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GE #24 - They Call Us Survivors Or Something

There's a book on grief counseling in the downstairs bathroom that's been eyeing me. I saw it on the shelf in there the first day when I peed as we came home from the police station. I cracked it open yesterday. I don't know what I was hoping for. Maybe comfort, maybe another checklist or form. Something to provide some framework of normalcy for myself.

There's an entire chapter on grieving a suicide. Makes sense, it's a unique type of loss— though this is the second one in my immediate family. When I got to the list of actions that would provide best outcomes, it more or less mirrored back what my sister and I have been trying to do since we started making phone calls on October 1st: speak openly and honestly about it without bullshitting yourself or anyone else. Okay, I'm doing that. My mantra of " It is what it is," pretty much demands that I do that.

Those of us who are left behind in the wake of a suicide are called "suicide loss survivors." It's a term I simultaneously understand and am profoundly uncomfortable with. I can't argue with its accuracy. Add to that the fact that I've been doing certainly feels like little more than surviving. But there's something minimizing about the word to me— we're all survivors of something that life has thrown at us. No one's life is bereft of problems and if you've made it this far, to the present moment, you too are a survivor of something. But, despite my feelings— and I have many— it is at least a term that I can plug into the vast servers of Google to find— something. I don't know what I'm looking for. Something I haven't heard before, maybe.


One survivor's group describes the event as

like a "grenade going off within a family or community."

This, too, is apt. My grief shares a decent array of symptoms with PTSD. There are the recurring memories of and related to the event— little flashes of the funerary stuff, half chasing the guy from News 12 who filmed me without consent at the playground, every fucking fight I had with my brother in the past 26 years. I've only had one unpleasant dream so far, thank the gods. And just about every item on the list regarding negative emotions and emotional response. I'm not being a very good Buddhist right now. I've wandered off the path that is myself— picking fights and taking the universe personally in general. I'm constantly looking for the exits in a room.

I also have an awareness that much of this is temporary. I chalk a lot of this up to how effective CBT is at giving you a skill set for coping with the things that rattle you. Being able to check your negative thoughts, noticing mind loops, and backtracking your emotions are useful for getting through the day. But are not necessarily very comforting. In fact, not one thing I've mentioned in this post gives me anything I perceive as comfort.

I have a long list of self-soothing techniques to help me: good food, baths, ritual grieving—which works for almost everything you guys. Grief is always about the future that you have lost. wine/quality whiskey, painting, writing— GT has been a great help with this one. Writing to no one is not nearly as effective. The biggest disappointment was not feeling comforted by my music, which kills me because that's gotten me through so much grieving previously. I do indeed have a playlist just for this shit. But I am oversensitive.


And coping with a death and coping with a breakup have a lot more similarities than I thought. Losing someone is losing someone after all. There's just no chance of ever "getting back together" in this situation. And you can't exactly pretend like things are better off because someone died. Well, I can't. Definitely not with this.

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