6 months on and I still can’t stand the word. To speak it, to hear it, to see it written all over the pamphlets that smear the walls of the room where I am supposed to feel the safest during my bereavement counselling.
Survivor of Suicide.
What a savagely sharp and inadequate word for what happened, even worse when began with ‘committed’ or followed by ‘completed’. These are the formalities served up to me in that room and by society. They present like choices and that bothers me most because he did not want to die. Lets just stop calling it his choice. Just because his illness, his demon went by no other name does not make it any less terminal. He died because he so wanted to live. Everything smells wrong – committed; as if he couldn’t commit to life but only death. Completed; like the final level in a game. Both are so impersonally wrong.
Off the junction, Stapely road bus stop. That small, stuffy room in the community hall, it smells of stillness and oddly of Sunday school. Flyers for baby classes, Alcoholics anonymous, over-50’s-without-children-meet ups follow me anemically up the stairs.
The room where I can hear the over 70’s barn dancing or keep-fit while I try to relay how my week has been, how still, when I manage to sleep, I hear my brother asking me to come home. That he is trapped somewhere dark and foul and wants to be back here among the living, amongst his two children, wife and broken parents.
‘Survivors of Suicide’ – apparently that’s what we do – survive them? Not that we were given much choice in the matter and ‘surviving’ is of course a matter of perception.
I don’t say the S word.
When I hear people use it – it’s a shudder through my being, a blunt knife to my spine as I pretend nothing like that ever happened, not to him, not to me. Jarring.
I’m defrauding his death with my smiles and unwillingness to stop and say ‘wait a minute, hold on, this big thing happened to me and I am hurting and screaming inside so shut the fuck up, shut up, shut up SHUT UP.’
A rabid guttural spear-head that wants to cut out through my flesh with such force that it quells me. It sears me open and scabs over into disguise every single time. But instead I ignore, I shrink a little bit but I smile and ignore the word that I recoil from yet seem to hear the most. Spat, screamed, mimed, wispered from the TV, Radio, and films I used to love; the News; my friends and their casual references in conversations which of course have nothing and everything to do with what happened to my brother.
Yeah, I don’t say the S word.
I guess that’s the thing about surviving, it doesn’t matter how you do it, whether you stumble through it or soar. I hadn’t ever considered it as surviving. I still don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe we only recognise survival in other people in the news, the one’s on TV or in the books I read, all. For the rest of us the every-day John and Joanna Doe, it’s just known as plain old living.
Is this surviving? Is it multi-tasking? Is it denial or suspended grief, acceptance?
Should my bitterness be clearer? Should I go off the rails? Even my reaction seems pathetic. Like I can’t even grieve messily, selfishly or productively. I haven’t turned to drugs, had violent outbursts, regular sex or become the loud poster child for ‘triggering’ anxieties.
I haven’t raised money, ran a marathon, become a positive ambassador, started a blog, Charity or ‘channeled it’.
God damn the incredibly bland sensible way I have been handling this. God damn the polite grieving Britishness of the whole thing.
The job I started soon after, the smiles and secret wails. I have been sickeningly stationary.
Treading water every now and then overscome with debilitating cramp, waiting for something, anything to take over or take me over.
My body to fall, stumble, preferably spurned into overachieving tremoundessly at some point in my life, rather than being this tiny clump of ugly ineffectual flesh to which I feel. A clump of raw flesh covered in the skin and clothes of me, sitting in a small stuffy room in a community centre surrounded by the words I haven’t really been able to form much less apprehend since he died. Suicide and now Survivor.
May 26th 2017