I had a friend recently lose someone they really cared about to suicide. We were having dinner together when she said, “I feel like maybe I should have pushed more – but then I realize I can’t think like that or feel like that. It’s too selfish. I need to think and feel differently.”
I set my fork down and gave her my full attention when I said it –
“You get to feel how you feel. Feel it all. Don’t talk yourself out of it – and don’t let others talk you out of it either. Work through what you are feeling – don’t stomp it down and ignore it or disregard it. Feel it. You get that. You get that because you care – you’re sad – you hate he is gone.”
She didn’t know what to say. I didn’t care. I truly believe she deserves to have the time she needs -the feelings she needs – to process what she is processing. She doesn’t owe anyone anything – and people who say “well, you aren’t XY or Z, so you can’t feel….” just need to fuck off. Everyone gets to feel what they need to feel.
Maybe I’m a bit more defensive because of the response I’ve gotten to my feelings – to my emotions – and what I am going through. I have been told a shitload of things that are not me. You shouldn’t feel this or you can’t feel that. Here is what you should do – here is what you shouldn’t do. Even to the point of “if you do this, then it mean that…” I get a lot of feedback as to how I should feel – how I should react – how I shouldn’t react – and how things should proceed.
But no one is me.
And I know pushing aside those feelings don’t help. Trying to do it other people’s way does not help. So my gift to her was not letting her talk herself out of how she feels.
One of the issue she struggles with is the “community reaction” to the suicide. Even before the family made an official statement, people were all over it. The first-to-inform-all race was on – and not just on one social network but multiple. These weird status updates led many people to wonder what the fuck was going on. That stirred the rumor mill. Then “helpers” started posted info on suicide hotlines and pleas for people to talk if they are in a bad place.
Meanwhile, silence from the family.
A day later, the family finally made a statement. I cringed when reading it because I couldn’t help but feel like people were forcing her to tell all. She couldn’t say “he passed” so that he wasn’t remembered as “that guy that committed suicide”. She couldn’t process how she wanted to talk about it. I feared people had forced her to say it as she said it. And I hated that.
And I hated it for people like my friend – who didn’t have the luxury of being told privately, but had to get this tragic news in a public, rumor-mill-esque forum.
I posted something on my Facebook status about how important it is that we let the people with the news tell it. It isn’t a race. Someone gets engaged? It’s their news to share, not your news. Someone is sick? That’s their news to share, not your news. Someone dies? That’s the family’s news to share, not your news. Only exception is if the family or people involved ask you to share it on their behalf. It is quite sad that we have to remind people of it. These are moments about the family or people closest to the event – your feelings can be shared after they have shared.
Meanwhile people still openly processing their grief – people who barely knew him – while those who knew him most are forced to watch as they silently process their own grief while hoping they are not being like those people. Questioning their own feelings and whether they are allowed to have it or not. They don’t need it.
I may have to remind my friend of this over and over again.
And I will. Because she gets to be sad and have all of the emotions – until she finds peace.
As my tantra teacher liked to remind, in order to get to the other side of the pain, you can’t ignore it or deny it or fight against it. You need to feel it and walk through it and yell and scream and cry. It will be less painful doing it that way — and more painful the longer you deny it.