Posts Tagged ‘family’

I just got a newsletter from the suicide bereavement group my sister and I attended last summer. The statistics posted below make me sad. I know that they’re right and I have felt the immense difference between the types of “compassion” shown to families where the death is accidental or natural as compared to drug overdose or suicide. This last year, my father died. The same week, two of my cousins died too. One was an alcoholic and no one seemed very upset by his death. His brother, on the other hand, died of complications from pneumonia. His death was a shock and was far more devastating to the family than the cousin who died of an alcoholic related disease. Why? Both were my cousins. Both were loved. Both had virtually the same background. Neither were expected to die any time soon. Why did everyone seem sort of relieved that Kevin died, but sad that Kenny did?

It just brings up so many bad feelings about the way my family and I were treated after Ty’s death. Especially at work. We weren’t allowed to grieve. People we thought were our friends accused us of causing Tyrel’s death by either inattention, by being “bad examples” due to our own mental illnesses and all sorts of other ridiculous, but incredibly hurtful things. Voyeuristic vultures wanted to hear every detail. I just recently had someone ask me if Ty died as the result of autoerotic asphyxiation. I just stared at them for a long moment then said “No. ‘He killed himself’ doesn’t mean he died accidentally trying to get off.” Dumbass, but sadly all too common.

When another nephew’s friend died from a congenital heart defect while they were staying at the family’s cabin with another friend, the rumor-mill ran rampant. Three boys alone in an out of the way cabin…clearly they were using drugs and one had ODed. It’s such bullshit that it makes me furious. When the autopsy results came back, it showed what we’d known all along. Jesse had no drugs in his system. The other boys were tested by the police the day that Jesse died, and had neither drugs nor alcohol in their systems but the rumors continued. I’m tired of people being so judgmental. Even if Jesse had died of an overdose, should being a normal kid wanting to try something new be a death sentence? I don’t believe so. Ok onto the study results before my head explodes from fury induced high blood pressure.

“In this study, the authors compared and contrasted 571 parents who had lost children by various causes— suicide, drug-related deaths, accidental deaths and natural causes in terms of their grief difficulties, post-traumatic stress and other mental health problems and perceived social stigma. In comparing parents whose children died by suicide or drug-related death with those whose children died of accidents or natural causes, the suicide and drug-related death survivors had appreciably more difficulty in grief and with poor mental health. The authors conclude that powerful social stigma against drug use and mental illness remains a pervasive challenge for these parents as they experience less compassionate responses from others following their losses.”

from
“Parental Grief After a Child’s Drug Death Compared to Other Death Causes: Investigating a
Greatly Neglected Bereavement Population.” By William Feigelman, John R. Jordan &
Bernard S. Gorman, Omega, 2011, Vol 63 (4), p. 219-316.

My Father’s Ghost

Posted: January 24, 2012 in My Poetry
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I dreamed I saw your ghost last night.
You seemed to have lost your head.

I followed your gaunt shuffle,
waiting for a sign;
some reason you’d come back

but you wandered, headless,
down the hallway
turned a corner and were gone.

You’d gone into your office,
so I went there too.

You weren’t there, just
your books, the newest published
a month after your death.

So many things you cared about
with passionate intensity.

The publisher asked
what we wanted done with the royalties.

Of course, they’ll fund your scholarship for
botany students with promise:
your namesake and your baby.
Plants were your only true love.

I guess you’ll live on
in leaves of various kinds.

Leafing through the pages, now
I feel your quiet presence.

You don’t want to hear
the truth
so you kill the messenger.
Block out anything
unpleasant to your ears.

Does it work for you,
this way of not dealing with
your fear?

Growing piles of dead friends
littering your past,
your present, your future.

You can’t see them;
eyes closed tight as
you swing the blade.

Red rains down in
clotting gore

stains you and
everyone near you
painful crimson-black.

There are other ways
to cope with loss,
instead of ruthless slaughter.

Hate
yourself.
Hate everyone.

Truth won’t stop for you.

Like cold wind,
it will find you.

No matter where you hide.
No matter who you kill.

Grief is
an uphill climb in sand
with no oasis in sight

Hot wind erases footprints
as if you came from nowhere.
No path to show the way.

This journey is taken alone.

Unable to find your bearings;
Maps become senseless
when blinded by harsh light.

Stumble through a world
where nothing ever changes and
everything looks the same.

Perhaps it is the same and
you’ve been walking in circles
like a dog chasing its tail.

There is no past –
not anymore.
Memories are unwelcome.
They make people nervous.

Death is so uncivilized
especially suicide.

My sister says she misses you.
I wish I could agree.

I don’t miss you.
I hardly knew you –
at least any “you” I liked or respected.

To me, you were The Bogeyman;
origin of my self-loathing.
I’m relieved that you are gone,
happy that you’re dead.

Not because
I hate you, though, and
I thank God for that.

All those nights, alone with you –
You could have been my victim too,
a bitter role-reversal.
But I made a different choice.

I rubbed your back, held your hand,
changed your bedding, clothes and diapers.
I loved you when you were helpless,
because you couldn’t love me when I was.

When you died,
I was happy that you’d escaped the pain,
free from that worn-out body.

I too, was freed:
released from a lifetime
of hate and fear;
your whipping post, no longer.

We went our separate ways,
finally at peace.
Who could ask for more?

Then why do I feel so envious
that my sister had something to miss?

Between a breath and

the one that never follows,

you slip away;

crippled body left behind

like leaves dropped after a storm.

Forgotten, unnecessary –

marking the end of a season.

The monitor
picks up
my father’s breathing,
the occasional moan, a cough,
some swearing.

Dying is not easy.
It’s hard on him.
It’s hard on us.

Watch him wither
like a flower, cut;

first drooping,
now drying out –
becoming something else.

He wavers
in and out
of focus
like a star
too dim to clearly see.

Muttered halves
of conversations
held with people
invisible to me.

I wonder what he sees
when his eyes
turn blank
to this world.

He comes back,
eventually.
Asks for a cola,
maybe ice cream.

The simple pleasures
of childhood.

Then he turns,
curls back to that place
of lucid dreaming.
Eyes open,
but unfocused.

Like a brittle husk,
he’s mummifying
while I watch,
helpless
to stop the process.

I wouldn’t if I could.
He wants what he sees
when his eyes dim
to this world.

It must be something
good.

Just to the right
is a ragged string
of pine trees;

that is where I lie.
On top of you,
staring blankly up

like you would be
if you could see
through all that dirt.

A rainbow
half arcs the sun
from a distance,
haze in between.
Tans and browns;
not the prismatic display
it should be.
Pollution or clouds –
Who knows or cares?

To the north,
mountains float,
still wearing winter white.

Your daughter
will be a year old
next month.
Some lives went on
without you.

It’s June, 2011.
Long enough
to understand
you are never
coming back.

I spend my time
trying
to fade
into nothing,
like stars do
at dawn.

Feel the edge
I’m dropping over.
Wonder if I care.

If I’ll miss anything
when I’m no longer here.

The brush of a hand
in passing,
warm breath
on my cheek.

Indistinct burr
of voices
through the wall
I press myself
against.
Rough stone
pushes back.

I listen,
hardly breathing,
but can’t make out
the words.

Photo credit, Brian Snelson

Eyes,
two.
I have them:
blue –

or grey
depending on
the day.

Grey hair
at my temples,
blends so well
with blonde,
few can tell
how old I am.

Two lips too,
do what lips do.
When they’re
not uncertain.

Other pieces,
fairly standard:
just one nose,
two arms and legs.
Things line up
correctly.
From an outsider’s
perspective.

Inside’s where things
get tricky.
There are more people
in here
than there should be,
and that’s not counting
me.

Who am I?
I’m one of many.
All sharing the same
crooked smile.

Same lips
have other
voices,
and these ears
hear singular things.

We all share
this body.
But we have different
friends;
unique habits,
age and gender.

Figure that out,
if you can,
and if you do,
tell me.

The whole thing
has me puzzled.

With so many
we’s in me,
I’m not even sure
who’s confused
anymore.

Is it only me?