POS-FFOS - Survivor Retreat - Columbia, Tennessee 2009

The Consequences of pretending:

Pretending comes along natural, early in life.  Children discover it assists them in getting what they want.  Later it can be used to portray innocence and a means of shifting blame (maybe to another sibling.)  In adolescence, it becomes an excuse and avoidance skill.  In adulthood, it matures into a more permanent form of deception, i.e., role-playing (or masking reality.)

In the make-believe world, your character dilutes, you are less than truthful, and you become less authentic.

Some individuals excel in this make-believe world, while others fail miserably.  I believe this struggle makes you an unstable character. Your life adopts a pattern of falsehoods, and over time they will take their toll.

Pretending ads stress, sapping energy, and keeps you on continuous guard to maintain your make believe role. 

A person’s world changes instantly after a Suicide.  You find yourself unprepared in an unfamiliar world.  THE WAKE is a permanent relocation, and continuously evolving, and there are no escape hatches.

In those first few days, it is beneficial to have this buffer to shield you from the world.  I maintained that for several months, without realizing how it was changing me. 

The Suicide awareness was only a day old when I returned home, cutting short of a ten-day teaching assignment in Boston. Shortly after arriving home, a couple from my Church, Paul and Susan, appeared and buffered me.  They answered the door, the phone, and interfaced with my outside world.

Guests, flowers, and food were arriving from Wednesday through Sunday, and they handled everything transparently.  It was an amazing gift, and today I realize how unaware I was.  We had known each other for a couple of decades through the church.

The memorial service was Saturday afternoon, and as the sun went down the next day, everyone returned to their life routines, and I was by myself for the first time.  This "by myself" was something I never known, not in this way.  Their final act honored my request to distribute all the flowers.  I just did not want to watch them die by myself.

The first acting role that I realize occurred within days. I went to Borders, a local book store.  I entered fending off salespeople looking for a book titled "What do you do after a Suicide," or some title that would answer my questions.  I remember being careful to appear as a casual shopper. Not seeing the word Suicide anyplace, I decided to ask for help.

A saleslady approached, and I do not recall how I worded my request, but it included the word Suicide. She responded she would check and walked away.  After an uncomfortable wait, I quickly departed the store.  It was a stark lesson on guarding the use of THAT word.  I don't recall ever going back to that Borders' store.  I went on to look for Suicide Books at stores, libraries, and finally resorted to Amazon - but never asked for help.

Later on, through counseling and Survivor Of Suicide support groups, I build a small library of my own. All of this together has helped me come conversant on the subject.  The shared experiences in 100's of survivor sessions (now over two decades) have been invaluable to me.

As I formulated a new personal life, I intentionally developed careful statements and responses to be truthful, yet not always comprehensive. I was deliberately stopping short of providing details, because that seems to spur more questions.

Finally a long term friend told me the reason she avoided me in the early years was because she did not know what to say.  That hurt, but at the same time, it made all the sense in the world to me.  Afterward, I strived to be deliberately frank and aboveboard.  I don't want to pretend I am okay - because I am really not with Suicide.  I just somehow decided I can be me, all along, realizing that folks are uncomfortable with the whole subject.  The situations with Suicide I cannot solve so I tend to listen carefully now and be truthful in every way.

FHAS-Consequences Of Pretending V07-G-edited-0424.2021