Tragedy 37: Grief, Disgust, Parental Suicidality and My Birthday


Addendum: Will Hall on Suicide, posted on Beyond Meds:

(Re-Edit…this is what I do sometimes…I write, and then I come back…and rarely do I erase things…but, sometimes I cross them out as part of a process that involves needing to put my thoughts/feelings out in the world – albeit quietly, here, lined up as words – and then think about it, what these momentary truths might say about me as a human being, what they might tell me about how my mind and heart might be working at the time…and usually I learn something. That, for me, is why I do anything. It’s good that I wrote this. Although, already, I don’t agree with some of my phrasing of particular things, I have been able to see how much frustration and fatigue I am carrying in regard to the fact that I am just really tired of people wanting to die. Most weeks/months/years, it doesn’t even cross my mind how much time I spend with people’s pain, how it might be a little weird to spend time with so many suicidal people. Most folks never even have to think that much about suicide. Someone wanting to die is a part of most of my days…and I think I am just tired.)

I have struggled with grief lately. I think that for a long time I was grieving, but now it seems like I can’t grieve at all.

It doesn’t seem so much like I am “blocked” or “repressing,” it seems more like I am…hmmm, a little bit disgusted or ideologically resistant to some forms of grief?

Is that terrible?

(Edit: I have since realized that disgust isn’t exactly an accurate word, though there are elements of disgust with any sort of frustration…”Why did this have to happen? What’s going on? Why won’t…the world be like I want it to be?” Aye. That thar’s the problem. Frustration, disgust, anger…sadness, petulance, willfulness. I think I have different ways of experiencing emotion. I can feel a lot of different things at the same time…and lately I have felt really fairly happy and peaceful…then this suicide issue comes up – see below – and I just feel pissed off and resentful…because I don’t want to talk about it, because I’ve made my sense of it and I cannot support other people in their processing it right now, because I have no neutrality. I’m pissed off at the guy…and, yeah, I get it and, yeah, it’s very sad…but, lots of people are dying everyday and I am not going to use an ounce more of my energy in any effort that seeks to gild this fellow as a fallen wonder-boy of perfect heart and soul that the world tragically lost (which, from some very inclusive perspectives he could be seen as), but people write him as such in ways that seek to serve only a seeming need to feel more loss, to perpetuate the loss, to make it a lasting tragedy. The more wonderful they make him, the more tragic their loss and the more they can feel the grief they need to feel. I am not sure if sanctifying the dead is about honoring the person who lived, or just making us feel like we’ve lost, we’ve lost, we’ve lost…so that we can cry…which is a need I don’t have right now…if other people need that, if they need to tap into their loss through willfully exacerbating pain, well…that’s their process. I probably have my own psychoemotional motivations for my own willful writing of this guy as a person who is not deserving, in my opinion, of any further mourning, save mourning for his kids and for the people who won’t get past his death for a long time, protesting, “It’s like we just got past it! We need to spend time with it!”

That’s fine, but I don’t have time to spend with it. (SubEdit: Ah, but aren’t I sorta spending time with it right now…?)

I couldn’t even deeply grieve the Zimmerman verdict. It just made me feel sick. I’m sick of living in a broken world, a world that is trying to fix itself…and which seems to have to struggle so much to heal…where there are a lot of beautiful and amazing things and humans just keep smearing their pain and lust and vengeance all over the place and don’t even know what they hell they are doing. I do realize that my own self-as-microcosm-of-larger-world might make this broad statement about the world/people/beauty/tragedy apply to me as an individual as much as to the simplified masses.

I need to get things done to try to keep moving. The world has enough stagnant misery. I have no desire to contribute more to it, or to give it any more power than it deserves. Misery can be good, it can tell us what we need to live for…but, people get stuck in it…and then the world loses them.

This all just feels so fucked up to try to write about today. I am going to go write something in broken, conflicted syntax. Only a poem might be able to explain…at least to myself, who is the only person I am really trying to explain anything to lately, and only minimally…only in regard to experiences/ideas/events that impact how I see the world and function within it, things I need to work out because they are bungling my brain or messing with my heart.

…I don’t think that I have been assertive enough in holding the time and space I need for myself to keep my head and heart in good working order. I have been in what really anyone would term “spiritual conflict” for months…and my life won’t accomodate much contemplative or meditative practice and though I have become exceedingly skilled in holding small spaces for myself in the midst of a very busy life and keeping one part of my mind and heart held at peace most time (even when other aspects of thought and feeling may be spinning wildly, I can still feel that calm space, the detached observer, kindly accepting of all the spaces I might move through in a given day, smiling and reminding me of the bigger picture)…I still crave a whole day to only watch clouds, a whole day to draw.

(Note to self: Rather than manifesting a world in which I never have time, perhaps I ought to re-envision my life as a series of days in which, through small moments, I have all the time in the world to do the things I love and need to do…all I have to do is do them, rather than thinking about the time to do them…and that might just be the trick.)

Today is my birthday…and I might get to take a couple of pictures, I might get to make some lines…even after this really not-super-fun piece of writing, though I did feel pretty good when I was writing it, as I was expressing my anger and reckoning with it…I feel good today…unflustered, happy. I like that I have made this space for myself where I am able to say what I feel like saying…and know that, because this is an archive of the evolutionary phenomenology of one person’s life, it can be whatever it is…and it can change…)

So, here’s the rest of the original post, re: disgust and parental suicidality. I’m going to get back to my birthday now:

Some psychoanalytical person might say that disgust in lieu of grief is another form of repression and that judgment is inherent in disgust and therefore disgust is, itself,  deplorable…or something like that.

Last month, a local radical mental health collective member died by suicide.

He was an alright guy, had been coming around for a few months.

For a while, he gave me the uh-oh feeling, because I felt like he had romantic or covetous views of me and it grossed me out a little and made me feel angry, that I would seek to hold community safe space and some dude would come in with that vibe and then start texting me emoticons and all that, which is really not welcome. He tended to frame his communications in such a way that it was clear that however I responded/didn’t respond would impact his emotional wellbeing, which is a lousy position to put people in.

In spite of that, it turned out that he was an alright enough guy. He had a sweet dog.

He was going through a rough time, with nasty divorce and a suicide attempt and problems accessing services and medication changes. He had just been told he was legally bound to pay 800.00 per month in child support, which is a lot of money if you struggle to get out of bed in the morning.

He talked about suicide constantly.

Only rarely did he mention his kids. He talked more about his abusive mother from 45 years ago and his ex-wife than he did about his kids.

I thought it was a little disturbing, the tenacity with which people define themselves and their lives by the things that hurt them most, rather than by what they love.

He had been in touch with me before outside of the group context, with small text message flurries often featuring my least favorite emoticons. I tried to be a support for him in ways I was able, which were limited to responding to texts when I could. On Father’s Day, I received this cryptic text:

“Thanks for all your help.”

Followed by this one:

“Take Care Faith ;)”

I responded and got no response. I responded again. I then sent a flurry of text messages requesting that he please get in touch with me, that it might just be me, but I was worried.

He did not respond. So, I called and left message. Then I called and left another one, feeling numb that this person might be in the process of killing himself, on Father’s Day.

I thought about his kids.

Then I thought about how he had dropped his pain into my life on a beautiful Sunday morning when I was with my own kids and then disappeared without a trace leaving me to wonder whether or not he might be dying.

“What a fucked up thing to do…” I thought to myself.

I really do understand that people who are experiencing extreme states aren’t always thinking about how their communications and actions might impact other people, nonetheless…this doesn’t make the emotional or psychological consequences of not being sure if someone who reached out to you is dead or alive any less troubling or consuming of attention.

When he did finally get in touch with me, I spent an hour texting him, when my kids wanted me to play with them.

I told him it was no problem, and I meant it.  It wasn’t a problem, because I was happy to be able to tell him that it wasn’t even about him, that it was about his kids, that he needed to live if only so that his suicide would not be written into their young lives…and on Father’s Day, no less.


We kept in touch, he came to the weekly mutual aid gathering and then, the night before the Solstice, we talked further about his persistent desire to die. We talked about the medication change and awareness of how difficult and extreme states can be exacerbated by changes in medication, particularly SSRIs. We talked about hope and ways that it could be found and held onto. We talked about staying alive as benevolent revenge toward the forces that have hurt us. We talked about grief and about how difficult it is to rebuild one’s life.

Then we agreed that he would get in touch with me if it got to “that point,” if he needed to reach out. We even discussed the phenomenon of people resisting support when they may need it, and choosing not to tell anyone of their plan when death feels most willfully imminent.

The next day, the day of the Solstice, I went out of town, but checked my phone constantly. I even texted him when I got back to town the next day.

I didn’t know he was already dead.

I didn’t find that out until Wednesday.

I think I have felt momentarily sad about “the loss,” but mostly I feel sad for his kids.

For the first few days after I found out, I found peace by imagined communing with his ghost, asking that his soul push something good into motion in the world so that his death would not be in vain and also to counter and comfort the pain that his desperate and desolate decision had caused people that cared about him, such as his kids.

I cared about the guy, but not in the same way I care about my family and kin, or kids I haven’t ever met.

Since his death, the collective has been doing a little dance around it.

Some people want to talk about it. Others are triggered by the topic.

Personally, I am angry.

I am not angry as part of a grief process. I am angry because the world is a fucked up place and because people do fucked up things to themselves and to other people. I am angry because people allow their pain to win.

I am angry because my lack of sympathy could be viewed as harsh, cold or even disrespectful of the dead.

I know what ghosts I respect…


Why Parents Really Should Try Hard Not to Kill Themselves

It has become clear to me that mothers and fathers should not commit suicide. This seems a little like an obvious statement. Of course they shouldn’t. Then again who am I to say what anyone should or shouldn’t do? Yet, I really do think it is a really bad idea for parents to commit suicide. Perhaps this is not always true, in a very few select and extremely hypothetical situations. However, I think that it is fair to say that in many cases parents should not commit suicide. Is it fair for me to suggest this, knowing so very little, really nothing at all, about anybody else’s pain? Fairness is debatable, as any child who has lost a parent might tell you.

I am not a child who lost a parent. I am a parent who has been intermittently, sometimes with great frequency and for extended durations, suicidal since I was a child. I do spend time with some people who have lost parents to suicide and, invariably and well into adulthood, they are still affected by the loss of a parent to lethal self-harm. Many are suicidal themselves, having spent many years trying to live a life in which they held a core belief that they are and always have been unloveable. Many credit their parent’s suicide to initiating this belief and they often feel conflicted, because they are angry and they are disgusted and they are, still, deeply grieving. I’m sure there is formal research on the outcomes for the children of parents who commit suicide, but I do not know what the data says. I only know what occurs to me when I see middle-aged people still apparently suffering from the loss of their mother or father to suicide and that is that parents should not, if at all possible, commit suicide.

I have lived with suicidality for a long time, about two and half decades. There have been periods of time that I have lived with profoundly wrecking and depletedly bleak/void feelings for long durations and there have been times that I acted upon those feelings.

If my life must, for some reason, entail periodically wanting to not be here I am ready to live with it for many more decades if need be. I understand that my intermittent suicidality is related to trauma and deep wounds to my sense of self-worth and self-viability. I also understand that one some days I feel completely healed and that odds are good that someday I might realize that it has been years since I felt like I wanted to die.

I am, one might say, committed to being here. However, that does not change the fact that I sometimes have to contend with difficult feelings or troubling persistent thoughts. I have learned, however, that these thoughts tend to ease if I recognize them for what they are, which are old wounds. I also know that I refuse to let old wounds hurt my children, or destroy me. For me, in my mind, that would be allowing trauma to further hurt me and to hurt my family and, frankly, to the best of my ability, I refuse to allow that.

I do not believe that parent’s should inflict lethal self-harm to themselves, because it hurts their children.

I understand that this may be a controversially strong stance, in some circles, which advocate for the right for people to die and for the right for people to struggle with their abject mortality. I certainly uphold an individual’s right to do whatever it is that they see fit, so long as the expression of their rights does not unduly or unfairly impinge upon the rights of others.

Therefore, I fail to see how parental rights involving deathstyle could possibly supersede the rights of children to believe, in no uncertain terms, that they are loved. It is unfortunately necessary to acknowledge that there are many, many ways that children are taught that they are not loved or that loving people leads to pain and that there are many ways children lose parents, and vice versa. However, all the various tragedies that may befall children and parents in life, death, and relationship are outside of the scope of this writing.

The vast majority of parents do not want to “lose their kids.” Many parents know that if they seek support for difficult thoughts and feelings, particularly thoughts of harm to self or others, they may be hospitalized or that “social services” may become involved, both events which frequently result in family disruption, though in some specific cases may be supportive or in the child’s best interest.

There, I said it.

This statement comes from a number of years working with kids whose parents and family systems were, objectively, not especially safe. For a period of time, over three years, I was a volunteer Guardian ad Litem. It was interesting, working with those kids and those families, because, in spite of the harm done at home, kids mostly wanted to be with their parents.

Kids love their parents, even if their parents might be wretched and miserable people. It is probably safe to assume that most kids want their parents to be decent parents, whatever that means. It certainly doesn’t mean killing yourself. It seems reasonable to also assume that most kids want their parents to be  “okay” and for their parents to be “happy.”

I know this is true in my family, that these are the most simple things that my children want…for the people they care about to be okay and happy.

It is not always easy to be happy.

Many people, I am convinced, walk around with quietly suicidal feelings, or suicidal questioning. In some ways, the struggle between life and death is one that is distinctly human. I am not, in this small writing, going to delve into the nature of suicidality. I will say, however, that I don’t think it should be as taboo a topic as it is, because it seems to me like a great many people deal with it at some point in their lives. Thus, many people know that if one talks about suicidality or even seems particularly withdrawn or downtrodden, people are likely to respond with alarmist interventions that can be, it seems, catalysts for suicide themselves, for reasons related to stress, indignity, and trauma. Additionally,  when seeking support for difficult states of being, parents may fear that if they acknowledge that they are struggling, they may somehow jeopardize their child custody.

In fact, many parents, if their families are intervened upon by public services for reasons relating to “mental health concerns,” lose their children if they exhibit extreme states or express potential “harm to self or others.” As a mother who almost “lost” her children due to “mental health concerns,” I can say that the processes of having one’s salience as an appropriate parental figure scrutinized is one of the most humiliating, de-humanizing, disrespectful, and harmful processes that exists in our current systems of care.

During that period of time, I wished for some tragic accident, or a fatal illness, I willed myself to stop breathing, but it didn’t work. Even then, in the depths of the most profoundly suicidal depression I have ever experienced, I hoped for a death that would appear merely sad and accidental, a death my children could talk about. It seems like people don’t talk about it much when a person commits suicide, because it is such a deeply troubling thing that happens.

I did not want my children to never be able to mention me again, or to not be able to think about me without pain. I did not want them to think that I had not loved them enough to keep living, to keep being their Mom.

I did not want them to think that they failed to bring me enough joy to be committed to being here.


I did not want them to think or feel those things because those are undeniably awful things that I would not wish upon any child.

I was an advocate for kids before I was an advocate for the rights of people who experience extreme states and, lately, parents who aren’t able/willing to do the work to heal their own hope and commitment to being here have very little compassion from me. Sure, I feel for them…but, mostly I feel frustrated and angry. It is for this reason that I am trying to ease out of positions that involve me with suicidal parents. I am not a good person to support them right now. If they want to explore working it out or fighting it down, or finding some peace in small moments, sure…I’ll talk with folks about that…but, I am not able to sit and listen to people talk despairingly and indulgently about how they have nothing to offer and want to die because of the terrible things that were done to them at some point in their life.

I cannot sit with those places right now.

It sounds awful and ableist, to somewhat suggest that people are able to “will” themselves to be healed. I know that is not always the case. However, I also know that if a person talks constantly about wanting to die and if a person willfully defines their life in relation to pain and if they say to themselves over and over and over again that there is no hope, there is no point and willfully counter any form of support that seeks to accommodate and affirm strengths, potential, and realities outside of darkness and torment…well, that’s not exactly going to help anyone feel good about their life.

The most destructive thing that I hear suicidal parents say is that they are not “good parents” and that their children “would be better off without them.”

To be honest, I have said such things to myself, with the full force of earnest belief behind the thoughts, a strong feeling of conviction, and the result was the most wrenching and despairing pain I have ever felt, pain so deep it was physical, pain so thorough that it almost stole my breath.

There is something exceptionally tragic about feeling that one has failed in even the most instinctive human love.

It’s uncomfortable still, to think about these things.

In some ways, suicide is a little like a modernist crisis of dialectic rigidity, when things are black and white, either or, good or bad and they’ll never change.

It is entirely possible that figuring out my own ways of folk postmodernism genuinely saved my life.

Even for parents who really might not be such great parents, they can become better. People do it all the time. People get better…people get worse. It’s not like these things just *happen* – usually, there is a bit of a process involved. If poeple can’t become better then they need to figure out how to help their kids understand that it is not their fault and that they are loved. I really do not know how such a certainty in knowing might be imparted…but, staying alive seems a good place to start.


Notes: Tomorrow is my 37th birthday.

I am not Trayvon Martin.

Bradley Manning won a peace award, though not the Peace Prize, yet.

We’re going to watch Derailroaded at a coffeeshop soon, which tells the story of Larry “Wild Man” Fischer, who is reported to have stabbed his mother at some point and was one of those lucky outsider musicians from the school-of-hard-knocks who can do almost anything they want with their cult-status credentials.

The clouds have been interesting lately, with the sort of features that if you look at them long enough or briefly enough, at the right moment, they appear as something that is possibly meaningful. I found an old revised standard version of the Bible that has an index in the back citing all the times that the word Cloud is significantly mentioned (e.g. he will come with the clouds, they were guided by a cloud) in the body of the text…20 times. Maybe all Bibles have this index? Twenty times is actually a lot. Voice is noted as having 28 mentions of significance. Law has 22, including “I will put my law into their minds.”

Mourning has just 3, “turned for me my mourning into dancing,” and “…turn your feasts into mourning,” and “…turn your mourning into joy.”

I need to remind myself that I used to be very sad.


I woke up this morning to a brief message from a friend re: this little post on photographic memory that showed up in Slate and reminded me that I need to write more about memory…or just write down my memories, lest someday I finally begin to forget.


I was recently advised to re-write down the story about the bird, about how I came to terms with death…

I went to a talk about collective liberation. There were under 20 people there. It feels like a weird time.

My ally and friend Jacks was recently featured in Oprah’s magazine, for their work with The Icarus Project…but nobody can find the article in the digital edition.


I have been drawing a lot of pills lately.


Tomorrow, on the day I am 37, I will be going hiking with my children and the small dog and then perhaps having some pie.

Armadilloes are moving into North Carolina and it has finally stopped raining.

2 thoughts on “Tragedy 37: Grief, Disgust, Parental Suicidality and My Birthday

  1. I love you. And it’s not unusual to feel angry about suicide. A friend of mine in high school shot himself in front of one of my best friends (his girlfriend at the time) you bet I was pissed off at him…suicide destroys those people leave behind…it’s a big deal and those who remain deal with a lot of emotions…I can say I’m still made at Mike from high school…over 30 years ago. He helped wreck another life as he went out.

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