Sunday, May 29, 2011

Is it okay to write about this?

The elephant in the room, the thing I am having a hard time writing about, is this: Our friend Jim committed suicide a week ago today. Jim was the ex-husband of one of my dearest friends and the father of a boy we love dearly, who has been my daughter's friend since kindergarten. I don't know how to write about it. I don't know what is permissible to write. My friend told me to write whatever I want, but how will she feel in a month? She called me last Sunday evening when she got the news and I went over there, stunned and hurt at what they now had to go through, but in some part of me not quite believing it could be true. I hugged my friend at the door and through held in sobs she whispered, "How could he do this to his son? I'm so furious at him." Is that okay to write? I know it is okay for her to feel that, and indeed healthy that she is in touch with the anger that is all tangled up with the grieving.

Her son was on the couch weeping, and when I held him I knew there were no words that could make this okay. Later his girlfriend came over, and his best friend, and one of his band buddies, who was crying too. Jim, a musician himself, used to transport the boys and their equipment to their very first gigs. There was the night when a patron at the club where the boys were playing got drunk and hostile and came at one of the boys. Jim stepped between them and pushed the guy back. The drunk then sucker punched him in the eye, a blow that doctors later said could have injured his brain. Jim had that bruise spreading down his cheekbone for weeks. This kid remembered Jim standing up for him, protecting him, taking his music seriously right from the beginning, and he was bereft. I overheard Jim's son say to his mom, "Wow, he is really upset," to which his mom replied, "Well, a lot of people loved your dad and knew how special he was." Past tense. Is it okay to report that? The other boy who was there, in an entirely organic and wondrous way, took out his iPhone and showed a picture he had of Jim and himself goofing around. They were at the lake on parents visiting day at farm camp, and Jim was shirtless wearing a big floppy woman's beach hat above all his fierce tattoos. Everyone started recalling funny things he had said, and the tears became laughs but the pain was eased not at all.

Now my friend is worried that her son won't talk, that he stays glued to his video game console, escaping his feelings. I try to assure her that the very fact that he can look up from his video game and see her there is a comfort to him. He is coping the best way he can right now. She is such a good mother. She will do what he needs. Her pain is complicated. Her own mother died when she was 16, the age her son is now, at this same time of year. My friend and Jim were separated. This weekend would have made six years since he moved out, but she never asked him for a divorce, because she feared he would hurt himself. He struggled with depression, and last year checked himself into a mental hospital. They kept him for a week, then sent him home. He didn't have the right insurance. He moved in with his mother after his father died. His mother found him when she came home last Sunday. He used a gun. Is that okay to set down? I don't know.

My daughter had a hard time at school this week. She couldn't concentrate. I had made a corn and cheese souffle and she made cupcakes for our friends and our family went over there Monday night to deliver them. The next day at school, in math class, she started crying. Her math teacher asked her what was wrong, and she told him. He asked her to share it with her class dean. They had given out class schedules for senior year that day, and that night, when she couldn't find it in her bag and realized she'd misplaced it, she dissolved into tears. She is not usually so breakable. I realized we needed to talk and process things. It was good that she and another friend went over and spent most of Tuesday night with Jim's son. They played video games and watched a movie, and they were talking and laughing together as teenagers do. And yesterday, over lunch at Ikea, we had a good talk about all of it. Today at sundown, we are getting together with friends in a roof garden for a pot-luck whose sole/soul purpose is to encircle the grieving with love.

We go on. Nothing about losing Jim is remotely okay, but we go on.


  1. Your post is so respectful and so full of love for your friend Jim, his wife and son. Suicide is never easy, there are so many steps in the grieving process and anger is one of them. This man obviously loved his son and didn't want to hurt him, probably thought he'd hurt him less by no longer being here in earth. Of course he was wrong. But his choice was a painful one. I am sorry for your pain, sorry for all this pain, so sad for you and your family, his family, his friends. I still cry over my friend David, who also took his own life with a gun. The pain hasn't left me. It's become bearable but I remember too vividly the first years, months, days, of this mind shattering numbing hurt that I felt and being blinded by grief.
    And I wished I had friends who had held me through the grief. But my friends in Paris didn't know him so it was a distant concept to them. Your friend, his family has to be supported, his son, he's going to need so much continuing support and love and presence. I know you'll be there. I hope others will too.
    And I am so sorry for your loss.

  2. The way back from the death of a loved one is a long and strange road. Everyone has to walk it differently and the hope is that everyone will make it back safely- changed, without a doubt, but still safely.
    I am so sorry.
    I'm thinking of you and your beloveds and I know there will be laughter as well as tears but no, it will not ease the pain but it will give it a place to be.

  3. This must be the hardest thing, the very hardest thing. I am sorry.

    I have to think that writing things down, talking about your feelings, facing it all, head-on is a good thing. For too long, mental health issues, suicide, were only whispered about, causes for shame and silence. We can evolve into more compassionate beings by being open about tragedy, and while it doesn't lessen the grief and shock, I have to believe that sharing these terrible events works toward understanding.

    I am sending much love to you, your family and your dear friends.

  4. Dear Angella, there really aren't any words for this deep a grief, this profound a loss. It is absolutely okay to say anything you feel--Elizabeth is right--for too long, the shame and silence made it nearly impossible for anyone to heal--what can't be spoken about can''t be find a place where the sorrow sits in the heart, where anger and grief and utter disbelief and sadness can be worked through.

    As hard as it is for adults to deal with suicide, imagine how incomprehensible it must be for the children. And guilt will rear its hideous head everywhere, in everyone who loved him. It's hard to imagine that a loving father could feel as though his children would be better off without him, but that is the very terrible way despair makes a person think--hard for people who haven't felt that darkness to understand how much sense it makes when you are in that deep well. Your friends are so lucky to have you and your family, Angella. So many people who love them won't be able to bear either the family's sorrow or their own and will stay away. Just to go and sit with her, or call in the middle of the day, or bring food, or go for a walk together--there aren't words that can console her--but the 'being with her' is a very great gift,
    Angella. Hard as it is for you and your daughter, it is the most loving thing you can do--just 'be there'. In silence. In tears.

  5. I am so sorry. This post is so respectful, a totally honorable recounting. I am heartbroken for your daughter and her friend.

  6. also, the fact that you ended this with 'but we go on' is so completely comforting to me right now. i think 'we go on' is at the heart of true adult strength, a spirit in full maturity.

  7. Write it down. Write all of it down. It's all okay. I am so sorry for your loss for Jim's pain for his son for your daughter for everyone who has been caved in by this tragedy. I' sorry all the way round.

  8. I think you honored your friend and his loved ones with this thoughtful and emotional post.

    I am sorry for the loss of him.

  9. Dearest Angella,

    You handled this horrible event with so much gentleness, honesty and love. Your words portrayed the situation with absolute grace. There is never an easy way to talk about suicide, never. A dear friend of mine lost her nineteen year old son to suicide a year ago. Same method, after a fight with Mom and Dad. She will never be the same. He not only left his parents behind, but his sixteen year old brother, as well. I have watched as his brother worked his way out from underneath the pain, back up to the surface of life. It has not been an easy swim. He graduated high school last week and will be going off to college in the fall. As you said, sweet one, life goes on...

    Different people handle the pain in very different ways. I am so sad for your daughter, that she has to know that people can become so low that they decide that the only way out is to kill themselves. I learned that lesson when I was eleven years old and my best friends mother killed herself by running her car in the garage. I still have very vivid memories of the day it happened as they were our neighbors, as well. But it also taught me that life is extremely fragile. That we are fragile. But that we are also strong and resilient. Please hug your daughter for me...

    I was listening to Marie Osmond talk about the suicide of her eighteen year old son, yesterday, and she said that one of the most helpful things that somebody ever told her was this. She asked someone if it ever gets better and the person's reply was, "No, it never does." She said that that helped her because she never sat there expecting the moment when things would just suddenly get better. I can understand that.

    I am so sorry, Angella. So sorry...

    Big hugs and lots of love,

  10. The telling of this sad story could not have been more sensitive or respectful. For all concerned to return to these words will comfort them anew. I am so response to those I've known to take their own lives is not only the grief but the terrible sense of waste, wishing somehow that the love around them could have overridden the despair. Of course it must be said by the one who can say it. I love knowing all the ways in which you are there for your friends, for your family, how you recognize and take to heart the things that matter. There is strength and hope in that. xo

  11. Oh Angella, my god, I'm sorry, for you and and your family and your friend. You write so truly and so full of love, it must be okay. I think you honour them all with what you write. much love, Deirdre

  12. sorry for posting under anonymous - my account again would not allow me to post. d

  13. all deaths are sad and difficult. but suicides are perhaps the most difficult for those left behind.

    your post was very respectful.

    so sorry for this loss in your community.

    deep hugs....

  14. I am very sorry, dear Angella. Strength to you and yours in the coming weeks.

  15. I tried to post a comment yesterday - interesting to see others also having trouble.

    Very sorry to read of your loss. I thought your post was a fine example of sensitive writing about difficult times: heartfelt, honest, not voyeuristic.

  16. A hard loss for us all but it is amazing to see how our little community reaches out and weathers this together. I saw your amazing daughter Sunday night with her perfect little face -- such a joy. I'm glad they have each other to lean on.

  17. It was you who reminded me, recently, that our respective blogs belong to us, and that we own the right to write about whatever needs to be written, and you've done that here with grace and respect, and love.

    Sending back to you all the hope and loving thoughts you have so generously shared with me of late. xo

  18. I would love to answer every one of you. Your comments are so careful and generous and supportive and my God, so very sensitive and wise. I can't right now, though, so please know how much I appreciate the way you have responded here, the love and care in your words, in you. I think if Jim had had such a community as we have here, he might have felt differently about things. i really do think that real therapy happens here, when it is needed, and it is an awesome thing that I don't take for granted. Thank you. Thank you. Love, Angella

  19. oh, Angella,

    I'm just in tears...

    I have been so engrossed in doing and being mama...I am sorry I missed this ... how you must feel so shattered and lost and heavy.

    Please feel my heart .

    On our travels this past week we drove past NYC, crossed the George Washington Bridge, etc and I kept looking out the window thinking... someone I love is even more near than ever...

    I hope you feel that always.
    I pray that your circle of family and friends feels that now especially.