I had a very long conversation with a very good friend last night. She is one of Michele’s oldest friends, and through my relationship with Michele I was able to develop my own friendship with her. Like me she is struggling to understand and absorb what happened to Michele. Like me she alternates between moments of relative calm and ones of great pain and sadness.
I was able to cry with her, something I have not done with anyone else until now. One of the most powerful aspects of my relationship with Michele was that I felt safe crying with her. She never looked down upon my tears and she helped me to see that the release of toxins they represented were actually healthy for me. Not having Michele here at a time when I have many tears to shed has been brutally difficult. However, last night I was able to let myself cry on the phone with Laura. Like proverbial tress falling in the woods unobserved, grief expressed in private only makes a sound for you to hear. Until it is heard by others it can’t be validated or confirmed. I need a place to express my grief where others can hear it, a place where I can validate the pain I am feeling. I know that finding a grief group is the thing to do, I just have to follow through.
We talked a lot about the act of suicide, about the anger it expresses, and the impact it leaves in the water of our lives. The ripples of Michele’s suicide are still spreading into my life, and I am being carried by them to unknown destinations. In one sense her death in this manner exposes an entire part of her I knew nothing about; and I liked to think I knew her better than anyone else alive. Ever since we first talked on the phone in early 1996 I knew she was fighting ancient emotional demons. At times she would include me in her struggles, at other times not. By and large I think she had dealt with most of the issues of her young adult and adult lives. However, I know that there were issues stemming from her childhood that she never fully expressed or was able to confront. She always said that marriage is where you deal with the issues of your childhood. We both explored so much of our inner emotional landscape in our ten years together, it is hard to believe there were unexplored canyons left.
Michele suffered greatly from her inner demons, and I believe she felt her having these made her a burden to others. She was loathe to feel obligated to anyone for any reason. Have deep seated feelings of guilt and shame must have been terrifying for her. She always told me that she would walk through fire for me, know I understand that she was really saying that staying and facing her inner demons every day was truly walking through fire. I don’t know if she was consciously aware of the daily ordeal, or if it was only apparent to her sometimes. I do know that in the end the demons got louder, and more present in her everyday life. She also always said that she would lay down and die for me. In the end that is what I think she believed she was doing. While she certainly understood at some level that her death by her own hand would hugely impact the rest of my life, I think she also believed that the removal of burden placed on my life by her demons would balance the scales.
I cannot judge whether her death was true wisdom or pure folly. All I know is that she had the greatest impact on my life that anyone ever has, or I suspect, ever will. She gave me so many gifts, not the least of which is my ability to openly share myself here, that I could never repay her. In her final moments I like to think that she believed she was giving a gift of life to me. I am resolved to accept that gift and make something of it.