I want a time machine.
June 5, 2012 6:55 PM   Subscribe

It's been 3 months since my boyfriend killed himself. Just doing the basics takes so much out of me. The first month was a blur and everyone thought I was doing "exceptionally well". My tendencies are always to be very private and keep to myself. The only person I used to share my emotions with is dead. I have family but haven't been close to them in a very long time and even before never felt safe or able to share my personal life with them. Everything is very much on the surface. They were very dismissive when I spoke to them years ago about my depression and anxiety. Initially they were texting me to see how I was doing but I wasn't very responsive. The few family members that I am close to are focusing on me "moving on". And I hate hearing those words. even though they mean well. I have very few friends and I met them as a result of my boyfriends death.

I feel so so sad and lonely. And alone. I would never acknowledge being lonely before didn't even think I could and can only imagine that this loneliness is part of how my boyfriend felt. I'm in therapy. And medicated. I fake it a lot. And then I come home and it all crashes in. When I do enjoy myself for a while I end up feeling even worse afterwards. And I don't know how to move forward. And not just stay under the covers. Logically my brain understands some things. But the guilt and the regret are overwhelming. I have shame over how I was in our relationship. Maybe it would be healthy to direct anger at him but all I can do is turn it inwards. I miss him. I want to stick my face in his armpit one more time. Season 4 of breaking bad is in my netflix queue and we freakin loved that show and couldn't wait. I feel like I can't do anything without thinking of him. He was such a huge part of my life and even though he isn't here he still is.

I guess I thought I would be in a better place by now. But I couldn't make it to work these last 2 days. When it happened I just said that there was a family emergency and that services were being held. And since then I've taken more days than usual. I never told my boss who died or anything. I almost did once and he quickly cut me off saying that there was no need for me to go in to detail. Some people said that I should have said something but I couldn't figure out how and now it's 3 months later.

Please give me some advice. Just do it has never worked for me. Even at the best of times I'm not exactly motivated or ambitious. Some people lose themselves in their work. I am not one of those people. How can I learn to open up to people or just ask/accept help? People say oh if you ever need anything/please let me know if there is something I can do to help you. What does that mean? And what is the appropriate way to respond when someone says some variation of cheer up/move on/get past it? I feel so hateful and ragey and want to kick everyone in the neck.

I hope this makes sense.
posted by puppup to Human Relations (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Grieve. Take a leave of absence from work and grieve. Cry. Watch Breaking Bad Season 4 and cry your guts out. Its perfectly ok to to be hating everyone. It's ok to want to stay in bed, but the more you push these feelings down, the harder its going to effect what fundamentally makes you you. Keep going to therapy, keep on your medicines (they will help you grasp the edges of the canyon when you feel like falling into the pit of despair). I am sorry for your loss. It does get better.
posted by jmd97 at 7:07 PM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]

Oh, I am so, so sorry.

Please find a therapist to talk to. You need to be able to talk about this stuff.

And what you are feeling is normal. Learning how to process your grief will not mean that you are not honoring his memory.
posted by editrixx at 7:07 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you been to an SOS (or similar) meeting? It can be really helpful to talk to those who've "been there." One of the people I knew in the hospital program (his daughter committed suicide) really depended on the support groups to get through each month.

When people say "if you ever need anything ask me," what they usually want you to do is to give them something concrete to do for you. "I just can't cope with cleaning out this bedroom, can you come sit with me while I do it?" "It's the three-month-anniversary, and I have to get out the house, please let's go to the movies."

The best thing to do when someone tells you to cheer up when you're REALLY not in the mood to hear it is usually to be dismissively appreciative ("Oh, thanks,") and take out your rage on something that can take it without there being horrible consequences. Hitting things, screaming, and setting stuff on fire (in appropriate, safe ways - this is why parks have fire pits and gyms have punching bags) can help you keep from going off on the clueless types who you know won't get it no matter how eloquently and/or violently you explain yourself.

BTW, you're still within the boundaries of a normal grief response, so it's not like I'm saying Oh Heck Get Yourself Some Professional Help here, BUT: counselors have jobs for a reason, and this is one of the bigger parts of that.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 7:09 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm so sorry.

My tendencies are always to be very private and keep to myself. The only person I used to share my emotions with is dead........How can I learn to open up to people or just ask/accept help?

I think this is what a support group is for - getting people together who need to talk about what they're going through and get support from people who know what it's like.

It seems like this is a pretty comprehensive list of support groups - find one in your area, go to a meeting. The worst that could happen is you could waste an hour with people you don't know and you will never see again. The best that could happen is it could help you cope and heal.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:12 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry for your loss, and what you are feeling completely sucks, but is also totally normal. 3 months is nothing when you are grieving for someone you love, even more so under such difficult circumstances. In many ways, it sounds like you are doing everything you are supposed to be doing (including "faking it" when you need to), but you are putting to much pressure on yourself to be okay. You're not okay, and anyone who tells you that you should be moving on by now, is an ass. A well meaning ass, probably, but an ass nevertheless. I'm not sure how long you were dating, but at least a year is typical for mourning a significant other. Some days will be easier than others, but eventually, they all get easier. Unfortunately, no one can tell you how long that will actually take, and there are truly no "should"s in this situation. When people tell you how you should feel or try to cheer you up, say something along the lines of "I'm doing my best, thanks for your concern" and then go somewhere you can punch a pillow, rip some paper, or shout in private.

As for asking for help, this is such an enormous thing that the people offering, while entirely sincere, probably do not know how to help either. Try to be specific and spread the wealth. Maybe you just need some company, so ask someone to hang out. Maybe you need someone to pick up a carton of milk or toothpaste, so ask someone else who you think can handle that. It really is the little things that can wear on us when we are contending with life's larger things. It is also having help with the little things that will make the most difference as you grieve. Again, I am so sorry, and I'll keep you in my thoughts.
posted by katemcd at 7:21 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry. What you're going through must be hell. I'm glad you're in therapy and getting help. I'm glad that sometimes you have moments where you enjoy yourself.

My only (completely uninformed) advice is to find whatever love is in your heart, or was in your heart, and point it at yourself. How would you treat a friend who was in your shoes and asked you for help? What would you say to them? Say that to yourself, and when a friend asks if they can help, tell them what you think you want or need or what you think you would give to someone else in that situation... and if you can't figure that out, that's okay, just be honest. And when someone says something, take the good, and toss the rest. And do that for whatever your inner voices are saying, too.

Just because he's gone, and just because you someday figure out how to live your life regardless of where you are in the healing process, doesn't mean he's forgotten.

I hope that you overcome this and find happiness. Other people - some strong people, some weak people, have encountered very tragic things and some, after a long time found a way to live again (like Victor Frankl and other concentration camp survivors). You can too.
posted by simongsmith at 7:26 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check MeMail.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 7:28 PM on June 5, 2012

Three months is a blip of time when considering something this huge. An absolute blip.

Getting my head and heart around deaths of people close to me (though never something quite the same) has taken me a very long time. Be patient with yourself. Grieve.

Are you awake a few hours of the day and feeding yourself and bathing semi-regularly? You are doing amazing.

People will stay incredibly stupid things to you re: the move on/cheer up comments. If it helps, you have my permission to kick them in the neck. If that seems too taxing, you can even just imagine kicking them in the neck while you say "thanks" and walk away. You don't owe them any kind of substantive response there.

In my experience when people say "let me know if you need something" what they are saying is "I want to help you but I don't know where to start." You can choose to say "no thanks" and never ask, or think of something and ask. What do you want? Do you have piles of stuff to take to Goodwill and they have a truck? Simple.

If it helps to think of that way, you are giving them a chance to do a mitzvah. It's as much of a gift to them as it is a help to you. I have loved it when someone in need has asked me to bring over dinner for them. I baked my first pork roast for a friend home from a difficult childbirth. Taking/giving favors helps humans build connections.

It will be ok.
posted by pantarei70 at 7:59 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been through this. I can't tell you any secret that will make things better, but if you just want to commiserate, hear someone else's story or tell your own, MeMail me.

Here's what I did: I got drunk for three weeks. Literally, woke up, drank, passed out, woke up, drank, etc. That doesn't sound healthy, but that's what got me through it at the time. And none of my family said a word, they understood that that was what I needed to do to cope right then. I'm not advocating a marathon of binge drinking, but give yourself permission to just collapse for a while and do what you need to do. I was lucky enough not to have to go to a regular job at that time. If you can take a leave of absence or vacation you might want to do that. Just grieve. Wallow in your pain. I really believe there is nothing more painful and horrible that can happen to a person. Just let yourself feel the pain, anger, sadness, loneliness. I think the more you try to hold it together and go on, the harder it gets. This is a horrible thing that has happened. If you allow yourself to scream and rage and be devastated out loud, I think it helps you to eventually move on faster.

The thing is with suicide, there is still such a stigma, so it's harder to talk about, but it's really the person who is left that ends up with this burden of knowlege on them, that others can't really understand. The should-haves and what-ifs, and if you're like me, the almost-saved-him nightmares are terrible, but I really believe a period of concentrated mourning, where you are allowed to just think about things, and process without going through the motions of normal life, or explaining your feelings to anyone will help immensely.

For me, after the drinking part, there were a lot of sad movies and sad songs for months. It takes time, but as they always say, life goes on, you'll slowly feel better, new opportunities will arise, and you'll still think about him, but bit by bit, it gets a little less...
posted by catatethebird at 8:21 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you need to reach out again to your family. Explain in clear language that you need to sit down with them and have them listen to your grief without judgment and without advice as to what to do. Ask them to affirmatively promise to provide that for you.

Then do it.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:27 PM on June 5, 2012

What worries me is the faking it part. Sure you fake a smile for the cashier at Starbucks, that's normal. But what about for family, friends and coworkers?

I can only speak for myself and the people I have known, but: the stoicism doesn't work. It only delays. The grief wants to come out, and the more you try to silence it, the weirder and more ingrained it gets, and it starts to come out in ever stranger ways. You have to integrate the loss into your life.

Let it hurt. Let people know you are hurting. You don't have to talk to them about it if you don't want to. But if someone asks a meaningful "how are you doing" question, just admit that you are hurting and are working through it.

I agree. "Moving on" just sounds awful to consider. It isn't something you DO, it is just something that happens.

Eventually, it will start to hurt less. And yeah, you'll feel bad about THAT. But that's all part of the process. You have to grieve until you are sick of grieving. That's when healing begins. Healing isn't a denial of the importance of that person in your life, or some kind of abandonment. It's just what happens, and it is something that the deceased would almost assuredly want for you to do.
posted by gjc at 9:14 PM on June 5, 2012

The process of grieving is different for each individual, and there is no time table. I can only tell you what helped me after my brother committed suicide.

I found a therapist and saw him regularly (you're already doing that), and I found a support group for people who lost loved ones to suicide. I did a lot of yoga, I got a massage each month, and I got monthly manicures and pedicures. I found that keeping my body healthy made it that much easier to help heal my mind and heart.

When people told me to "cheer up" and "move on," I hated them for it, because they had no clue about what I was feeling. For them, the crisis had passed, but for me, the loss is forever. And when someone said "he's in a better place now," that hurt more than helped, because I don't want my brother to be in a better place, I want him HERE. Friends will fall back on cliches because they don't know what else to say, and they're blindly trying to offer comfort -- I found true comfort in my support group, which was made up of people who really did know what I was going through. We helped each other.

People will often say "let me know if you need anything." Again, they're blindly offering comfort. But to those you are closest to, the best response is to turn to them with a specific need. If you need to talk, if you need someone to sit with you while you cry, if you need to get out of the house -- tell them that, give them a specific job, it will make you both feel better.

I don't know where you're located, but if you're in the Bay Area, CA, I suggest that you contact Kara in Palo Alto. They are wonderful. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (www.afsp.org) has great resources.

In the five years since my brother died, I have made up little rituals that give me comfort. I talk to him all the time in my head (sometimes I yell at him, sometimes I cry, sometimes I think of a song or something funny or just share the beauty of a gorgeous day). I'll write him a note, then go outside to a safe place on my patio and burn the note so that he'll receive it (I don't know why, but this makes sense to me). I have a lovely candle holder that holds tea lights, and I'll burn a candle when I'm thinking of him. I don't use that candle holder at any other time. Each year on my brother's birthday, I have a shot of a really good liquor and savor it in his honor. And each year on the anniversary of his death, I honor his memory by reaching out to the people I love and telling them how much they mean to me.

I love to talk about my brother, I don't hesitate to say his name or bring him up in conversation, and it means a lot to me to keep him a part of my life's dialogue. He was real, and he'll always be very real to me.

Please try to let yourself feel whatever you are feeling, when you feel it, however you feel it. Grief really is different for everyone and it doesn't follow a script or a schedule. I have found that the passage of time really does help -- perhaps that doesn't comfort you right now, but I can assure you that it will get easier, you will feel better. But you will never again be the same person you were before your loss, and it's okay to grieve the loss of that self as well. You will come to know and love the New You.

I hope this has helped. MeMail me if you want to talk further, anytime -- lots of people will support you right after the crisis, but you may need someone's ear in months, years. Please check in with me whenever feels right to you.

Be well.
posted by Boogiechild at 9:56 PM on June 5, 2012 [14 favorites]

I have not been in your exact shoes but I have lost a child. I second a support group and therapy and finding some things that just help you move through the days - yoga, painting class, music lessons, swimming, cooking - if you can. Library on Thursdays; patio and a beer Saturdays...some small rituals. (My first was a scotch and an episode of a light TV show, not enlightenment in a yoga studio.)

People are frankly unable to sit with grief. They mean well but our culture seems to put people on a timeline...one that is way too short. This is why a group helps. What also helped me was asking friends to set up regular lunches, walks, etc. - every Sat afternoon - so that I didn't have to make the effort of planning but again got some rhythm to my days.

Everything Boogiechild said makes sense to me. For me it took a year or so to function better, 3 years to feel hopeful, and at about the five year mark I felt like myself (I am slow at some things)...not quite my same self, but enough. It was worth the wait.

I am so sorry this has happened to you and for your loss.
posted by Zen_warrior at 3:10 AM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Please, please seek out support from people who have been near where you are. A support group, or a therapist, someone. I think posting here is a great first step, because this is a really varied community with a lot of different experiences.

You don't need to be alone in this - but that doesn't mean you need to reach out to whoever is right around you. I have never been through what you have here, but I do know that reaching out to people who don't understand the place you're in can have the exact opposite effect you are looking for. It can feel more lonely and isolating.

I would check these resources out. The AFSP is a great organization which knows a hell of a lot about suicide and the impact it has on survivors. They do a yearly walk called "The Overnight" through a major city, where survivors raise money for the organization, and walk from sundown to sunup. It's actually happening this week in San Francisco. I did it in New York City last year, and I can tell you I feel like I was changed by the experience. It was very hard, but it felt like it meant something, and it gave me a feeling of accomplishment that made feel stronger and more solid.

3 months is so, so fresh. Some of the people I walked with last year at The Overnight were walking for someone they lost many, many years ago. The friend I was walking with was on her 3rd walk for a friend she had lost 3.5 years ago - his family is walking again this year. This isn't to tell you that you won't ever get over it. They lead normal, happy lives -- but this is one of the ways they cope.

Please do not feel bad about where you are. The fact that you feel alone and that you are grieving and miserable is natural and not a failure on your part -- but you don't have to be completely alone in this. There are resources for you. There are people who want very badly to help you through this.

Love and peace to you, I hope that very soon you find some outlet that relieves some of the pain you're feeling right now!
posted by pazazygeek at 5:25 AM on June 6, 2012

What you went through is terrible...You should let yourself collapse and grieve, and not try so hard in general. Maybe you feel like you need to move forward, and since you can't, you are annoyed when others tell you to do precisely that. Then don't move forward! Be depressed, let your natural emotions guide you, and see how you will feel tomorrow. Even when things seem stagnant, things are always changing and moving, even when you don't try. So once again, don't try so hard, and it's okay to be selfish. We all are.
posted by snufkin5 at 9:31 AM on June 6, 2012

I am so sorry. Be patient with yourself. 3 months is nothing. I was upset for almost a year after I broke up with my last boyfriend, and he was still alive. My cousin committed suicide and I was non-functional for about six months and upset for several years. If my husband did this I would completely fucking lose it. You are experiencing very normal grief.

I definitely agree to check into support groups and therapy. You need someone to lean on. Seek solace in your religion. Even if you're an atheist or agnostic I'd consider going to church at least temporarily. Unitarian Universalists won't pressure you into the Jesus/God thing, and Buddhists are pretty much atheists. Set up a meeting with the pastor/priest/roshi/whatever. Counseling people in rough times is what they do.

Finally, this isn't specifically about death, but the book When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron is an excellent book on how to deal with really shitty things.

People say oh if you ever need anything/please let me know if there is something I can do to help you.

Ask them to do something concrete - help you get groceries, walk the dog, whatever mundane tasks seem overwhelming right now. The vast majority of people love to be helpful but they need a little guidance. Look at your to-do list and delegate. then relax. Go get a massage.

I'm having a rough time linking but there was a mefi post in the past week about Joe Biden's speech talking about the death of his wife and son to mililtary families who'd lost a loved one. The speech was really moving and uplifting.
posted by desjardins at 10:17 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please check your MeMail.
posted by Yellow at 1:41 PM on June 6, 2012

I'm much more of an introvert than some of the others who have commented so far, so let me add what I did when coping with my father's suicide.

I reacted very negatively to the idea of therapy or support groups. I didn't want new friends. I didn't want a bunch of strangers empathizing with me. I wanted to scream and rage and cry and grieve and watch movies with father-child relationships that went into adulthood and weren't shitty. I couldn't do any of that without alerting my family to my instability (and this was very important to me) so I wrote all my feelings down. I did this for months and months just to get them OUT of me (I've never gone back and read any of it, 7 years later; I just don't feel the need to). When I was unable to sleep because of circling thoughts, I'd write it out so I could acknowledge it and say goodbye to it. I let myself be angry and sad and confused; I let myself rage against whatever higher power I felt like, try to bargain with them/it, and then cry some more. If I get really bad, I write him a note and make a paper plane out of it (he was in the air force and I always associate planes with him). I buried one of these with him.

It's incredibly hard to ask for help from people when you're in a bad way, even more so if you just feel awful and have no concrete tasks to point to. I find it helpful to keep myself busy on days I know will be hard (Father's Day, the anniversary of his death, his birthday, my birthday, Christmas). I'll often recruit a friend to hang out with that day (often without telling them the cause) and do something nice and mindnumbing like watching an action movie. If you truly don't trust anyone that much (I didn't), do whatever you need to do. Need to be distracted? Distract yourself. Don't want to cook? Order in. If you can, set yourself a small goal to aim for. Something as small as "this week, I will do the dishes" or "today, I will go outside". Aim for things that remind you the world is still spinning and, yes, it's less bright than it was before but you can do this.

You are not obligated to do anything more than the bare minimum to keep in place right now (and if you are finding that difficult, that's nothing to be ashamed about). If you can show up to work, get through the day, feed yourself and navigate between those locations - you are fucking golden. No, seriously, you're doing fantastic. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a jerk. I certainly flipped my shit at a bunch of people who tried to tell me how to manage my grief back then and I kind of advocate for that approach regardless of how socially uncomfortable it is; I was also fond of the old hang up/stop talking to them at that moment routine. If you're feeling more polite, you can go for a non-committal "thank you for your concern".

This comment is super long already so I'm going to wrap this up by saying feel free to memail me if you want to unload on a stranger (and this applies to other/future mefites browsing this page).
posted by buteo at 6:29 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I found this site (and you) by googling "I want to break up with my boyfriend but I don't want him to kill himself". We also have been on and off for 14 years. He also has a bad relationship with his family. Not quite as bad as your ex's, but he continues to be tormented by their pressures. I also feel that I am somewhat self-involved. I had a traumatic upbringing and now I want to work out figuring out my own head, healing myself and having better for myself. Together we have a beautiful family, but nobody stresses me out more than him. I do honestly love him, but I do not fully understand what that even means anymore. I have my own issues, I can hardly stand to have his on my shoulders. (I keep my stress in, he puts his stress on me, I explode, it's not good).
Is this how you were? Having your own issues and also bearing his?
Jealousy never helps either.
Don't blame yourself. There's no way that he would do that to himself for the simple reason of you breaking up with him. He had other issues. He had pain that came from somewhere else. Perhaps you were a catalyst, but that is not your fault either. You were put there by the universe, not by your own choosing.
Am I giving myself advice???
I spent 5 bucks so that I could talk to you. I'm new to the site, so I didn't know how/if I could message you personally. You are in my heart, stranger.
posted by jORDANgIRL at 7:36 AM on September 25, 2012

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