Livin’ on the Edge

I was telling my therapist last week that it must be frustrating for my brother to be around me because he can’t understand why I’m smiling and happy one minute, overwhelmed to the point of tears and temper tantrums the next. My therapist smiled. “Because I’m livin’ on the edge, man!” she said. “There’s no middle ground right now.”

It’s true. There isn’t. Right now, in the weeks leading up to the one-year anniversary of Mike’s suicide, I’m living in one extreme or the other. It’s either really good or really, really bad… and I can’t predict which it will be from one hour to the next. But I know a lot of people don’t get this. It isn’t just my brother. I can see it in the puzzled glances of my friends, feel it in the absence of certain people from my life.

Moving into a new place, trying to make a new home without Mike, is emotionally wrenching. Anyone who gets exasperated because I don’t have patience with the process, because I’m easily moved to frustration and tears, should try being me for one goddamned minute.

I just read something the other night about the Holmes-Rahe Scale, which ranks stressful life events by level of trauma. Guess what’s at the top of the list? Death of a spouse. And, surely, the death of a spouse by suicide magnifies the stress factor considerably. This wasn’t news to me, but it was rather validating. It told me that I have a right to still be falling apart nearly a year later, because THIS SHIT IS HARD. It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do, and some days I don’t feel up to the task.

Just because I seem to be coping well, because I have good days and smile and laugh, does NOT mean that I’m back to “normal.” It doesn’t mean that the pain of losing Mike isn’t with me every single minute of every single day. It doesn’t mean you can expect me to behave as someone who isn’t still working her way through the most traumatic grief she will ever experience.

I learned not long ago that someone I’d considered one of my closest friends for years dumped me because she tried to reach out to me in the first weeks after Mike’s death and didn’t like the way I responded. I’m told she felt hurt and that she thought I was being selfish. Well, excuse me for not making you feel like an important enough player in this drama. News flash: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. The more I think about it, the angrier I get.

I’m dealing with this the best way I can. I’m drawing boundaries to protect myself, learning to ask for help and support when I need it, and being open and honest about where I am in my process. Anyone who can’t respect that doesn’t need to be a part of my life. As my friend Brad, who grew up in Georgia, so succinctly puts it, “Fuck y’all. All y’all.”

That’s one edge I’m on right now, hurt and angry and frustrated that people close to me don’t get it.  But of course they don’t. They’re the lucky ones who have never experienced anything even close to this kind of loss.

Then I slide over to the other end… and I feel such deep gratitude for all the people in my life who continue to show up for me. In my suicide survivors support group tonight, two recent widows shared about feeling cut off from their family and friends, feeling judged, completely lacking support. For all my frustration, it’s a relatively few people whose lack of empathy has hurt me. I’m surrounded by people who let me know they care, who listen when I need to talk, hold me when I need to cry, give up their Sunday afternoons to help me. This would be so much worse if I didn’t have all of you. I love y’all. All y’all.

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~ by hourbeforedawn on February 7, 2011.

4 Responses to “Livin’ on the Edge”

  1. SO glad you’ve finally worked both of those phrases into your vocabulary – “Fuck y’all…” and “Be me for a minute.”

    Ebb and flow, it’s all ebb and flow love.

  2. Honey, don’t give anyone else’s expectation of WHERE they think you SHOULD be in this process one second of thought. If someone dumped you because you weren’t making him/her feel important enough in the early time after Mike’s suicide, then they didn’t really care about YOU at all. I understand your anger — hell, I’m angry about that — cos that’s fucking bullshit.

    Lira, you’ve survived this year and you have done so with elegance and strength. It may not be pretty or even make sense, but that’s life, and you are living.

    You are making progress and you are healing and you are doing it in a way that works for you. The people around you who do care for you and who do love you and who do have your best interest at heart will accept unpredictability. Even if we don’t understand it, we will hold you when you cry and listen when you rant and give you the space and love you need to work through this process FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES YOU. There is no time limit here. There is not. It doesn’t matter if it takes you two years or twenty.

    This is YOUR process and nobody has a right to put expectations on you for how you responded in the early days after Mike’s suicide or how you respond now.

    On top of everything you have to grieve and heal, the last thing you need to do right now is worry about other people’s BS.

    The middle ground will return and until you can find your way there, just know that there are a hell of a lot of us — both in your real life and online — who will follow you through the extremes and do what we can to help you find your center again.

    Love you.

    V

  3. re: the friend that did that to you…as they say, “ignorance is bliss”…anyone who hasn’t experienced such a trauma as you have can not understand. even someone who tries to understand won’t know because it is your process as Veronika said…yours alone. which is why you are brave even if you don’t feel it all the time…i would crumble into a pile of dust.

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