A Long Goodbye - Survivors of Suicide

Three years ago, Jordan died by suicide. I thought today would be a good day to reach out to survivors of suicide and think about grief. 

Megan O'Rourke wrote a beautiful memoir called The Long Goodbye about her mother's death. In it, she talks about the importance of sustaining traditional mourning rituals, her own stages of grief, and the ways we often deal with loss. 

Immediately after her mother's death, O'Rourke liked to think that the dead might not really be gone. She says, "Many people go through what psychologists call a period of 'animism,' in which you see the dead person in objects and animals around you, and you construct your false reality, the reality where she is just hiding, or absent. This was the mourner’s secret position, it seemed to me: I have to say this person is dead, but I don’t have to believe it...After a loss, you have to learn to believe the dead one is dead. It doesn’t come naturally."

This sort of disbelief-based animism transforms into a memory-based survival of the deceased. She says, "The people we most love do become...ingrained in our synapses, in the pathways where memories are created."

Three years after Jordan's death, it's hard for me to accept how much I still miss her. But O'Rourke talks about the peculiarities of mourner's time and how the experience transcends into broader life changes:

A mourner’s experience of time isn’t like everyone else’s. Grief that lasts longer than a few weeks may look like self-indulgence to those around you. But if you’re in mourning, three months seems like nothing — [according to some] research, three months might well find you approaching the height of sorrow.


It’s not a question of getting over it or healing. No; it’s a question of learning to live with this transformation. For the loss is transformative, in good ways and bad, a tangle of change that cannot be threaded into the usual narrative spools. It is too central for that. It’s not an emergence from the cocoon, but a tree growing around an obstruction.
— http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/06/09/meghan-o-rourke-the-long-goodbye/

I find O'Rourke's reflections refreshingly honest. Everyone experiences loss differently, but we can be universally comforted with a touch of human compassion. 


Posted on March 27, 2015 .