I remember about six years ago, my psychiatrist suggested that I go to a "Survivors of Suicide" Conference. I had never heard that term before, survivors of suicide. To be honest it didn't sit well with me, that term. The definition is: one of the family and friends of someone who has died from suicide. I went to that conference with my husband. We brought a picture of my sister and I made sure we sat in the back row. I hate the front or middle, doesn't matter where I am, I'm always in the back. We placed her picture on the table with all the other pictures and sat down.
I looked around and my initial instinct was to smile at people when we made eye contact but then I realized what we were all there for and a smile didn't seem appropriate. It was more of a head nod and the slightest side smile as if to say, " I see you. I hear you. I know why you're here and my pain swims in the same river as yours"
I do not remember what was discussed, I remember a video being played though I don't remember the content. I just remember the tears and quiet sobs that seemed to serve as background music.
The parts I do remember was when she asked everyone to take their chairs and make a circle. This is one of my anxiety nightmares, so much vulnerability when you are all facing one another but quickly I realized that the vulnerability would be in the stories that people were encouraged to share about their connection and stories with suicide. How brave these people were. How all the stories were different. How the tears continued to flow so much so that it was no longer noticed. A wife who had lost her husband, a family of three who five days prior lost their son/brother. They shared their stories. They wanted answers. Why would their loved one do this? Why, Why, Why? I remember the "why" question being the common theme. Everyone wanted to know why. I never shared my story. My story didn't fit that theme. I knew why. I never questioned why. I felt that if I shared my story, no one would understand.
You see, us, the "survivors" of suicide are so vulnerable, so broken because we are doing just that, surviving. I realized that we all shared the same commonality, we all had lost a loved one to suicide but I was probably one of the only ones that had never questioned why they did it. How horrible that must be. How lost and confused they must be. To question, to have questions, questions that will never be answered. They have no choice, it wasn't up to them, please don't leave.
Towards the end we all had to go around (or perhaps it was at the beginning, my memory fails me) and say our name and the person we lost and who they were to us. After Matt went it was my turn and the only words I could get out were, "She was my sister".
Matt and I walked silently to the car, tears losing their momentum and exhaustion sinking in. We left our broken heart on the floor along with everyone else's broken pieces. Our cores torn and our sides hurt. I still haven't quite let the concept, survivors of suicide, rest in my lap. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it nor do I know if I'm worthy of the term, survivor. Below I wrote out a poem of all my thoughts on it, working out the words and letting them dance through my train of thought.
A concept I can't quite grasp or wrap my brain around
Sometimes I don't feel like a survivor because I don't feel like I've earned the title
I'm not worthy to be called that because I feel it takes away from the life of my sister
Other times I feel like a survivor because I've lived past the grief and I'm hanging on to the life that I've had
Once someone has taken their life, they have moved away from this earth and us, the ones they've left behind are left to survive and live with their loss
We are not victims
We are survivors
Of those that suffered
Of those who couldn’t handle one more day in their skin
Of those who crumbled at the thought that tomorrow was going to come and it would be another day spent in horror
Of those misunderstood
Of those who fought with tooth and nail
Searching for the surface that was always just out of reach
Of those who felt alone and afraid
Dark shadows their constant friend
Of daughters, sons, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, aunts, uncles and icons who left us to survive their death
Us who survived, as if we survived an accident
Perhaps we did
Left to linger and hang on to their memory
Survivors of suicide
Of the ones who fall
Of the ones who are left with the pieces
I am BrIttany