Friday, November 22, 2013

Flight Response

I used to think of myself as someone who faced adversity and would rather confront the truth than hide it. Since Noah’s suicide, I have been running from many things, unable to face certain symbols, rituals, dates. 

I fled from the prospect of an open funeral. No, no, I pleaded, only the family, please. The cantor of our synagogue gently convinced us that having the community present could be a comfort, and that we could sit in a private space during the ceremony. 

I cringed at the thought of going to Shabbat services, my raw grief exposed. Just come for the last 10 minutes, say the Mourner’s Kaddish, and leave, urged the rabbi. We did that for weeks until gradually we could sit for longer periods and face the music (literally) without collapsing.

As Noah’s birthday loomed closer, I wanted to shut out the world. Make a plan for the days you dread, I heard somewhere. I planned to have a scrapbook of his life ready for the day, go to the beach with my cousins and make a pizza with them like Noah used to do. It was a hard day but better than hiding.

It happened again with my fear of the Jewish High Holidays, especially Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance.

For Thanksgiving, I longed to escape to another country or at least take a road trip to the desert, far from home and reminders of Thanksgivings past. Connect with those you love on holidays, I read. Slowly, we began inviting guests and planning the menu. We’re still talking about how we will make a toast to Noah’s memory and ask for what we need.

Each time, what I most feared turned out to be what I most needed. 

But not always. I got a last-minute invitation to be a keynote speaker at a candlelight vigil for those touched by suicide or mental illness. I panicked and listened to my fear; I didn’t have to do this if I wasn’t yet ready to come out publicly. Instead, I lit a candle at the event and arranged to speak to a small group of college students being trained in suicide awareness.

One thing I have not run from is support groups and therapy. I have run towards those as to a rescue helicopter. November 23, 2013 is International Survivors of Suicide Day. There is a conference in Los Angeles sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention*. That is where I need to be.

*The free conference for survivors is Sat., Nov. 23, 9am-3pm, at 617 West 7th Street (7th floor) in downtown Los Angeles.

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