grief doesn’t merely sit.

it resides,

it burrows,

nests,

settles in,

envelopes.

 

heavy,

weighted,

ever-present,

suffocating my

lightness of being

that it has replaced.

 

once a raw

shocking stranger,

now,

a reluctantly

accepted

companion.

 

always present.

constant.

a part of,

yet no longer,

all of

my being.

 

My son looked at the man sitting across from us in the emergency room. It was hard not to notice him. He was handcuffed,and a large, tired looking police officer was standing next to him, trying his best to not engage with him.

My son and I had been sitting in the waiting room for 3 hours by then. Sent here, fast-tracked, by his therapist that afternoon when he could no longer assure her during their meeting that he would be safe. I had driven us straight here from that appointment.

A phone call made while on the way to ask my older son to make dinner for his other brothers.

No, I wasn’t sure how long I would be.

Yes, it would be hours most likely.

No, I didn’t know what would happen.

I would call him later, I promised.

Thank you, I said while trying to sound as normal as possible.

The handcuffed man in the waiting room yelled profanities at the police officer. At the people in the room, at the walls who he accused of listening to him and recording him. He laughed loudly when he wasn’t screaming. He was shaking and spittle flew from his lips as he jumped in the chair trying to get out. Then he stopped, and he cried. He sobbed and he asked the police officer to shoot him, to kill him, to make the voices stop yelling at him, to make the walls stop staring. The police office stared straight ahead and avoided eye contact with anyone.

I stared at the floor, at my son, at the ceiling. Anywhere but at the man who had now wet himself and was silently sobbing and whispering “stop stop stop” over and over. I prayed that they would take him in soon. Away from this room.

A nurse came over with a wheelchair and spoke with the officer. He nodded and turned to speak to the man.

“It’s time to get fixed up, come on, in the wheelchair.” He tried to help him to stand and the man cried harder. “Stop stop stop” now replaced with “I’m sorry” repeated like one long word that never ended.

They wheeled him away. His sobs turning to screams and profanities, threats of violence and death to the nurse as he disappeared down the hallway and behind a set of doors that need a swipe card to allow access.

I let out the breath I hadn’t know I had been holding. I heard my son sigh loudly and he stood.

“I can’t do this.” He was shaking and his voice cracked, close to tears in a way I hadn’t heard through the weeks of angry rage that was the usual lately.

“I don’t want to be like that.” He sat back down and I saw the tears roll down his face. I had no words. “and I will be.” He leaned forward in the chair, his elbows resting on his thighs.

His hands were clasped, fingers twisting against each other as he shook. His knee bouncing with restless energy and fear.

“I promise I’ll be okay. I won’t hurt myself. I promise. Please just take me home. I’ll go to the therapist everyday. I’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. I’ll be okay.” His voice was edged with anger now and I prayed that a nurse would come for us soon.

I spoke to soothe him. I told him that we would just talk to someone, that he knew that he wasn’t okay and that we had to do something – something more than what we were, because what we were doing wasn’t helping enough.

I told him that he could get better.

That he would get better.

That this was a good step in that direction and I pleaded with him to just stay a little longer here.

To just give it another half hour.

He sighed and slumped back in his chair.

Three more half hours later and a nurse came for us. They took him to a room alone and me to another to talk with a doctor.

Sorry, they said, there was a more urgent case that came in to psychiatric assessment unit and they couldn’t help how long we had had to wait.

It’s fine, I answered.

Sorry, they said, the only doctor who could do an assessment on my son had just left for the day an hour ago. All they could do now was keep him overnight and try to have him assessed the next morning. Sending him home was not an option, they said. His therapist considered him an imminent risk so they were holding him.

Can I stay with him tonight? I asked. No.

Can I say goodbye to him? I asked.

They brought me into the holding area. Locked metal doors that all opened towards a central nursing desk.

The noise of fists and feet banging against one of the doors from the inside was deafening. The nurses moved about, oblivious it seemed.Threats of death to the nurses, screams, sobbing, all reverberated from so many rooms.

The doctor took a key and opened a door. My son sat on a bare mattress on a floor. A single blanket next to him. he was wearing a blue hospital gown.

“Can we go home now? I promise I’ll be okay.” his voice cracked.

We both knew he wanted to be.

We both knew he wouldn’t be if he came home that night.

I stayed with him for as long as they would let me. Then I said goodbye, promising to be back first thing in the morning.

He stood to say goodbye and he hugged me. Tears that his angry 16 year old self would not let fall hovered on his lashes. I turned and left as my own tears fell.

We both knew that tonight, at least, he would be okay. And that night, that was what mattered the most.

 

there are still days that I don’t care

that “why” will never be answered.

i still ask it.

of you.

of the universe.

of my goddesses.

of the wind, the moon, the ocean.

i whisper it, scream it, dance with it, sleep with it.

 

there are days that i own the lie of my question.

days that i put down my crafted

protection of pretending that

i don’t know.

moments when i reach in and hold the truth

and lift it out of my shadows

where it stays curled up,

away from where it can hurt me.

 

there are days that i love you for not leaving

in silence.

days that i still hear your voice,

your answer.

screamed at me,

whispered to me, shown to me.

it was your answer and you surrendered it.

you were done carrying it.

 

there are still days that i ask though.

because there are days that it feels better

to leave the answer

floating in its gossamer vessel of nonsensical,

hidden.

because the truth in my question

is that i know the answer to “why”

and it doesn’t change the ending.

So here’s the thing that is a basic fact. For something to be strong, it needs a solid, well constructed and well laid foundation. Whether it’s something physical, like a house, or something less tangible, such as a way of life or company. It all starts with the foundation. If the base is strong and secure then it will support whatever is piled on top of it.

About 6 or 7 years ago I hit a point in my life that I took a long hard look at my structural integrity and at what I had chosen to lay as my foundation and I realized that there were some serious issues going on that needed attending to. Nothing that was going to cause things to crumble but just that it wasn’t quite “right”. So I started to do what is needed.

Let’s use the analogy of a house, for ease of the written word meandering and the mind’s eye conjuring.

When you look and see cracks in the foundation or notice that it was built faulty, you fix it. Maybe the original plan for the structure of the house was good but over the years, the purpose of the house took a different angle than what it was originally built for… and the foundation isn’t quite right for what it’s meant to support. Maybe an extra load was built on top and now the foundation needs to be reinforced to bear the force that it’s being asked to carry. Maybe there have been some nasty storms and damage and the base has been hit hard by some quakes and it needs some rebuilding. All very much fixable and what you would do when you notice it needs doing. Simple.

So I did that. I saw the changes needed and I started. Chipping away here and there to work away the rot and angles that just weren’t right. Paying close attention to the areas that needed shoring up and some extra ground work done to make the base capable and substantial.Along the way, with every strength built I saw the stability and the confidence of the structure of me grow. It went that way for a couple of years. There were some storms in there that hit hard and knocked me back a bit, but the foundation was setting as it was laid. A work in progress, yes, but very much progressing.

Then something happened that not only halted the work, it pretty much blew the whole damn thing apart. Torn apart, the structure was gone in a split second. A blast of loss that hit hard enough to shatter the base as well. Never mind cracks,most of the foundation was just simply not there anymore.

Quite simply, the roots of me that had been struggling to find their grasp and dig in were gone. Feels like they are still gone. My confidence in my Self, my abilities, my capabilities, it’s broken. My belief in Me – fundamentally fractured. Damaged.

There was a time when I may have had the odd bout of issues with self confidence or doubting myself but on a base level – I knew my power. My strength. My will. I never had any doubt that I would be ok at the end of the day. I knew, without a doubt that I was solid and unmovable. I knew Me, who I was and what I was capable of – and it was something to be reckoned with.

Loss, and grief, took that. Still has it actually.

There was a time that I knew my skills and my abilities – knew them and felt how good I was at them. There was a time that I may have had nerves going on but they were never because I didn’t think I knew my stuff or that I had the right to be giving the presentation or facing the room. I knew the truth of my capabilities.

There was a time that I didn’t doubt whether my lover would find pleasure under my hands or with our time spent intimately together. Times that I didn’t doubt if I was worth someone’s time.

There was a time that I didn’t doubt whether I could pick up a new skill or technique. I knew I could. I knew that all I needed was to be shown and to learn and that I would get it. Without a doubt.

Now, after that blast three and a half years ago, still rebuilding, I do doubt. Deeply and profoundly. Deep enough to feel shaken and to question the very base structure of my Self. Every little bit of groundwork laid so tenuous and loosely balanced it feels like it can be blown off with a whisper – and it is, often and repeatedly. Only to be picked up again and laid back in place, trying to make it stick. Trying to rebuild.

A short status update on social media by a friend of a friend had an impact on me that surprised me by the ferocity of it.

His update was about some news that he had just received about a close friend from high school. He is just over 10 years out of high school and this news came as a shock to him presumably. His friend has killed himself. Horrible news and I can understand his shock and how raw his feelings must have been. What he said however struck me. His words were to the effect that he is more angry than sad and that suicide is “the easy way out” and leaves everyone else in pain. What followed were other comments by his friends offering comfort and support. One other remark in particular that “suicide is the most selfish act” got me riled to the point that I jumped in and made a comment. Not enough to get it off my chest there though…

Unfortunately, I understand all too well that anger and that hurt that comes with losing someone from suicide. What sent me into an almost blind rage today was the publicly accepted sentiments that suicide is “easy” and “selfish”. In my mind, nothing is further from the truth.

Having watched my son go through hell struggling over wanting to die and not wanting to all in the same moment…after reading his journals and seeing what went on inside of him while he dealt with mental illness…It wasn’t the easy way out. There is nothing easy about getting to the point of ending your own life. Nothing easy about taking that final step that you know will end it all, forever. We, as people, are simply made to go the route of least resistance, the easiest way. That’s why so many of us live our lives in complacency and routine and unhappy. Because staying the course is easier than change. Suicide is the most profound change you can make. On top of that, we, as human animals, are hard-wired with a sense of self preservation. That’s a basic instinct that is there. To overcome that and end your life when every part of a rational brain and body screams to fight, to live… that’s not easy.

Is it selfish? You could argue for and against on this one. People end their lives for so many reasons. Is it selfish to succumb to cancer? Is it selfish to die of a heart attack? No one would ever suggest that. Yet someone who lives with a psychosis and has a break and tragically ends their life is treated very differently. A major psychosis is an illness that destroys a person just as savagely as a terminal physical illness like cancer. “Simple” depression can become clinical and alter a person to the point that they are not capable of what we would consider logical or rational behaviour. What about the person who has a terminal physical ailment and chooses to end their life on their terms and on their timeline rather than become incapacitated? What about those that make the choice, in part, to spare their loved ones the pain of a long and emotional death of weeks or months? Selfish or selfless, or neither? It’s too complex to sum up with generalizations.

These two blunt comments made me so angry because they are so typical of how we, as a society and culture, still firmly place a box around suicide and try to make it fit neatly within the confines that make us feel safe and better. If we can label it and categorize it and point at it and say it’s not going to happen to me because of A, B and C, then it doesn’t scare us as much.

The truth is suicide is scary because it can’t be neatly explained and contained. Talking about it and being open about it is the only way we are going to make a dent in the impact it has.