Four Years, Two Months & a Handful of Days

This is one of the rare posts that I’m not sharing on Social Media. I recognize that when I do, it’s with the intent to alert my family and friends that I’ve been writing again and I really need some “Likes” (watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix (it’s well-done) and then blame the platform developers for driving those addictive needs that I find difficult to wean myself away from).

Over the last month my posts have had a dual purpose – to raise awareness and to also raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I think both are important. However, I don’t need that today. If you feel like donating when I’m through, you can find the link.

Let’s Start

On any given day I feel ok. On any given day I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress. I’m surrounded with a solid support base. I’m handling disappointment better (a tremendous hurdle for me). To give you some idea of where I was: In the past if someone backed out of a plan, I’d be an emotional wreck. It could be as simple as, “I can’t make lunch” to “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have invited you on the Paris trip. You don’t mind if I uninvite you now, right? My bad!” Both were met with the same level of disappointment. Not going to Chuy’s for a margarita and super nachos was as heartbreaking as being uninvited from standing in the Louvre fighting for a spot to glimpse The Mona Lisa. Two things that absolutely should not be equal were equal to me, but I moved on – my sense of perspective began to normalize again. Now I can drink a Chuy’s margarita and fuss about being uninvited to Paris. Of course, I probably still can’t go to the Louvre without causing some sort of scene by trying to flip some art or kicking an unsuspecting French person who would be wholly undeserving of said kick, but yay progress. Am I right? (Hey, I said I got my perspective back in terms of “nachos don’t equal the Louvre.” I didn’t say I magically matured or that I was over having the invitation rescinded. Pro tip: Don’t make big offers to recently traumatized people then pull them back. It’s not a good look, and the reaction you get may not showcase them at their best.)

Over these four years, I’ve made other positive steps. I’ve stopped crying regularly. I do still cry, sure, but it’s not with that same frequency or intensity. I miss my person and all that he was. That’s not going away.

In these four years, I’ve gotten a better handle on my anxiety attacks, which I mentioned in a previous post.

All decent steps forward.

Sure, I’m still mad that a condition of us being together was that I had to agree to never having children. I’m mad that I find myself alone having made that sacrifice. I’m mad that I’m old. I’m mad that I was abandoned. I’m mad that the prospects for someone finding me attractive are non-existent and I’m mad that I will never be touched lovingly again. All of that weighs on me. All of that hurts me to my core. All of that I have to work on.

But still, I’ve made progress. I work through and manage my issues on a daily basis – just like everyone else. And I feel ok most of the time.

On Friday I was on our bi-weekly lunch call – arguably my favorite “meeting” where I get to see all the faces I miss (and all of those faces seem to give me a certain amount of grief – hrmm, I may have questionable taste). During that call, I heard a knock at the door signaling my lunch had finally arrived. YAY! Warm sandwich and a cookie! My go-to for these lunches. I don’t know what it is, but the sub shop must sprinkle their turkey sandwiches with magic. They’re crazy delicious. When I opened the door, I was surprised to see a gentleman standing there while another was leaving. Odd. He then handed me my sandwich while addressing me by my legal name. Weird. No one calls me that, and it seemed odd for the sandwich guy to even have that information. Are you…? (Umm… are you a stalker? Serial killer?) The gentleman then explained he was my postman. (I guess gone are the days of the easily identifiable polyester uniforms. I mean sure, good on them, those didn’t look comfy. No judgment. But on the other hand you kind of end up looking like my sandwich guy.) He handed me a certified letter and my lunch.

I took everything in and set it down. The letter was from my city, which usually means that the city is asking for participants in their annual water testing project. I’m usually up for that, so I opened it expecting to find the timeline and arrival of the collection bottles.

It turned out that the letter was not from their public utilities department, it was from the city’s police department. It stated that the police were in possession of my property – a claim I found both odd and completely incorrect. Unless someone stole something, the police department shouldn’t have any of my property. I wasn’t missing anything. Did someone take something from me? I searched my memory. Could I be so oblivious that I was missing something important enough for the police to reach out about? Maybe? I read further and the letter made no sense. You see, my brain wasn’t processing the words that described the item they had listed, and that’s because I’m unfamiliar weapons – their brands or their descriptions. It’s not my world. What this letter was telling me was that the police had the weapon Jay used to complete his suicide – four years, two months and a handful of days later. The last thing he held in his hand. The letter demanded I contact them immediately and either pick it up or have it destroyed. The last thing he held in his hand. The thing that he used to take his life. The thing I told them the day of Jay’s death to destroy. The letter said I had 60 days to act – like I’d done something wrong or negligent. I reeled.

I told myself I was ok. It was only a letter describing an object.

I was not ok.

I walked over to my laptop and slammed it shut. The cheerful voices continued to dance through the speakers. I popped it back open, found the “Leave” button for the meeting, and then collapsed on the floor wailing – something I haven’t done in years. All of the pain of Jay’s death pulsing out from my body in large inconsolable waves. I allowed myself to have that moment, and then I called my people – my brother-in-law, my bestfriend, and my step-mom – each pulled me back an inch at a time – each with an immediate action plan on how to address the situation. Finally, my friend Edward offered up, “Hey, at least the cops didn’t show up with a warrant to search your dungeon basement. Does your mom know me as the guy who lives down there whom you keep demanding to cover himself in lotion?” (Silence of the Lambs reference and ongoing inside joke.) I finally laughed again. (Note: I do not have a dungeon basement that Edward lives in. This is Texas. Edward lives in my crawlspace. We don’t have basements. Also, I’M KIDDING. No Edwards were harmed – he’s too funny to hurt.)

Another friend chatted with me the next night, and helped further define my path forward – my next step, which is: I’m going to contact the police department and suggest they work with their volunteer Victim’s Services group to engage them for this type of outreach. It shouldn’t be a form letter. What they did was ham-fisted at best, and this process desperately needs improvement.

All of this said to further put a spotlight on the aftermath of suicide. It is absolutely devastating to the survivors. It ravages those left behind, taking tolls on physical and mental health. And while survivors can and will rise back up again, and again – this snapshot into a single day of my experience points out that even when we feel our strongest, we will experience momentary set-backs – unforeseen things – things that sit closer to our tears.

And it’s why I come back time and time again to express the importance of the mission of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and why I know you can make a difference – why you should make a difference – whether you’re advocating, educating or supporting with a donation. Be a part of that solution. Do it for me. Do it so future families won’t receive a letter four years, two months and a handful of days later and crumble to pieces. Do it so they never have to know that loss – that pain.

Me, I have a mission to make change. That’s my commitment.

13 thoughts on “Four Years, Two Months & a Handful of Days

  1. julie4hardy says:

    “Liked” not because you need it, but because I love you. Send you heaps of that just now. (And an extra head rub from the kitty).

  2. Heather says:

    Oh, Beth. You are gracious to kindly suggest they do better. I’m appalled. What a glaring fail.
    And no amount of progress on your part, and it has been great, makes it okay.

  3. azzageddi says:

    The flood of emotions I felt as I read what the letter was left me reeling and feeling sick, and I was experiencing it at such a huge remove. I am so sad and angry that they did that, in that way. As Heather says, it’s just appalling. I’m visualizing giving you an enormous hug right now.

    • Beth says:

      David, thank you, and I’m so sorry that I put you through that emotional roller coaster, too but I’m so very thankful for your words and your friendship. You are wonderful and I love you my friend.

      • azzageddi says:

        Hey, you don’t have to be sorry for anything like that. I love you too, and with love comes that connection that can sometimes include emotional roller coasters.

  4. This I would have never dreamed of happening in a thousand years.
    The depth of people whether not thinking or awkwardly not knowing what to do and just hiding behind behind habit oe just thoughtless and trying to clear their desk. In credible.
    Your friend suggestion of working with Victim’s Services to change this is imporant. Police on any scene must clearly note circumstances or any item – murder, suicide, loss of a child or family member – all critical in the future to help survivors keep stability without being blind sighted/ambushed because someone’s in a rush.
    Thank you – this is something I’ll remember – and remember to watch for if trying to help another – will injure locally how this sort of thing is handled.
    See. The world is better because you are here. You do make a difference – because you are a fighter and get back up.

    • Beth says:

      The good news on this is that the Victim Services Director contacted me as did her supervisor, and they both apologized profusely. They also agreed that this was an opportunity to improve their services, and the director stated that they may reach out to me in the future. (I hope those aren’t empty words, because I would love to help them.) That team did such an incredibly good job – they were kind, caring, so gentle in how they handled me. I appreciate all they did that day, and also cannot begin to imagine how hard a job that must be. The world needs more empathetic, compassionate and kind people like the two women who were assigned to meet me that day. I did learn one has come into the department as a full time employee, which is so great. They also let me know that I didn’t have to complete their form to dispose of the weapon and they would inform me when it had been destroyed. So, some small victories that I wish I didn’t have to be a part of, but if it helps make change for the better, then that’s good. I sent my friend a note to think him for giving me that nudge.

      I’ll say it a million times; I’m fortunate to be surrounded by truly good people. You’re one of those people, too.

      • Encouraging.
        It would be great if the Victim Services could talk to her counterparts/police chiefs in other cities.
        There so much tragedy and so few safety nets for survivors now – or even awareness of situations like this. I was/am appaulled. Hope too help make changes here – I used to have contacts with the stalking victims units ( in multiple states) from a relative’s horrible experience.
        Life is hard enough without someone taking time to think and show some compassion.
        HUGS and onward

      • Beth says:

        That’s a really good point. I wonder how many Victim Services groups have gotten involved when it comes to police releasing personal items from a crime scene, because they really should. I also think there should be warnings on shows that involve suicide – this comes after watching a series where the show had warnings when they the characters dealt with issues around PTSD and they included information for contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I see so many opportunities for awareness that would be impactful. (Aside: I’m really glad 9-8-8 just passed after clearing the FCC.)

  5. hrhdeanne says:

    I can’t put into words how awful that is.  When the police came over to tell Guy that his father had killed himself, they eventually asked what he wanted done with the gun. He told them he didn’t want it back. There wasn’t a victim’s group to help us. With Tommy, the police just called Guy. They didn’t come in person. Again, no victim’s group. But a few days later (or maybe later that day? my memory is blurred) an officer came by with paperwork, including the letters Tommy left for everyone. He recommended we not read the one he left for us, and not pass on the ones he left for other people. He asked about the gun, & Guy said to destroy it. We didn’t hear anything more. I know even now, more than 20 years later, I still cry sometimes over Tommy. Grief is – as you well know – not a linear process. I wish I could help. Sending love – D ******************** Action figure sold separately!

    • Beth says:

      I’m so sorry you and Guy didn’t have a Victim’s Support group and recognize that I was very fortunate that our community made that available. The support they provided was helpful beyond measure. I think all police forces should have one where possible. They help with navigating through very challenging times – where you don’t know how or what to focus on – like how to get a crime scene cleaned up. Something I never knew I’d need or want to know how to do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s