When someone passes away, amidst all the love, a lot of questions come out. I thought about ranking them in the degrees by which they annoy me, but that seemed a tad harsh. People are curious, you can’t fault them for that (well, you could), and for the most part they’re not trying to be annoying (although sometimes I wonder), but by golly they’re curious. Some of that curiosity comes from knowing we’ll all be impacted by death throughout our lives, and there’s this hope that the person can shed some little pearl of wisdom that maybe we can use if we’re in a similar situation. Some of the questions come from having never been in a particularly unique situation, and they feel like they’ve pulled up to the world’s best car wreck, and screw the rest of traffic, they’re going to take their nice long look.
Let me start by addressing a few of those questions/statements by offering some advice when it comes to someone who has died by suicide. (Now followers of my Facebook feed may feel this subject looks somewhat familiar. I like to think of my feed as a micro-blog (because that’s a thing, right?) at times, and my followers as a focus group. Err… I think of them as good friends, that’s what I meant. Good friends.)
Don’t ask how it happened especially of the immediate family. Ever. If the person chooses to share that information, that’s one thing, but what has happened is deeply personal, and fairly traumatic. Each retelling can open up some really large wounds, because it’s not a “story”, it’s a life. It’s lives. You don’t have a right to know. Yes, I get it’s a wonderfully dramatic story, and you can’t help but to slow down and try to drink in the drama, but do that from as far away from me as you can possibly get.
Don’t run around asking if any of the immediate family (or me) is suicidal. Yes, something bad happened, and you may be worried, but your worry seems more like gossip when you flitter from person to person planting that little seed.
And whatever you do, don’t go up to any family member (for example: me, again) and make this request: “Please don’t kill yourself.” There are no words that can ever properly convey how wrong I find that statement. I could start with “you clearly don’t know me,” but that just lightly begins to air kiss how deeply angry I am at your words. If you are genuinely worried, you’ll figure out a better way to approach that conversation. As it stood, I nearly said “well damn, there goes my Wednesday plan. I guess I’ll just watch TV now. Fingers crossed wrestling is on tonight!”
Then there’s this other question I’ve had thrown my way that while I find annoying isn’t meant so. It’s mostly annoying because I’m asked it a lot, which means someone who reads this blog (maybe a few) is (are) going to say, “oh hell, I didn’t meant to step in it with Beth.” You didn’t. But since you asked, I’ll answer.
How do you do it? How do you get up in the morning?
I can’t give you a silver bullet answer – something you can apply to your own lives. I can tell you some key things about me and my situation. The biggest thing that gets me up and moving is I was literally just born this way. I’m a “happy” person. In fact, I’m a borderline (and sometimes not so borderline) airhead. I’m goofy. I’m silly. I’m the kid who at five was told by other five year olds I needed to grow up. (To this day we feel sorry for any five year old that feels they need to grow up.) When it comes to a happiness ceiling, mine is really high. I’m a whole lot like one of my aunts who when we get together, we just giggle. Now that said, that doesn’t mean I (or my aunt) can’t be brought down or that I don’t get angry. I actually have quite a temper, but my fuse is exceptionally long. You just don’t want to be around when the fuse is gone. Jay would point out, when I did finally blow, that I was spending a lot of energy being really mad about a person or thing, and the object of my anger couldn’t see how angry I was – that I was wasting a lot of energy. I can blow up like the best and most uncomfortable fireworks display. Thankfully something shiny will usually appear, and I’m chasing it down again. Unfortunately, that shiny thing may not appear for a day or two, but it will always appear.
Another key thing is that no one left me alone, not even when it was really all I wanted. I longed to go shut the door to my bedroom after Jay passed away. I didn’t want to do the things that needed to get done. Dad had me make a list, and on a normal day the list was something I could have accomplished in a few hours. On that second day after Jay left, I had only managed to do two things, and the process was absolutely the most mentally exhausting thing I had done. Dad then helped me make the plan for the next day and the next slowly showing me how to walk in the world again. During all of this, I didn’t want to interact with anyone, and yet they kept appearing at my house forcing me to be here. When you combine that with another inherent trait I have – wanting everyone else to be ok, you have a situation where I felt forced to come out and to try and make everyone else feel better. I would tell stories about Jay, and while I wasn’t fully present, it kept me present enough.
I remember when Mom passed away unexpectedly, I tried to cheer-up the hospital chaplain by telling him stories despite desperately wanting him to leave the room so it would just be the two of us. I once fell down a staircase trying to get a bag of glass bottles to a recycling station, and when the glass and I landed at the bottom I saw a little boy looking on in horror, and so I did what I do – I talked to him, laughed about being clumsy, got everything together, and then fell apart behind closed doors. Part of who I am is a less polished version of my grandmother. A woman who when presented with any group of people would go immediately into hostess mode. This is what I do.
To this day, some six months later, I am still not left alone over the weekends. I have activities through the middle of March and beyond. They’re rarely anything I’ve planned, but are things people have brought me into.
So, in short: How do I get up every day? I can get up because that’s who I am. I don’t know another way (and as one friend “gently” put it: “…because you’re not a pathetic piece of shit,” (no intended offense to those who can’t), and because I have an amazing support group in my family and friends. They don’t let me make any other choice … and I try to remain open to new situations; I try to still live and experience new things/new and interesting people. I don’t have a silver bullet. I only have me. And the truth is I’m not always sunshine and lollipops. I still get sad, and when I do I get a tissue, and I start over again.
To my friends and family (and new/amazing acquaintances), and of course the Phalanx: Thank you for continuing to help me walk through this world. I love you more than you’ll know (because I’m apparently keeping that a secret? Who says “more than you’ll know”? Why is that a saying?) Bah, you’ll know how much, because I say I love you in awkward ways that make you feel uncomfortable, so suck it up.