About Early Emotional Distress:
I remember the day, time, and place when I received the news. Only five words, "Rebecca (then . . . a long pause) has taken her life," then silence and darkness.
Subsequent health issues, Internal Bleeding, Prostate Cancer, Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Hip Replacement, nor Open Heart Surgery exceed the trauma of the Suicide.
All experienced trauma, yet our reactions remain unique.
Early encounters, after my wife ending her life, annoyed me. Typical statements like "time heal's all wounds" were meaningless. Others made me angry - like "I know exactly how you feel . . . or when my grandmother (worst yet – 'my pet') died . . . or God needed another Angel."
At the time, most friends just faded away. What I do not intend to do is condemn anyone; before this happened, I wouldn't have a clue - what to say or do.
I came away adopting "I am sorry," nothing more is required. A sincere expression of feelings, and now it is automatic - I don't have to concentrate.
Unfortunately, avoidance is the more common treatment.
When the Massachusetts State Troopers arrived (accompanied by a local trauma unit), they must have had something to say, but I don't remember a word. I would find a packet they provided, years later, unopened. When shock takes over, your brain goes into a void and rational shift into idle.
With the passing of years, I have come to appreciate what the Lucent plant did for me on that otherwise ordinary Tuesday afternoon. The brother of the night plant manager was the local parish priest. He arrived during all the mayhem. I don't recall a thing about that encounter, but in the following years, we would have lunch together. Those times were meaningful, and I remember them with fondness.
Months pass before coherent thoughts surface, and here survivor's experiences vary widely. My attitude became "really nothing matters." I failed to do even routine things. I was uncomfortable being with anyone, and I certainly did feel I needed any help. At that point, everything fell into a single bucket, labeled unimportant.
Although I do not recall this, friends told me I remark that "I was hiding out inside." Stares out the patio door, while the weather channel played in the background consumed a lot of my time.
After twenty years, I still feel inadequate in expressing the emotions that swirled in my mind. My brain cells were having a hard time getting along together.
I realize now; I had nothing meaningful to share in those early months. Not sure why I expected my friend to provide significant help. Such a poor state of being and unsure of what help would look like nor where to find it.
When your emotions get the best of you, your friends will vanish, and some never return. Moving into my2rd decade, that still haunts me at times. If I could have envisioned how uncomfortable my contacts were, I might have been able to change this outcome. All of this maze increases your chance of becoming more isolated.
I do not know a single thing that could have changed nor anything or that would have brought significant relief, back then.
While the aftermath consumes time, time alone does not solve a thing. That is a myth and can become a permanent barrier when discovering your way out of "THE PIT."
You (and your friends) have to realize you can never go back to "the way we were." You have to discover the new "you," and they have to accept or reject you — a harsh statement.
Now, if you are a new survivor, nothing I have to share will make sense for a while.
The over-riding question for most is one word, "why?" The sad part (maybe not) is that it is unknowable. You can never validate why these deaths occur, yet, you, along with everyone else, will wonder and speculate.
It is human nature to make judgments. You will face questions and statements about why. Curiosity is something that comes with the territory. I don't have a solution for that, but I have developed some coping skills to deal with the early on questions.
My suggestion for the beginning days, weeks, months, is to concentrate on listening and remembering (write them down) the positive things folks share about your loved one. There will be a lot of them. These stories will be critical building blocks as to how you will remember (or think of) your loved one in the years ahead.
Know that there are no right things you should do or say.
If you start off verbalizing your thoughts early on, you will increase the risk of some coming back to haunt you. Saying little is best.
As soon as you hear negative stuff, shift into delete mode. You will exhaust your emotional reserve quickly if you get confrontational about all this. Again, saying little is better.
With some soul searching, you will be better able to balance your thoughts and decided for yourself how you will remember and judge this situation over the long haul. And the only judgments that matter is your own.
You can influence others, but you cannot change them. And always remember that your emotional tank will empty quicker than you think.
I am old now and have experienced three different suicides A co-worker, a best friend, and my wife, and they keep coming. That does not make me an expert on anything. I have also listened to 100's of survivor experiences in support groups over the years and have some advice.
A couple of things to avoid in those early days:
1. Don't make comments about your disappointment, the cause, or who is to blame. The best single statement that will give you room to maneuver is, "I am making it to the next day right now." Later on, you will have had some time to collect and reflect on your thoughts and practice what to share.
2. Avoid dialogue with others (most of whom will be ill-prepared as well). Just say something like, "I am not ready - or better - I am not prepared to discuss this right now." You might also add "Maybe a little later" for those you will be obligated to, like family.
3. The delay will give you time to sort out the crowd that you said: "maybe later." Some will be in the category where "maybe later" might never occur.
4. Don't let yourself feel obligated to engage the teller at the bank, or your car mechanic. If you don't do this, you will accentuate your distress, and tire of overlapping dialogues that drain emotional energy.
5. We all need a "pop-off" person, someone that will listen. Plus, they have the time to allocate to you. You probably know who those individuals are, and yet some will surprise you.
6. After three months or so, places like the FaceBook page "Families Dealing With Suicide" is by and large an excellent place to start. Writing it out will help you organize your thoughts. Nothing is right or wrong there but avoid confrontations because they only bring everyone down. Blessings, dJ
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