Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fine, Thanks

“How are you doing?” It’s a question we get asked often these days by folks who know about Sissy’s suicide. My answer varies, depending on the mood I’m in at the moment, but usually I tell them something like, “I’m fine, thanks. Thanks for asking.” I soften it a little because people don’t really want to know how we’re doing. Oh, the ones who we’re extremely close to want to know and can stand the honesty when you lay your heart in their hands. God bless them. The others wince at our pain and really just want some sort of reassurance that we’re doing alright because they can’t bear the details of our grief. And that’s okay. I understand. Really, I do. There’s something about this kind of grief that’s a little more intimate and raw than the pain you feel when someone dies of a natural cause. It’s a little TOO intimate for some people.

The truth is, we ARE doing okay. We hurt tremendously, but each day we smile a little more than the day before, and each day feels a little more normal than the day before. Each day brings a new emotion. First, there was numbness and disbelief. Then came the anger. Anger that she could put Mama J. and Papa T. through this at such an old age. However, my anger drifted away as we began to sift through Sissy’s belongings. It’s such an intimate process, reading someone’s private papers and sorting through their finances and treasured items. Each thing I’ve touched or read has given me a better understanding of how the depression took over and destroyed her life. She started dying the day her son died nine years ago, and I just can’t be mad that she chose to finally end her suffering. I know she didn’t do it to hurt us. She just wanted the pain to end.

We’ve only begun to dispose of her belongings. Because Mama J. and Papa T. are not physically able to take care of that task, it has fallen to me and Hubby to do the bulk of the work. It will take weeks to close her accounts, clean out closets, box up items for an auction and prepare her house for sale. Some of the boxes we have to go through contain keepsakes that Sissy saved when her son and husband died. We don’t look forward to that. We try not to think about how much has to be done because it gets a little overwhelming. In fact, we try not to think too far in advance about any of this because it is so difficult. Mama J. and Papa T. need a lot of care right now. Their pain runs the deepest of all. To bury two children and a grandchild in the last two decades is almost more than they can bear. They are managing, but they are very fragile right now.

An emotion that keeps drifting in and out of our souls is guilt. Should we have done more? Could we have done more? What if? I wish I hadn’t. I wish I had. We keep reminding ourselves that we did the best we could. It was Sissy’s decision, not ours. My emotional barometer clicks over to sadness most of the time now. Not extreme sadness. Just a dull ache that things did not end better. That our relationship with Sissy was rocky near the end. I hold onto the memories of the good times. The dinners and trips together before her mental illness turned her into a person she never wanted to become. I’m especially grateful that Christmas 2007 with Sissy was such a wonderful time. It was the first time she was able to celebrate Christmas with us since Chance’s death in 2000. I hold onto the memories of her smiling and laughing amid the twinkling lights and colorful packages.

Those memories will sustain us as we slog through this grief. We will prop each other up and try not to tear each other down with our emotions. That's a big danger for the family members affected by suicide, you know. We have a long journey ahead, but our days are better now. We’re looking forward to the fun that summer brings: swimming, concerts and parties with friends. We have a party this Saturday with old friends, and we will see Willie Nelson in concert Memorial Day (11th row!). We have plenty to smile about, and we will be okay. We’re fine. Really, we are. And thanks for asking.


Mike Golch said...

Great posting.I lost a co-worker to susicide.He was a troubled young man who one just ended his life by jumping off a bridge.
I even attempted several times as well the last time the psych on duty had me committed that was shortly after Dad died.My one Sister asked my how could I do that to our Mom.That really hurt me,and I blew up and the staff told me to cool off or get put into isolation.I just walked away from the visiting room and went to my room.

Kelley with Amy's Angels said...

Oh Hula! You got me all misty eyed! Thank goodness I'm off today otherwise I'd be a misty eyed mess at work! : )

In all seriousness though, you're right. It is a very overwhelming task that you have ahead of you--not just the house sorting, and your in-laws, but the emotional side too.

The sad thing is people often don't "get it". They think that once the funeral is over you should be back to normal. This is a new normal right now, and they don't get it unless they've been there.

Keep your chin up Hula! : )

Trailboss said...

I can not imagine what you and your family is going through now. Suicide effects so many people. Some say it is selfish for the one that actually commits it, others say different. I don't understand it and won't pretend to. I am sure the last thing she wanted to do was hurt the ones she loved the most. Mental illness is a horrible horrible thing. Since you mentioned your nephew's name I believe I remember when he died. Very tragic.

Hang onto your family and you will get through this one day at a time.

Mia said...

: ) ((hugs))
thank you for lunch

Janis said...

Hula, you have a way of expressing your feelings very well. It is a good thing that you are able to post about this tragic event in your life. It can be very helpful in the healing process. Staying focused and taking one day at a time is the best approach. The first year is the hardest for the family as life is forever changed. You have a heavy task to finish and I wish for you the best. Keep the faith.

oreneta said...

I am honestly glad that things are improving for you, and it has to be good that it is summer coming up....more time to relax and less stress has got to be good. Hang in there, all of you.

Belinda said...

As I was reading your thoughts I began to be thankful for your ability to put what is in my heart into words. Then it hit me-it went beyond MY thoughts...After September 23, 2000 I spent countless amounts of time and energy deflecting these exact kinds of comments from Sissy. I heard HER voice when reading your words. I am actually very grateful for that. In the last weeks I have become angry at so many people for their insensitivity or just plain ignorance-maybe I should just be thankful for the times that I could save Sissy from some of that anger or hurt. Besides, should I actually be ASHAMED of the time that I yelled, "DOES THE WORD DUMBASS MEAN ANYTHING TO ANYONE??" in the middle of our teachers lounge after one such indescretion??? NAAAAAA, it actually ended up making her laugh instead of cry. People used to say that I was always her clown-I'm OK with that.

J.G. said...

You've said it so well, Hula, and I hope it helps to talk it out here.

I know you did your best for Sissy and have good memories to hold dear. And you have your family to carry on with, as best you can. The grief won't be as fresh, someday.

Jason, as himself said...

I'm glad you're getting through it okay...but oh, still, what a nightmare.