionate activist whose antics led to serious charges that could have ended in decades of jail time. Naturally, there is cause to question and condemn the over-zealous prosecutor who seemed intent on punishing Aaron in the worst way possible. Living under this threat and its attendant stress must have been difficult.
But nobody in Aaron’s world seems to want to talk about depression. Maybe they feel that being driven to suicide by the dark forces of the corporate-government complex is more noble than a loss in the struggle with clinical depression. In forums and editorials about Aaron’s death, those who bring up Aaron’s admitted depression are scolded with “Now is not the time!”
But now is the time. Now is always the time. If you don’t understand depression, here is a good place to start. If you want statistics on college suicide, go here. Read about the stigma of depression in the tech world here. Read Aaron’s blog post about his depression here. You already know that more US soldiers now die from suicide than in combat.
Suicide is preventable. Not in every case, obviously. But awareness and education and the dedication of friends and loved ones can and does make a difference. This website, suicideispreventable.org, is the first step in learning how you can help and what words to use with a friend who might be thinking of ending his life.
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/Someone is another good resource. Feeling hopeless and seeing no end in sight can make death seem like the only option. Empathy and affection can persuade the depressed person that things can change.
I wish I could have comforted Aaron Swartz until he felt strong enough to go on. I wish I had stayed up with Max and held his hand until the beginning of a new day. We can’t go back in time but we can try our best to break someone’s fall if we are mindful and courageous enough to make the effort.
Watching the news tonight, I am struck by the word “evil” in reference to the shootings in Connecticut.
A disturbed 20 year old young man who lives with his mother, has no friends, hasn’t spoken to his older brother for two years and is remembered only for his nervousness and inability to fit in….that is not evil. I see no possible evil in this tormented soul.
A mother who hoards firearms and leaves them around her house, now that might be evil, since no one could be so astoundingly careless and stupid.
I am dreading the revelations to come.
I’ve been meaning to read De Profundis since I read a biography of Oscar Wilde, around 100 years ago. I know Max read De Profundis and liked it. I was disappointed, though. Oscar Wilde managed to perceive a benefit from his suffering: It would bring him humility, and a better appreciation of Christ. That’s where he lost me.
I wanted to find something as dark and bleak as my own grief , something that resonates. Suicide Survivor websites talk about “Journeys,” a word that is now ruined for me. I am not on a journey. I am already there. It’s the land of the Not Living but Not Dead. There’s an exit but I must not use it.
There is a dark veil that hangs just beyond my peripheral vision but I can see it there. I have to work hard to keep it away. When it sweeps over me, I am lost. It’s just agony. I live in fear of the dark veil and I work hard to refuse its existence. This grief cannot be borne. It’s not possible.
I stay up at night because going to bed might produce some moments of unfiltered thinking. I have to wait until I’m nearly unconscious, but I try to get to bed before six AM. One night not long ago, it was nearly six and for a moment I felt a giddy sense of total freedom from responsibility or repercussions: it was the epiphany that I didn’t exist any more, so it didn’t matter. The feeling was brief but scary. I can’t even decide if it was a moment of clarity or psychosis.
People who suffer from Cotard’s Syndrome often deny that they exist or believe they are dead. “In the first stage (Germination) patients exhibit depression and hypochondriacal symptoms.” Check. Jules Cotard, who first described the condition, ”described the syndrome as having degrees of severity that range from mild to severe. Despair and self-loathing characterize a mild state.” Okay then. A mild state is good but not as good as mental health.
I have always felt contemptuous of women who seem to bounce back after losing a child. I was appalled when Marie Osmond resumed her show in Las Vegas only a week after her son jumped from his 18th floor window. Gloria Vanderbilt, Judy Collins, non-celebrity mothers who write about their Journeys and even offer tips on handling intimacy with their husbands. What propels them to go forward with their lives as if anything matters?
It’s no comfort to know I wont be one of them.
image: The Honeymoon, 2007 © Cig Harvey
I dreamed there was a dead Me, laying beside me in bed. I was very distressed but I tried to take care of her, plumping her pillow or something. She was very pretty and young, sort of a goth Ophelia. Suddenly, I discovered that my ex-husband had taken her to a school campus and had left her there. I was horrified and furious with him. I flipped out and screamed at him, asking him if he realized that she was defenseless, that everyone would make fun of her etc etc. I screamed: “Isn’t there any dignity, even after death?!”
Then I woke up.
What does this mean? That part of me is dead? Because that is my daily reality. Or was the dead me really Max? Or was it about Mitt Romney, who had just made his comment about the Libyan Embassy? Or is it because I’ve been immersed in the first four seasons of Breaking Bad?
Anyone watching Showtime tonight was assaulted by death in a one-two punch.
On The Borgias, the Pope was devastated by the death of his knavish, syphilitic son. He carried the son into the woods, envisioning him as a beautiful little boy. As Jeremy Irons began to dig a grave, I scolded my television and turned to my computer.
But then, on Nurse Jackie, the mean new hospital administrator was stunned when his drug-addicted son arrived in the ER on a gurney. I watched in horror as Bobby Cannivale tried in vain to revive his dead son. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
While I sobbed hysterically, Nurse Jackie cut away to a happy scene in the maternity room. In real life, we can’t cut to another scene. The attempt to reassure us with a birth, as if to say “Turn turn turn, there is a time for birth and a time for death!” was cheap and sanctimonious.
I think about death constantly but I don’t want it shoved in my face, Showtime. The death of children is literally unbearable. I realized that the specter of the shattered parents is what drives home the tragedy. The children have flown away, but the parents are left with eternal suffering.
Some of my friends and family wish I would cut to a new scene. One of them has even blocked me on facebook. What’s good on Showtime is less good in real life. If people could watch me on TV, they would switch to another channel.
My husband knew that the Housewives of New Jersey would make me feel better. We marveled at Theresa’s hairline, which threatens to devour what’s left of her forehead.
What would I do without my husband! We went to the Los Angeles County Museum on Sunday, and while we wandered through a dark spiral corridor in the Japanese Pavilion, he remarked, “This is kind of like Disneyland for adults.” Yes,” I answered, “if the Pirates of the Carribean was an adventure in dread, with no pirates.” He sticks with me through everything, all the adventures in dread that my life has become.
I’m thinking of getting a version of this tattoo, just because it makes me smile. I can’t think of anything else to do with myself.
I am almost a vegetable. I stay up all night doing nothing. When I wake up, I do some more nothing. At 3 a.m. I like to watch a TV show called “Morning Joe,” where a loud Republican guy and a nice blonde woman sip coffee and bicker about politics. At this point, I think of them as friends.
I’m reading a book called “Seven Choices: Taking the Steps to a New Life After Losing Someone You love.” I don’t like any of the choices. I’m nearly at the end, at the part where you commit to being a new person with a future you care about.
Easter was difficult. I used to love making baskets for my boys. Max believed in the Easter Bunny for an unusually long time. This year, I forced everyone to listen to my story about driving Max somewhere with his friends, who were impressed with his new Motley Crue record. One of them asked where he got it, and he answered: “The Easter Bunny.” No one challenged this. It was such a funny and sweet moment.
When I don’t write, it’s because I can’t stand to think or feel. I can still waste time at Tumblr though. Have a look, if you like. And get back to me about the tattoo.
I recently had the pleasure of spending an evening with an old friend who is now divorced from the husband who used to boss her around and make her have sex with him three times a week without regard to her own lack of desire. He’s out of her life now, for the most part, but she still hates him.
In fact, she plans to hate him forever, just as I hate my ex-husband. I have forgiven nearly all my grudges, even ones I swore to take to the grave, but I will never stop hating my ex-husband. Looking back at my old journals, I discovered that I hated him even before I married him!
I once read that a large percentage of divorced women admit to having married a man they didn’t love. This was supposed to be shocking news. It probably explains why they ended up divorced. It’s a bad idea to marry someone you actually hate, so make sure you never do it.
I married my ex at 20, after four years of living with him. I didn’t know what to do with my life and I think I hoped he would take care of me. I don’t like taking care of myself, although I am more than happy to take care of others.
Anyway, I hated him. I hated the way he walked and I hated the way he smelled. I hated his repressed personality and I hated his petty criticism of everything I did or thought. I hated the way he’d point to a girl with close-cropped hair and say “You know, you’d look good like that.” Why would a man marry a woman with waist-length hair only to ogle girls with crew-cuts? What a fucking cunt™.
Finally, after 17 years together, we got divorced. By then, I hated the way he breathed and the way he drank his orange juice. I was shattered by the process of divorce, but gradually came to relish my freedom from his oppressive presence.
The only thing we agreed upon was our love for our son. But we always disagreed about what he needed and what was good for him.
After a long struggle in rehab, our son stayed clean for a while but had a relapse and was on a binge. We took him to a treatment center where he was supposed to stay for thirty days. After ten days, they thew him out: We couldn’t meet their demands for $250 per day, even though they were being paid by our insurance company. Meanwhile, Max had called me after the first few days, anxiously reporting that he shared a room with convicts who stayed up all night playing cards. He was cold, but he wasn’t allowed to have an extra blanket. He said it was the scariest place he had ever been.
His father picked him up on the morning they kicked him out. During the long drive to my house, his father screamed at him for being a failure. His tirade was cruel and relentless. He accused Max of ruining everyone’s life, and told him he was “one step from living on the street.”
I didn’t want Max to have his car. He was going to stay in a sober house where he wouldn’t need it. But the ex wouldn’t listen to me and brought the car over.
Max seemed traumatized by the ride home and I tried to comfort him. He was worn out and anxious, still detoxing, even though I didn’t know it. All day, I tired to console him with the fact that it wasn’t a catastrophe, it was only a relapse and everything would be fine. I kissed him goodbye when he left for the sober house. Early the next morning, he drive to a cliff and jumped.
During the first few days at the hospital, I would corner my ex in the hallway and tell him it was all his fault. I showered him with invective, hysterical with rage and worry and grief. Even now, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if my ex had just taken Max out for breakfast instead of berating him so mercilessly.
I wish I could kill my ex. My sister has asked me, Isn’t it enough to know how miserable he is? As if that could mitigate my hatred, which is eternal, steadier than the beat of my heart, and faster than the speeding bullet that belongs in his head.