Emotional Baggage

When I was in talks with the lovely 28-year-old that I’ve previously mentioned, we exchanged our “emotional baggage.” It’s what everyone should go through at the start of a relationship–All right, give me the 411 on all your problems so I know what to expect and what I’m getting myself into. Here’s mine:

I lost a friend to suicide when I was fifteen. His death wrecked me. It knocked me down with a wave of shock, and I’ve been struggling to get up since. I’ve managed to trek my feet along and move on with my life, but I’m seeing a psychologist weekly for traumatic grief therapy. I’m pretty normal though: I’m on the Dean’s List, I’m not a loner, I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t do drugs. Every now and then I cry my eyes out and I think about him every day.

Some days I wonder what I would be if he never died. What would I be if this burden was lifted from my shoulders? If I had a clear mind, if guilt didn’t engulf me, if I never missed someone so desparately and passionately?

My best friends know the memories of four years ago still haunt me. My mom gets it a bit. No one else though. I’m just me. It’s funny–because I seem to have no understanding of the person I was before his death. I have nothing in common with that girl. It’s like she was a different person. I wonder how people still recognize me.


6 Responses to “Emotional Baggage”

  1. Please wake up to the world around you, in front of you; instead of dreaming or remembering or imagining a world that never was, and never will be. Life is heartbreakingly beautiful. For example:

    You suffered a great loss of a loved one. His absence, all of the unborn possibility attendant to his passing, is profound. Now you honor his memory by the life you create, not in being scared to let go. His death is not your fault. It was his choice. He made a mistake — in leaving you, if nothing else.

    Look: grief is natural and healthy. But your mourning is ultimately selfish. You miss him, of course, but he’s in other realms. For you to hold on to him blinds you to the life waiting to begin, to be born, in this very moment. It’s time to heal, to grow, to forgive, to love again. It sounds like you are scared to forget him, like your pain is the only thing you have left, keeping him close to you; otherwise, God forbid, he’ll slip into oblivion.

    I’m the angel in the pith of your heart, whispering, “It is time…” Be happy, be free. Waking from this sleep, this nightmare, there will come an awakening like no other, to change the world forever. This is your life, not his.

    • I don’t know how to formulate a good reply to this. Um. Hm. Well. Thank you?

      I wasn’t looking for any formulated advice. I’m just writing. And I think I mentioned I’m seeking therapy. By the way, it’s all a lot easier said than done. I appreciate your genuine effort, but from a person whose heard this kind of thing for the past four years, it all comes off a little contrived. I don’t blame you though or anyone else who has ever said these things–you couldn’t understand. It’s okay. But thanks for the effort.

      • (of course i understand. i don’t speak for everyone. in my own life, i have suffered tragic, obliterating loss. the above/below are shared so that your aching soul may know you are not alone in this awful, beautiful life… your feelings of mourning are genuine, but they no longer serve any healthful purpose. i’ll say it again: it wasn’t your fault. he won’t disappear from your memory or heart once you have forgiven and let go of the pain. in fact, a greater love is waiting to dawn. as i’m sure you can appreciate, the sun is always there — in darkness, just beyond the horizon; in cloudiness, waiting to break through the pall…)

        ~ ~ ~

        by Kate Knapp Johnson

        As if she were to bump her shin in the night
        and utter a small, audible oh,
        the doctor says, “Oh,”
        as in: things don’t look so good, or
        the baby that’s growing
        there inside
        is no longer the baby
        there, growing. Like Whitman’s O,
        O gossamer thread, O filament, filament, filament…
        Or the Oh that comes into a room
        after the wind has filled the curtains
        and emptied them again. Just
        Oh. What causes it? Causes
        what is, not to be? Whichever O
        in theology you prefer, the same way
        “Sweetheart, I love the sex
        but don’t love you” equals: Oh.
        Or maybe the Oh in Oh, what the hell–
        it’s nothing dramatic,
        not the Oh of the funeral
        but of a year later
        when you simply look up from your work
        and remember that she’s gone…. Oh,
        like omission. It’s nothing
        I can put my finger on, nothing
        that can be grieved for or raged against–
        to miscarry, to put the lame collie down,
        and how many years now
        since your friend passed away? So
        I lose my wallet or the
        tip of my index finger. With everyone else,
        I’m standing on this continuum
        of fairly average losses, all
        supportable, shrewd blows,
        O’s, zeros, noughts. An absence
        of something so profound
        it bears down on the soul
        as if I were to take some nails
        and hammer them into water–
        just small nails,
        driven deeply.

  2. Listen. You don’t understand. It’s okay though. No hard feelings really, but trust me. You don’t understand.

    • You’re right. There is no way for me to know the circumstances of your life, love and loss. It is intensely personal and intimate. Please forgive me.

      In various faith traditions, prayers are said for the departed to assist in their journey in the world beyond. Hopefully the blessings of such prayers may help in his ascent and your own spiritual healing/maturation.

      Since you suffered such an unbearable loss at such a young age, during your formative years, it’s like you don’t remember what life feels like except with this pain. On some level, you don’t even know how to exist otherwise.

      All I meant to say, really, was that your attachment to the pain is understandable… but it may not be helpful in the long run. It precludes growth. Obviously. Whatever the details, though, his death was not your fault or failure. It was his struggle, his choice, his mistake. Until we can forgive others (and ourselves) for what has happened, there will be little space in our hearts to move forward, upward.


  3. It’s just a little–hm, what’s the word? “The angel in the pith of [my] heart,” you wrote. I find that a little presumptuous coming from a person I don’t know, as if everything you’ve said are things I’ve never heard before. As if suddenly, a couple words will open my mind and I’ll be free from every affliction that has hurt my soul.

    When I wrote this, I didn’t ask for advice. And like I said, I’m not a hermit and I’m pretty normal. I haven’t locked myself away in a dark room with nothing for company but grief.

    I don’t normally talk to anyone about my friend’s suicide besides those who knew him, who were there, who experienced it alongside me. I don’t speak with others about it to avoid this–an awkward situation where I’m met with a million words of ‘hope’ and ‘freedom’ that are entirely vague and empty to me because they lack a certain degree of integrity. It’s not the speakers’ fault, and in this case, it’s not yours. You just don’t know. And it’s great that you don’t, I don’t want anyone else to. It’s not something pleasant to know. I move my feet along and I hold my head up high and whenever I’m a bit sad or lonely, or feeling guilty because these feelings will never leave me, I speak with a person who knows what they’re doing because they’re a professional. Their words exemplify truthfulness.

    The best thing someone can say if they don’t know is–well, I’m not sure if anything can be said. Perhaps a nod of the head to show they’ve listened. It’s okay to ask questions. A sorry isn’t so bad either. A contrived psychological analysis? Not usually the way to go.

    Thank you for your admission though. I appreciate that.

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