Monday, September 23, 2013

Suicide Loss Right #1

I recently posted a series of blog posts on The Mourner's Bill of Rights.  Now I am posting on Suicide Loss Rights.  Why "rights" language?   I think those of us who grieve losses may feel pressures to grieve in a certain way.   We feel that family, friends, "experts", society, or some other entity real or imagined is setting the parameters for our experience.  

Rights language is strong language, revolutionary and rebellious language, "fightin' words" to assert autonomy.   
"Do not tell me how I feel or how I should feel.  I have the right to feel as I do and express myself as I do."  
Rights language is about changing things.   Whether these things be laws, habits, attitudes or values, rights language demands notice.  
"This isn't right!  People are suffering and the powers that be need to recognize this and hear us out!"
Rights language comes from righteous anger.  For those of us who have experienced loss of a child, and in my case, loss of an adult child to suicide, anger can be common.  I am angry.  Yes, I am angry and I have the right to be angry.  I am not ready to make nice as the Dixie Chicks eloquently put it.  

The challenge of anger is that it requires an object.  Sadness doesn't need an object, not even a reason.  We aren't sad at someone.  Anger needs a someone or a something as a target.   In my experience, I am angry and I don't have a target.  I could make one up.  I could find things and people (including myself) to receive my anger.  I could be angry at Zach or me or the mental health system or the government or the church or God or forest gremlins or the internet or stupid people.   Why not?  It is something to do.   

Another thing to do is to make a list of rights.  I am no political philosopher but I find rights language tentative.  I may have the right to free speech, to bear arms, and to have my own private toilet, until these rights are taken by force or compromised by circumstance.  Then it is just f__ing reality.  I have a right to have my son outlive me.   I can carve that in stone and put it on the courthouse lawn.  Then one day I have a "right" but no son.  

Why am I ranting on rights?  Oh, I don't know.  Rights are a way to cling to something when there is really nothing.  They resemble beliefs.   At the end of the day as I see it I have reality regardless of what I believe or what right I claim.  I can assert myself, use my voice, tell my little truth and try to find a way to survive.   

I translate these "rights" in my own head to simple assertions.  For instance, here is the first of Tony Salvatore's Suicide Loss Rights
  1. We have the right to grieve as we wish despite the unsupportive settings that we often find ourselves. Death is a normal life crisis; suicide is the ultimate abnormal life crisis.

In my head I change that to "I will grieve as I wish despite the unsupportive settings that I often find myself...." and so forth.  If it helps to claim to have a right, then one can claim it, I guess.   I'll just do it. 

The point of number one is that unless people have experienced this type of loss, they don't get it and they would prefer it if you could just get back to normal whether they say so or not.  The only setting that I have found that is truly supportive outside of my immediate family and other suicide survivors is a suicide survivor's group.   That is because we are surviving a unique type of loss.   We get it as no one else can.

Having said that, it doesn't mean that other settings are particularly "unsupportive."   My congregation is a very loving and caring group of people who have supported us in concrete ways.  Other family members and many friends are also supportive and caring.  Nonetheless, they, of course, cannot "get it."   Here is the deal:  no one gets it unless one is in it.   It is a club you never leave.
I don't want people to "get it" because I don't want anyone to go through this.  
That is the paradox of this grief.  On one hand, we want people to get it.  We are angry when they don't get it.  But we really don't want people to "get it" because once you have entered the "get it" club, life is altered forever.   The only way for people to "get it" is to become one of us.  Get it?    I hope you don't and never will.  

It isn't a matter of people not being insightful, or compassionate, or smart, or learned, or being able to relate via similar experience.   I am not in any way judging.  

The point of number one, as I read it, is that we are kind of like the Amish.  Yet we live in an "English" world.  The "English" will never get us.  So, Dear Suicide Survivor (who this post is really for), learn that.   The "English" will always seem unsupportive.   Sometimes they are obviously unsupportive and that is often a topic in our survivor's group.   Mostly, it is because they have their lives to live and they are doing the best they can.  You, on the other hand, have experienced the "ultimate abnormal life crisis."  

Therefore, you have to own your grief and do it your way without expecting the "unsupportive English" to approve, understand, offer good advice, or whatever else we think we would like them to do.   You have to find your own path.   And you will, because you are a survivor.  Believe me, that is no small thing.    

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