The Right Emotional Outlet

A few years ago, when the movie Titanic came out, the one with DiCaprio, I read that someone had seen the movie a record eighty times, every time hoping for a happy ending.
This is a bit how I feel when I look at pictures of Andrew, expecting, hoping, to see him in pictures taken after 2009. Alas his face, his smile, are not captured beyond October 2009, yet we are now in February 2010!
The same on the internet. From time to time I google his name, Andrew Williamson-Noble, hoping that all the reports of his death have suddenly become reports of his survival. Better still, the only matches to come up are only mentions of Andrew as the West-Rock division all league fencing champion in 2007, or Andrew Williamson-Noble Honorary Chair of the SIDS Fundraiser; the Windflower Ball then First Candle Charity Ball. You know… NICE things. Things that make a mother smile, not cry.
But no, Andrew is dead and no amount of wishful thinking or any other thinking is going to change that; in this life. Then there are all the comments, hundreds of them. Some, the majority I should say, express sympathy and sadness, but a bunch of them are REALLY sad. And that is not because they express sadness at someone’s passing, rather they make fun of it. Or they claim to know why he did it, when in fact they’ve never met him. Some assume that he was a spoiled rich kid, if only! And more really, REALLY SAD ONES, not worth repeating.
Well, what can I say? At the beginning I used to get angry, in fact at some point I think I called them:
“Mother Fucking Bastards hiding behind the anonymity of their usernames.”
I don’t feel like that anymore. Nah, if I were to address those… emotionally and intellectually challenge individuals now, I would say to them:
“Thank you oxymorons, for all your oxymoronic comments about my son’s death. For by making me angry, you gave my anger a great outlet.”
And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Having the right outlet for your emotions, seeing things for what they are, like realizing that morons too have a purpose. Right? Right!

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19 thoughts on “The Right Emotional Outlet

  1. The beautiful thing about the web is how we can read a post like this. The bad thing about the web is how it dredges up all the low-lifes of the world, like those you mention. Nice that you found a purpose for them. Think of them like compost – you throw unwanted waste into a pile and it transforms into something useful! Keep writing. We need this for all the young people out there, our sons and daughters, who should know your story when they themselves question the value of life.

    • Well, with strong and encouraging support like yours how can I stop? It is words like yours that keep me going sometime, Thank you! 🙂

  2. What was running through their minds will never be known. Some very important questions will always remain unanswered. That hurts too..another layer to add tot eh grief, guilt and sorrow. I find people are sympathetic to a point, but want to bruah by it and move on rather than risk dealing with a crying mom.
    I told my husband recently, that making plans for the house or vacation was impossible..I am still stuck in September. It may be awhile before I can move on, but I have never underestimated peoples ability to be hurtfully stupid and insensitive. Most days, I can fend them off with my silence.
    I think about your son, my son, all the children who are not here any longer. It is so unbearably sad. The parents, sibling, families who ask themselves questions that cannot be answered, feel guilt for what we do not understand…I can only hope the parents that still have their children, will take the time to thank God for the miracle of them. truly irreplacable.

    • Dear friend, in the early days when even breathing was hard, a woman I had not even met wrote me an email saying:
      Have hot soup, stay warm, keep it simple. And do you know? I repeated those words to myself every times I felt myself going under and somehow they worked, they helped me keep my head above the water a few times.
      Take care Drew’s Mother. Big hug from Andrew’s Mother 🙂

  3. I have recently been suffering from depression and at times I haven’t felt very hopeful about my future. Your insights have really helped me through this process. I have opened up to family members about my struggles. This doesn’t make it any easier but I do know I have a lot of people pulling for me. Please keep on writing~you’re making more of a difference than you realize.

    • Oh Mike, I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling, and it’s true, it is so good to have people cheering for us. In the darkest of moments, to help me take each breath, I have told myself : There are people out there all pulling for you, keep going, you’ll make it. We’ll make it. Also, look seeing a doctor doesn’t hurt either. I am a strong proponent of Yoga and Meditation but for us not brought up that way, a bit of medical help goes a long way, it has for me.
      Hang in there my friend and please KEEP in touch okay?
      Oh, and one more thing, if you feel up to it, please send the link to this blog around 🙂

  4. I’m still checking in with your blog. “Keep it simple” was good advice. It’s pretty much all you can do some days and it’s good to know that’s ok. And I understand the mother “still stuck in September”. Those few words express so much so well. Our family would just like to skip November all together from now on!

  5. Recently, Alex Baldwin was rushed to the hospital after a possible overdose of sleeping pills. A reader of the NY Post made this comment: “I don’t agree with the guy often, but I thought he was a regular guy, not the type of sissy that OD’s.”

    Another said this, “What a degenerate loser…Too bad he didn’t croak…”

    The same kinds of comments were posted in the NY Times about the death of fashion designer, Alexander McQueen.

    Sounds like what people wrote when Andrew died, doesn’t it?

    Now, in Baldwin’s case we really don’t know what did or did not happen or why, at least not from the article. Yet people rushed to judge. The same in Andrew’s case, right?

    These kinds of comments are the Elephant in the Room. Furthermore, they hit a raw nerve. And here we have one of the reasons that suicide is the secret illness. This is why it is misunderstood.

    Look too, at the things that an outsider may think but is afraid to ask:
    Was he on drugs? Did he have a history of depression? Was he schizophrenic or bipolar? Was he on medication? Had he tried this before? Why did he do it? What did he say? Did he leave a note? What did it say? Was he abused as a child? Were his parents cold and distant? Etc.

    Family and friends may find the questions offensive. So what do outsiders do? They speculate. They invent scenarios and may fill in the empty spaces with rubbish.

    If we are going to have an honest discussion about suicide, then the feelings of guilt, shame, disgrace, embarrassment, inadequacy and anger on everyone’s part has to be part of the discussion. There cannot be subjects that are off limits or too painful to discuss and the discussion cannot have secrets. Regular illnesses don’t have such secrets and shame, do they? By saying that certain aspects are off limits, we only perpetuate the secrecy and shame and the myths.

    When you go to the doctor he says, “Where does it hurt?” “Does it hurt when I press here?” “How about here?” You tell the doctor the color of you phlegm, the amount of puss, the kinds of bowel movements you have had, your mental state, your sexual dysfunction. You ask questions like, “How did I get this?” and “Am I contagious?” “How long will it last?” “Is it curable?” This is not pretty. Suicide is not pretty. A serious and scientific discussion about suicide must include the ugly.

    People will root for the underdog…in fact they may root with great enthusiasm. But the person who stops trying loses the support of his friends… one by one. The quitter is abandoned. Even telling friends that you want to “quit” is scary.

    In the eastern spiritual teachings I have studied, we are asked to study ourselves. We are told to try to examine our actions, thoughts and feelings in a detached way, as if we are witnessing our own lives, not living it. This is often easier said than done. The idea is to observe without judgment.

    During this whole unfolding of events starting with Andrew’s suicide to this very moment, I have studied my own reactions. My heart broke for the family. I was obsessed with the shock and sadness of it. I was angered at the idiotic cruel, stupid comments made in the papers by people who knew nothing of the case. WE didn’t know anything (I know the family) so how the hell could a stranger who never met Andrew dare judge him?

    Then Esmeralda decided to make this suicide awareness project. Day after day I looked for insights that would be helpful and day and after Esmeralda wrote about her sorrow. After reading her blog, I felt worse. I found my self getting annoyed with her for not trying harder. And I felt guilty. But when Esmeralda tells me that she is taking a positive step, I find that there is an almost cellular change in me. I want to help. I want to cheer her on. I want to be part of this in some small or large way.

    It is all about the fight.

    The guys who wrote ugly things were not that different from me. They recoiled at the thought of anyone giving up, just as I sometimes recoiled from Esmeralda’s sorrow. I realized that although my threshold was higher, and even though I had enormous sympathy and genuine love for the family, I lost patience with the fact I never saw a fight. There is an unspoken statute of limitation for sympathy.

    Aren’t we all a little like this? When a skater falls in the Olympics and then gets right up again the audience cheers. What would they do if he just walked off the rink?

    And when we find out that some athlete was in great physical pain or had a tragedy…but goes on, well we are in awe, aren’t we? I think we are wired that way and that has to be part of the discussion, too.

    Finally, have you ever considered all the different kinds of suicide and our reactions to them?
    • There is the hari kari: a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. Seppuku was originally reserved only for samurai. Part of the samurai honor code, seppuku was used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies, as a form of capital punishment for samurai who have committed serious offenses, and for reasons that shamed them….The practice of committing seppuku at the death of one’s master, known as oibara (wiki)
    • There were the kamakazi pilots of WW II. “The tradition of suicide instead of defeat, capture and perceived shame was deeply entrenched in the Japanese military culture. It was one of the main traditions in the samurai life and the Bushido code: loyalty and honor until death.” (Wiki)
    • There was the tradition in parts of India of a woman throwing herself into her husband’s burning funeral pyre.
    • There are the present –day suicide bombers
    • There are accidental suicides
    • There are failed suicides
    • There are soldiers who will perform some heroic act that they know will probably get them killed to save their troops
    • There are firefighters that lose their lives trying to save someone
    • There are people tripping on drugs who kill themselves
    • There are people who have some sudden shock, who kill themselves
    • There are people who kill themselves to get even with someone
    • There are people who kill themselves because they see no more reason to live
    • There are people who are terminally ill who kill themselves

    How many more can you think of? Notice your own response to each scenario. See how each circumstance provokes a different emotional and intellectual reaction?

    Now, imagine yourself as the person who is having suicidal thoughts. Does everyone understand that when bringing up the subject of depression, one risks being on the receiving end of one those awful, ugly condescending, asshole remarks? Oh, maybe your friends will come up with an idea to cheer you up. If you are a young man it will probably involve beer and getting laid, right? Their hearts may be in the right place, but you know it won’t help. (Especially if you are either too depressed or drunk to get it up!) You know that if you are downer to be around, people won’t want to be around you. Either you will have hide your feelings or be alone. Or someone will say, “You think you got it bad…well, let me tell you about ME…”

    Are you going to risk opening up to a friend when you don’t know how he will respond? Who will stick by you if you really show them the depth of your depression? Will you be disdained or mocked? Or will they try to “fix” it? How long will be people support you?

    Men in particular have little patience for other men who are depressed. In wars, a best friend may have his head blown off next to you yet men are expected to continue fighting. Coaches scream and push the men to move past the physical pain. They scream at teams if they dare get depressed, “This one is for the Gipper.”

    Lastly, the depressed person sucks the energy from everyone around himself or herself. That person “demands” to be the center of attention. Ever been around a whining child? Be honest: how long can you be loving and attentive? When do you start getting impatient?

    We know the world has little patience or sympathy for the depressed. This is neither right nor wrong; it is the world as it is, right now. We must not judge the ugly comments, we must first understand them. And, we must bring those people into the discussion.

    • Thank goodness that there are people out there, whose judgment and thinking is unclouded by the grief and sorrow of losing first one child, then another.
      Where would we be without people like Mark who can tell it how he sees it?
      Pardon me if I can’t quite smile or laugh right now while I keep seeing my son dead, or falling to his death. What can I say it must be a flaw of mine. Sorry.

  6. Thanks a lot.
    I spent hours and hours writing my response. Trying to find different ways of understanding this complex issue instead of the same knee-jerk bullshit.Trying to be helpful, trying to open a real discussion about suicide…which is the purpose of your blog, isn’t it?

    But that’s not what you want. You want to a support group. You want grief support. Then why don’t you say that?

  7. I just lost a lengthy Reply Mark’s comment to the black hole of cyberspace! The perils of using a cell phone to comment on a blog.

    Suicide is a complex issue as Mark so aptly points out in his comment. And each person who has died by suicide is unique as are the contributing factors. What was shocking about my son’s death was that he was a fighter and NOT a quitter. He fought for at least 5 years to understand and try to heal his body, mind, emotions, and spirit. I completely underestimated the daily fight it was for him! I read something by Norman Vincent Peale that helped me gain perspective of the valiant war he fought and the many battles he won. Darkness Visible by William Styron also gave me insight into a suicidal mentality.

    I appreciate Mark’s honest, open, and thought provoking comment. I also admire Esmeralda’s courage and candidness as she writes about the emotions and experiences of “the first year” while wading, no struggling, through the turbulent, unpredictable waters of mother’s grief.

  8. Mark…I think she wants and needs both, though she may not have come to that conclusion yet–1)to open a real discussion about suicide and 2) a support group. From my vantage point of having had a son die by suicide one year before Esmeralda, I think it’s amazing that she’s writing about. Her life experiences have prepared her to do what she’s doing. It’s obvious your comment took time to write. I think it contributes much to the discussion. Don’t stop commenting! Each of us takes a risk of being misunderstood or undervalued each time we publicly post.

    • Replying to Mark

      I encourage, no; I welcome comments. In a dialogue there is both, agreement and disagreement. What I do object to, is repeatedly being reprimanded for grieving. As though one could wave a magic wand and; “There, that’s better, I no longer feel pain.” Mark himself remarked once, he doesn’t know what losing a child is like he hasn’t lost one, indeed he has no children.
      Is keeping going, functioning despite the cripplingness of the situation not similar to your olympic whatever person getting up after falling? What an inappropriate example by the way. Is talking openly in whatever form one can not getting up after falling? Is bringing attention to the issue by writing about it in many different ways not an open dialogue? What do you call my Huffington Post article “Suicide at Bobst,” and “Alexander McQueen – A Death By Suicide,” ?
      Is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and awareness for SIDS and contributing to getting an eleven million dollar grant from the Gates foundation, all while grieving and stumbling along, not getting up after falling?
      Isn’t putting myself on the front line getting up after falling? What do you call starting a dialogue about Yoga and meditation, attending a conference, as I will in March on Suicide prevention and visiting Sen. Schumar, Gillibrand and Representative Nita Lowey to raise the bar on the need for action? And yes, I also grieve, and I write; freely.

  9. When Someone Takes His Own Life
    by Norman Vincent Peale

    In many ways, this seems the most tragic form of death. Certainly it can entail more shock and grief for those who are left behind than any other. And often the stigma of suicide is what rests most heavily on those left behind…..

    And my heart goes out to those who are left behind, because I know that they suffer terribly. Children in particular are left under a cloud of differentness all the more terrifying because it can never be fully explained or lifted. The immediate family of the victim is left wide open to tidal waves of guilt: “What did I fail to do that I should have done? What did I do that was wrong?” To such grieving persons I can only say, “Lift up your heads and your hearts. Surely you did your best. And surely the loved one who is gone did his best, for as long as he could. Remember, now, that his battles and torments are over. Do not judge him, and do not presume to fathom the mind of God where this one of His child is concerned.”

    A few years ago, when a young man died by his own hand, a service for him was conducted by his pastor, the Rev. Weston Stevens. What he said that day expresses far more eloquently than I can, the message that I’m trying to convey. Here are some of his words:

    “Our friend died on his own battlefield. He was killed in action fighting a civil war. He fought against adversaries that were as real to him as his casket is real to us. They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of his energies and endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of his courage and his strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed him. And it appeared that he had lost the war. But did he? I see a host of victories that he has won!

    “For one thing, he has won our admiration, because even if he lost the war, we give him credit for his bravery on the battlefield. And we give him credit for the courage and pride and hope that he used as his weapons as long as he could. We shall remember not his death, but his daily victories gained through his kindnesses and thoughtfulness, through his love for family and friends, for animals and books and music, for all things beautiful, lovely and honorable. We shall remember not his last day of defeat, but we shall remember the many days that he was victorious over overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought he had left, but the intensity with which he lived the years that he had. Only God knows what this child of His suffered in the silent skirmishes that took place in his soul. But our consolation is that God does know, and understands.”

    • When I spoke at Andrew’s funeral I said “My son was a Knight, and now he is a fallen Knight. Whatever demons or dragons he fought, he gave his life to take them down”
      Thank you for posting this. It really, really really…….I have no words right now

  10. I sort-of knew Norman Vincent Peale and heard many of his sermons at Marble Collegiate Church. He was a brilliant speaker. I am curious: what was it that he said that help you?

    He is the man who said: “If you have zest and enthusiasm you attract zest and enthusiasm. Life does give back in kind. ” and “Change your thoughts and you change your world. “

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